Being a cat owner comes with a certain price. Besides a few scratches here and there, some damage to your curtains, and the knocking off of items on tables and shelves, there’s the shedding.
You know what we’re talking about. Does a couch constantly covered in cat hair no matter how often you clean it sound familiar? How about your favorite clothes being decorated with hair after a cuddle session with your kitty?
Well, that’s shedding for you — and it’s a completely normal phenomenon in cats. But when does shedding turn into abnormal hair loss?
If your pet is showing significant cat hair loss at the base of the tail, mostly appearing in the form of bald spots, then the information we’re sharing in today’s article will help you determine the reasons for such a condition.
We’ll also discuss possible treatments, care tips, and ways to prevent cat hair loss. Let’s get started.
Normal Shedding vs Hair Loss (Alopecia) in Cats
As we mentioned early on, shedding is a totally normal thing to occur in cats. The intensity of shedding, however, doesn’t just vary from one species to another, but it also differs among cats belonging to the same species.
Generally speaking, cats lose hair through shedding every day. Also, about once or twice a year, they experience larger cycles of shedding followed by hair growth.
So, when does shedding become no longer normal? When can you say that your cat is losing too much hair? Well, it depends.
For example, long-haired cat breeds tend to shed more compared to short-haired breeds. Cats also tend to shed more intensity in warmer weather compared to colder seasons. As such, there’s no definitive answer to indicate too much shedding as it can easily be relative.
Consequently, even if your cat’s shedding seems excessive by your standards, it’s probably nothing to worry about. It’s simply part of the natural process of replacing its hair coat.
Signs that Shedding is Abnormal
That being said, normal shedding doesn’t involve the development of bald patches or the occurrence of symmetric hair loss. If you notice such patterns on your cat, then there’s a good chance it’s suffering from serious hair loss.
Types of Alopecia in Cats
When a cat is losing hair excessively, the medical term used to describe the condition is acquired alopecia.
Acquired alopecia can occur in cats in 2 types: complete or partial, and it can happen due to a variety of reasons, the most common one being skin allergies. We’ll talk about the causes of feline alopecia in more detail later on.
So does this mean that alopecia in cats is never normal? Well, no. It’s actually very normal in cats with hereditary alopecia such as Sphynx cats. These are born hairless and stay that way all their lives.
Another example of normal alopecia in cats is pineal alopecia. It’s particularly common in Siamese cats, where they lose the hair on the outer side of the ear pinnae. However, this typically resolves on its own.
Additionally, it’s common for adult and older cats to have the fur thin out on the skin strip between the eyes and the ears. This is called preauricular alopecia and it’s considered normal in felines.
What Causes Cat Hair Loss at the Base of the Tail?
As we explained above, localized balding is usually a sign of a problem. If the hair loss is on or near the base of your cat's tail, it could be the result of one of the following common feline disorders:
Examine the skin at or near the base of your cat's tail. If the hair loss is also accompanied by the appearance of a moist, waxy area, then your pet may be suffering from a disorder called stud tail.
Also referred to as feline tail gland hyperplasia, this condition develops due to an impairment in the functions of the sebaceous gland, which leads to a build-up of the gland’s secretions. This dysfunction is often due to low hygiene or increased activity, especially in castrated male cats.
The accumulated oily secretions can stimulate bacterial growth in the area, causing waxy patches. That being said, stud tail is more of a cosmetic problem, not an issue that’ll affect your cat’s health.
Prevent the build-up of secretions at the base of your cat’s tail by maintaining regular grooming and bathing to avoid stud tail and the consequent hair loss.
Another reason for hair loss at the base of your cat’s tail could be external parasites such as fleas, mites, and ticks. Keep in mind, however, that these parasites don’t exclusively target the tails of felines — they’ll probably infest other areas of your cat’s skin and cause loss of hair there as well.
If they do focus on your cat’s tail, it could be a coincidence or because your furball has a flea collar on its neck, which helps prevent fleas from reaching its torso. Additionally, if the hair on your cat’s tail is longer than the rest of its body, fleas may be more encouraged to attack the base as opposed to the more exposed skin.
The bites from these tiny pests can result in dry skin, itchiness, and minor rashes. To relieve the irritation, your cat will scratch or even bite at its skin, pulling out hair in the process.
If you’re positive that the culprit is an external parasite, then your best bet to treat the condition is medical products from the vet such as ‘spot-ons’. In addition to killing the parasites, you may need to apply other treatments to alleviate itching such as steroid creams.
It’s important to treat this condition as soon as possible. Sometimes, if left untreated, external parasites can cause extensive loss of hair on both sides of the body — known as feline acquired symmetric alopecia.
Despite what the name implies, ringworm isn’t a disease caused by a worm. It’s actually a skin condition caused by a fungus, and it’s somewhat common among cats.
Not only is it possible for humans to catch ringworm from animals, but the opposite can also happen and pet owners can transmit ringworm to their pets. In addition to the loss of hair, symptoms of this infection include rashes and dry skin that result from scratching.
Of course, having a contagious fungus lurking around the house is alarming, but it can be easily treated using topical or oral medicines. You can even get some of these treatments from pharmacies over the counter.
But before jumping to treatment, you should pay a visit to the vet to make sure your cat is really suffering from ringworm.
The reason behind the hair loss at the base of your cat’s tail could be something other than an infestation or an infection. It could be a classic case of allergies.
Like humans, some cats are allergic to specific agents in food or the environment. There are a few scenarios that we’d like to point out in this case:
- If you’ve recently changed your pet’s diet and noticed the hair loss a while after, then you should go back to the old diet and consult your vet regarding the situation.
- If your cat likes to explore around the house and often ventures to “shady” areas, such as basements or attics, it may have come in contact with an allergen that triggered the allergic reaction. You can limit the effect of some basic allergens by simply keeping your cat in clean rooms and prevent it from visiting cabinets where you keep chemical substances like cleaning products.
- Similarly, if your cat often goes outside, it may have come in contact with an irritating plant. In this case, it’s best to keep the cat indoors.
Overgrooming Triggered by Stress or Anxiety
Cats are avid self-groomers by nature. They like to keep their coats clean and looking tidy by regularly licking their fur. Unfortunately, overgrooming is a thing, and it’s the result of licking too much hair too frequently.
Overgrooming, which can develop into biting at the fur or even chewing it, can cause hair thinning or bald spots at the base of your cat's tail if that's where it focuses the grooming.
If you notice that the grooming behavior of your cat is becoming more often or more aggressive, then you may want to consider overgrooming as a possible reason for hair loss.
Overgrooming could be an indication of psychological issues such as stress and anxiety. It may be a sign of an underlying neurological disorder in older cats, but that's a rare occurrence.
As such, pet owners should prevent over-grooming in cats before it becomes a harmful habit. Intervention is one of the most effective tools when it comes to achieving this goal.
So every time you see your cat licking its fur aggressively or for an excessively long time, calmly interrupt the practice by offering a treat or distracting it with a toy.
Finally, your cat may be losing hair at the base of the tail because of thyroid problems. These issues come about when the thyroid gland dysfunctions and releases too much of its hormone — a condition referred to as hyperthyroidism. Note that hypothyroidism doesn’t occur in cats unless they were overtreated for hyperthyroidism.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats include losing fur so that bald patches appear on their skin. Hyperthyroidism has to be diagnosed by a vet, often using blood tests.
Luckily, the treatment of an overactive thyroid gland in felines is pretty straightforward, using a range of prescribed oral medications. Your vet might resort to surgery depending on the case.
Will the Lost Hair Grow Back?
Time for some good news! Generally, if the cause of the hair loss can be treated, then the lost hair will grow back as good as new. This is especially true with allergy-related hair loss.
To sum up, cat hair loss at the base of the tail could be a part of natural shedding. However, if you notice the development of bold patched or symmetric hair loss, then you need to visit your vet to determine the cause of its alopecia.