A cat’s hair grows continuously, so that there are always new hairs emerging, and old hairs being shed from the coat. At certain times of the year however, this pattern becomes more synchronised. As a result, a cat’s coat grows extensively and offers more protection against the cold through the winter. During the spring as the weather warms up again, the hairs are shed in greater numbers. Abnormal hair loss is usually a result of a cat’s behaviour.
This is genetically predetermined, with the skin in such areas – the nose and foot pads –lacking the necessary hair follicles. Instead, the skin itself is normally thicker, to compensate for the lack of protection provided by hair.
Your cat has probably been involved in a fight. Although painful, the loss of the tufts is likely to have protected your cat from being badly lacerated.
It can be, especially in the pale-coloured cats, because the exposed skin is then more vulnerable to the risk of sunburn and associated cancers, or if it caused by glandular disorders.
All cats have a consistent covering of fur. The Sphynx breed is the most extreme example: its hair is essentially confined to the extremities, so it is effectively bald. The Rex breeds also have a relatively thin, fragile covering of hair, which can be damaged by careless grooming, making a soft chamois leather the best material for this task.
In fact, one of the most common causes of hair loss is actually overgrooming by the cat itself, and not just in the case of Rexes. This problem is commonly seen in other breeds, notably in Siamese and Burmese. It can sometimes be linked with an underlying allergy, often due to flea bites, which cause the cat intense irritation.
UNDERLYING CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS IN CATS
- Certain hormonal disorders, such as Cushing’s syndrome, can affect the growth of the hairs, which in turn can lead to baldness. One of the features of this syndrome is
- that hair loss is symmetrical, occurring on the same area on Over-grooming by the cat itself is sometimes the cause of hair loss, and also leads to fur balls collecting in the cat’s intestine.
- Both sides of the body, rather than occuring randomly. This condition in cats is rare.
The fungal infection known as ringworm is usually clearcut in its effects as well. Hair loss in this case occurs in a circular fashion, although not all the hair may be shed, and where the infection occurs, the hair becomes thinner than usual. Great care needs to be taken when fungal infection is suspected, because fungal spores can survive for a long time in the environment, spreading to people as well as to other pets. Fungal infections are also spread easily on grooming tools, such as brushes and combs.
- The technical name for hair loss is alopecia.
- It is light exposure rather than temperature that has the greatest impact on the rate of growth of the cat’s hair.
- A cat’s hair grows more slowly, and less hair is shed, during the winter. Cat hair grows at an average rate of 0.3mm (one-hundredth of an inch) per day — about the same rate as human hair.
- At 200 per square mm (130,000 per square inch), there are twice as many hairs on a cat’s belly as on its back.