My cat is over grooming and losing fur

  • My cat is over grooming and losing fur. We have moved into one room and she seems stressed. What can I do?


  • I'm sorry your cat has been dealing with this skin issue and know you'll be very worried for her.

    It is difficult for me to provide a more specific answer without knowing her age, medical history etc.


    Given her excessive grooming and thin fur, there are a few considerations here.

    These would include:

    • Flea allergy dermatitis. This is the most common cause for these signs and occurs even in indoor cats. It is possible for one cat to be affected but not another, as not all cats are allergic to fleas.
    • A food or environmental allergy (to e.g. dust mites). New allergies can develop before the age of 5.
    • Stress induced over grooming. This is more common in households where cats share their territory with other cats or there has been recent change.
    • Grooming secondary to discomfort from e.g. cystitis or arthritis (more common in older cats)

    The first step for cats with these signs would be to eliminate fleas as a possibility. I would never discount fleas as a potential cause as they're eaten so quickly by the cat that they're rarely seen. We can and do see them frequently even in indoor only cats.


    I'd treat her with a strong spot-on product and, at the same time, all in-contact pets must be treated too.


    I use Advocate spot on for those with flea allergies, though Advantage spot on can be purchased over the counter and is equally as good. They both contain the active ingredient Imidacloprid.


    Once all pets are treated, we need to move on to the environment. This has to be done on the same day. While 5% of the flea burden live on the pet, the remaining 95% are in the bedding,sofas etc. We need to hot wash bedding over 60'c, hoover thoroughly and use a flea spray such as Indorex or RIP Fleas to eliminate the issue. These sprays contain an Insect Growth Regulator, so work well. Sometimes this needs to be repeated a few weeks later in case any eggs/larvae have escaped the initial cleaning.

    For cats, we can also consider the Program injection, which lasts 6 months and stops fleas reproducing on cats. This is particularly useful when fleas are not going away.


    I would want the vet to examine her and her skin too.


    Many of these patients benefit from some strong anti itch medicine to break the itch scratch cycle and allow the skin to settle.  Sometimes antibiotics are required too.


    If her signs do settle with anti itch medicine, we know that her reaction is not behavioural and not caused by stress.


    If we rule out underlying medical issues and her signs are persisting, her signs may well be linked to anxiety.

    This would then be something we manage with things like environment changes (ensuring she has all of her own resources, giving her places to hide away, providing more mental enrichment etc.) and interventions such as calming supplements and prescription anxiolytic medicine like Fluoxetine.

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