Why Is My Cat Licking Her Hair Off?

Written by cynthia gomez
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Why Is My Cat Licking Her Hair Off?
Don't let kitty groom himself bald. (cat image by Alexey Fursov from Fotolia.com)

Cats groom themselves with their tongues, so when you see your cat licking herself, she's just trying to clean her fur. Occasionally though, a cat will lick excessively, even to the point where she pulling out her fur and leaving behind bald spots. In such instances, it's likely that something is going on that needs your attention.

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Normal Fur Loss

A certain amount of fur loss is normal during self-grooming in cats, particularly during times of the year when your cat is shedding its coat. You may first have noticed this if your kitty spit up a wad of hair. However, if you are not seeing hairless patches on your cat, the fur that was spit up is likely just what your cat is losing naturally through the shedding process. Remember that cats spend up to 50 per cent of their day grooming, according to veterinarian Pamela Perry from the Animal Behavior Clinic at Cornell University.

Obsessive Behavior

Just as some people are obsessive compulsive, so are some cats. Your cat may simply be licking off her hair as the result of an obsessive compulsion. Sometimes, this type of behaviour signals that there is an underlying health problem that must be addressed. However, in cases where kitty is simply obsessive compulsive, your veterinarian may prescribe some medication to help kitty mellow out and reduce the urge to lick excessively.

Stress

Have you recently moved or got a dog? Stress often causes cats to lick excessively. Licking himself may calm your cat and the excessive grooming can become a habit. Vets will sometimes prescribe an antianxiety medication for cats who are licking themselves because of stress. The medication is only administered for a temporary period of time; when the cat is taken off the medication, he's already forgotten all about his habit.

Medical Conditions

Often, a cat that suddenly begins licking himself bald may be trying to alleviate an itch or pain in the area being licked, according to veterinarian William Miller, also from Cornell University. Where an animal licks says a lot about what may be wrong. For instance, excessive licking of the head or the tail may be due to a flea infestation, as fleas commonly hide out in this part of the body. However, cats experiencing pollen or food allergies are more likely to lick their backs and abdomens. Neurological disorders have also been known to make cats lick themselves excessively.

Evaluation

If your cat is licking himself raw, it's important to take him to the vet, who can evaluate the cat for possible health conditions. Additionally, licking must be addressed because cats who continue to lick a spot once it's already bald may inflict injuries on themselves (remember that cats' tongues are sandpaper-like) that can result in infection.

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