Why Is My Cat Losing Hair in a Patch?

If your cat shows patchy hair loss, it could be due to an allergy, fungal infection or it may be a sign of excessive grooming. For best results, have your vet examine your cat as soon as you notice a problem. Most skin conditions are fairly easy to treat, particularly when caught early.

tiger cat at the doctor
Your veterinarian may put on an E-collar to stop your cat from licking its skin condition while it heals.
credit: Burkhardt-Mayer-Fotografie GbR/iStock/Getty Images

Feline Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection that is highly contagious to humans and can be spread to other animals. Ringworm looks like a circular raised lesion with a red ring and crusty or white center. Hair loss usually is evidenced around the welts. In cats, ringworm is often seen on the face, ears and feet, although it can be widespread across the entire body. Ringworm can be itchy causing your cat to lick at the spots. Prompt veterinary attention can cure the infection, typically with an anti-fungal medication, which will help stop the spread. Handle your cat with protective clothing and gloves if you think this might be her ailment.

Dermatitis and Skin Problems

Cats can be prone to skin conditions including bacterial infection, flea allergy dermatitis; outdoor cats, in particular, may experience bug bites from ticks and fleas, particularly on their underbellies and feet. Cats are usually good at grooming themselves, but if they are obese or elderly, it can be difficult to get all the right places. Your cat may need help with grooming or she may experience patchy hair loss. If a cat has an itch or irritation, she may groom herself excessively to alleviate pain and itching. The heavy licking can result in patchy hair loss and even hot spots, or open sores that fail to heal without medical intervention.

Mange and Nutritional Deficiency

Mange is a hair and skin disorder caused by a mite that results in patchy hair loss, usually starting with the face and ears and spreading to the rest of the body. The two most common types of feline mange are highly contagious zoonotic scabies, also known as sarcoptic mange, or notoedric mange. It often affects old or young cats and can be the result of a hormonal imbalance, endocrine system disorder or nutritional deficiency. Mange is often treated with a medication to kill the mites, as well as topical solutions to relieve skin irritation.

Stress Licking

Cats can become stressed from a variety of factors including introduction of a new pet or family member into the household, changing routine or different surroundings. One way cats cope is with obsessive-compulsive licking, which can result in irritated red skin and hair loss. Your vet will rule out physical and neurological problems and likely recommend stress-reduction and schedule regulation to calm your cat.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your vet may be able to identify different types of hair loss through a physical exam but he also may need to take blood samples, conduct urinalysis and examine skin cultures to determine what's causing the problem. If your cat is plagued by a parasite, he'll likely recommend topical ointments and medicated shampoos to alleviate the problem. If your cat has an underlying health problem that needs to be addressed, your vet will make recommendations based on those findings. In some cases, anti-itch medications may be prescribed, as well as antibiotics, especially if the skin is broken and prone to infection.