Why Do Cats Pull Out Their Hair in Chunks?

Nothing makes you want to pull out your hair more than seeing your cat pulling her own hair out. While a number of medical conditions can cause hair loss in cats, if your feline friend is stressed out, she may resort to pulling out her hair. This behavior can lead to skin infections and hairballs, so it's something you need to nip in the bud with the help of your veterinarian.

Gray adult cat lies on the floor and licks the paws
Why Do Cats Pull Out Their Hair in Chunks?
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Excessive hair loss occurs in cats with allergies or skin parasites because of itchy skin. Hormone conditions, fungal infections, and excessive compulsive behavior all cause chunks of hair loss in cats. If your cat is losing clumps of hair, take him to your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment to prevent any further hair loss.

Feline allergies

If your cat is pulling out fur, he likely has allergies, according to PetPlace. He may overgroom and pull out his hair because his skin is itchy. This results in the cat losing clumps of hair. Generalized itching from allergies is widespread over the body. An allergic cat will groom his body excessively in an attempt to relieve the skin from allergens.

A trip to your veterinarian for a diagnosis and allergy medications or corticosteroids can treat the allergies. This will stop the itching and stop the cat from pulling hair out. Or, your vet may recommend a change in your cat's diet, which could contain ingredients he is allergic to. These allergens could also be the cause of his itchy skin, leading to your cat pulling out his fur.

Skin parasites

Fleas and mites are parasitic organisms that feed on your cat's skin and cause him to bite them. Your cat also may pull out his hair while trying to remove skin parasites and lick the area intensely to soothe the itchy skin. While licking and biting at his skin temporarily soothes the itching, it also inadvertently results in your cat pulling out his fur and your cat losing clumps of hair.

Your veterinarian can prescribe a miticide to rid your feline friends of mites and a monthly flea medication to kill the fleas so he will stop pulling his hair out. Or, he may check your cat's coat for other itch-causing bugs like lice, which can also be treated with topical medications.

Hormone conditions

When your cat has an excess of thyroid hormone, or hyperthyroidism, his hair can come out easily as he grooms himself. This condition is most common in cats older than 10. The coat in long-haired cat breeds may be unkempt and develop mats, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. A cat pulling hair out may simply be trying to groom the mats in his coat and instead he may pull his hair out in chunks.

A veterinary visit is necessary to determine if your cat has hyperthyroidism, which can be done through blood tests. He most likely will be placed on medication to correct his condition.

Fungal infections

Ringworm is a fungal infection that makes a red, crusty or scaly patch on the skin in a circular shape. The area shows hair loss in the center with a red ring around the outside of the circle about 1/2 to 2 inches across. Ringworm may become infected from excessive licking and scratching. It is highly contagious to other pets and humans, warns WebMD. Cats contract ringworm from other infected animals or contact with skin cells from an infected animal.

If you suspect your cat has ringworm, immediately quarantine him and take him to your veterinarian. He likely will prescribe an antifungal and antibiotics.

Psychogenic alopecia

When a cat is stressed, he may use excessive grooming as a displacement behavior that leads to psychogenic alopecia or hair loss, according to WebMD. When a cat licks and grooms himself, he releases endorphins to calm down. If the stressful situation is not removed, he can pull out hair while grooming.

Many items can cause stress to a cat including:

  • Moving to a new home.
  • New family members or pets in the home.
  • Separation anxiety.
  • Outdoor cats at the windows.
  • High-pitched or loud noises.
  • Boredom and attention seeking.

A trip to your veterinarian is in order to diagnose your cat's behavior. He may prescribe a drug to stabilize your furry friend's mood, reduce his anxiety, and reduce the compulsive behavior.