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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 10920
Experience:  I have been a practicing veterinarian for over 30 years.
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My cat Diggle will be 12 years old in April, recently hes

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My cat Diggle will be 12 years old in April, recently he's been getting a pasting from another cat in the neighbourhood, he's on Loxicom for Arthritis pain and on Tuesday I saw he's licked his belly almost clean of fur. I'm worried this is because of his pain, but I do realise it could be some kind of distraction behaviour because of his altered status outdside. It would be possible to keep him in, however, I do think that would make him miserable. Any input would be wonderful. XXXXX XXXXX

Hello Stephanie, I'm Dr. Deb
I recently came online and see that your question about Diggle hasn't been answered. I'm sorry that you've had to wait for a response but if you still need assistance, I'd like to help if I can.
I do have a few questions to ask first, if you don't mind:

1. Is this the only place on his body where there is hair loss?
2. Is the area bald or is there a fine layer of fur still present?
3. Is this a new problem? He's never had skin issues before?

There may be a delay after I receive your answers since I have to type up a response to you and I may be offline at the time you respond. But I'll get back to you as soon as I can since I'm on the computer some part of every day.

Thanks for your patience. Deb


Customer: replied 4 years ago.

This is the only place on his body with fur loss.

There is a fine layer of fur remaining.

The problem is new, he's not had any skin issues previously.


I'll be checking in and happy to answer any questions for about 10 hours here.


Regards Stephanie

Thanks so much for the answers to my questions.
I doubt this behavior is pain related although I can understand how you might think it would be. Those cats tend to overgroom on their spine or backs...not their abdomen.

1. This actually sounds like Psychogenic Alopecia which means hair loss secondary to an emotional cause. These cats overgroom their bodies because of stress or change in their environments and the other cat trouncing him on occasion would certainly qualify.
We believe that the overgrooming serves as a way of soothing themselves or a way of dealing with misplaced anxiety as you mention.
Some studies have shown that many cats previously thought to suffer from this condition actually have pollen allergies (see below) but I'm convinced that there are a number of cats who do overgroom as you describe because of psychologic issues.

The key here is the way the fur looks and the location... when these cats overgroom, the skin isn't bald but they leave "peach-fuzz" type fur on their bodies. When other allergies are in play, these cats usually create sores and bare skin. And the areas over-groomed with this condition tend to be the abdomen or the backs of the legs--easily accessible areas, in other words.




2. Pollen allergies to such things as dust mites, mold, grasses, trees, etc.

Unless you've moved or have installed new carpet or new landscaping, etc., it would be extremely uncommon for a cat this age to develop this problem.

These cats can lick just about anywhere on their bodies with this problem.


3. There are other reasons why a cat can overgroom as well. Food allergies can be seen but usually the head/neck/face are the only areas itchy. Different types of mites can be responsible but the area affected is not limited to the abdomen exclusively.


If I'm in doubt as to the underlying cause, then I'll sometimes use steroids to help rule in or out a condition. For example, pollen allergies will respond to steroids; food allergies and Psychogenic Alopecia not so much.


You might try Feliway which is a natural pheromone which is intended to reduce anxiety and instill a sense of calm. They are available in a diffuser or spray.

Oral Composure Chews are similar in nature and may be something to consider if he likes oral treats.


I don't consider this to be anything more than a cosmetic problem although it bothers some owners to the point that we medicate their cats to prevent them from over--grooming in this way. But unless the trigger can be identified and removed, then the behavior can continue.

I wouldn't keep him inside since this stress is likely to intensify the behavior.


Hopefully, he's not getting beat up to the point where he develops abscesses and infections.


I hope this helps. Deb





Dr. Deb and other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Thanks for the rating and bonus; they're greatly appreciated:)

Good luck with Diggle...not that I think this is a serious problem, though.

Kindest regards, Deb

Please ignore the information request.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hey Dr Deb,


A huge thank you, I was half convinced Diggle was in big trouble. Now I have your helpful reply, I'll buy some Feliway next time I'm in town and leave him to be the scurge of the mouse colony in the barns. Many thanks, Stephanie

You're more than welcome; glad I could provide peace of mind:)

Yes, mice (and other critters), beware!!!

Regard, Deb