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Ask Dr Scott Nimmo Your Own Question
Dr Scott Nimmo
Dr Scott Nimmo, Small Animal Veterinary Surgeon.
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 21744
Experience:  BVMS, MRCVS. { Glasgow UK }
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Why does my cat keep pulling his hair out this happens a few

Customer Question

Why does my cat keep pulling his hair out this happens a few times every day?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr Scott Nimmo replied 4 years ago.
Hello, and welcome,

My name is Scott, I am an experienced small animal veterinary surgeon and I will be very pleased to work with you today and will try my best to answer your question to your satisfaction.

Please give me fifteen minutes or so to think through your particular problem, prepare an answer, and type things up. I will then get straight back to you and we can talk things over.


Expert:  Dr Scott Nimmo replied 4 years ago.
Hello again kathy and thanks for waiting,

I have worked out an answer for you, please read it through and see what you think, ... lets get started.

Waht you describe is quite a common though sometimes complex situation we generally call this fur plucking syndrome. So what are the common causes ? :

1. Could be some form of skin infection / dermatitis. Even a slight infection will cause irritation and itching, the cat will then lick the area and so irritate it more so a cycle of events sets in, the itch scratch cycle. The more it itches the more the cat bites and licks the area which makes it itch more and then .... well I am sure you can see where I am coming from.

2. It can often be an allergic dermatitis, skin allergies in the cat are quite common. They can be allergic to flea bites, specifically a small protein which the flea injects into your cat's blood stream while it is feeding. Inhalational allergies to house dust and pollen have been described and so have food allergies.

3. Compulsive disorders have been described in the cat such as feline psychogenic alopecia an boredom can play a part here. This is where the cat pulls at its fur for no particular reason like a nervous teenager biting their nails. And of course once it is established the itch scratch cycle takes effect.

4. External parasites such as fleas which I know you may have already treated your cat for. This is the most common form of feline skin disease but many other more minor causes are listed as well including hormonal problems

So how would you treat this sort of disease?

I am so sorry there is no home remedy I can recommend other than keeping your cat free of fleas at all times as well as the cats environment which will be your house. To really help your cat you then have to continue to visit your vet, perhaps one with a special interest in dermatology. Some treatment options would be:

A. Try and break the itch scratch cycle. This is one of the few occasions where I use long acting corticosteroid injections. These are anti-inflammatory drugs which will dramatically reduce itching and so the cat will leave itself alone for a while. This can sometimes cure the situation where the itch scratch cycle has been a large component of the disease. However where this is a true allergy once the cortisone has lost it's effect the disease will come straight back. In this situation it may be best to use oral anti-allergy meds on a semi-permant basis but at a very low maintenance level, say a couple of times a week. Used properly this is very safe.

B. If all else fails your vet will examine the skin in detail and try and find an underlying cause, this could include skin scrapes, sample to the laboratory, allergy testing, even biopsies. Antibiotics are often used at this stage to control secondary infections.

C. Where stress is suspected or a feline compulsive disorder is suspected your vet may prescribe very small doses of tranquilisers. Often a product called Feliway can help { Your vet can supply this}.

I hope I have given you a few ideas covered your question fully enough but if you would like further clarification or to talk things over a bit more then I will be on-line for the next hour or so and I will be more than pleased to continue working with you.