As pet parents, we can all agree that cats are adorable! And one thing that makes them seem so cute and cuddly is their sleek, shiny coats. Therefore, it can be very concerning when you suddenly notice your kitty has bald patches in its fur.
If this is something you’re experiencing, you’re not alone. My cat has patches of fur missing and sores on her body at the moment, and after seeing them, I freaked out! What was wrong with her? Was she ill? I decided to do some research to put my mind at ease.
Thankfully, fur loss is relatively common among cats and may not be any cause for concern. One of the leading causes of hair loss and sores is parasites, such as fleas, mites, lice, and ticks, which can easily be treated with prescribed medication. Other potential reasons include ringworm, cutaneous lymphoma, abscesses, allergies, and trauma.
In this article, I will go through each of these causes in greater detail, including how to identify them, why they cause bald patches and sores, and how to treat the issue. Read on for all you need to know!
What is Hair Loss?
Full or partial hair loss, also known as alopecia, is a condition in which a cat’s hair falls out or stops growing. This can occur at any stage of a cat’s life, and the resultant bald patches can be both random and symmetrical.
Alopecia occurs when a cat’s hair follicles are damaged, impairing their ability to grow new hairs and causing premature shedding. Unfortunately, hair loss can signify several health issues, such as ringworm and skin trauma. Although these can usually be treated, they can be severe. As such, I would recommend seeking out the advice of your vet so your kitty can get the help it needs.
What are Sores?
A sore or ulceration is a break in the skin that takes a long time to heal. They can either look like an inflamed, red spot on a cat’s skin or an open wound. The possible causes of skin ulcers are wide and varied, ranging from parasitic infections to more severe illnesses, such as cutaneous lymphoma.
Although sores can form at any point, they often occur in cats with hair loss and can cause your furry friend a lot of pain and discomfort. As a result, your feline may continuously lick and bite the sore, making the issue more severe. Again, I recommend booking an appointment with your vet if you find sores on your kitty, as they often require close observation and professional care to heal properly.
Why Does My Cat Have Bald Spots and Sores?
Although you will probably need to check with your vet to find out the exact cause of your feline friends’ bald spots and sores, it is still good to know about some potential reasons so that you know what to look out for.
The most common causes of hair loss and sores in cats are:
- External parasites
- Cutaneous lymphoma
- Skin allergies
- Skin trauma and burns
1. External Parasites
Fleas are the most common cause of hair loss and sores in cats. If your cat has been scratching their ears, face, and body more than usual, this is likely the cause. These troublesome creatures live in our cats’ coats and can be unbelievably itchy. Some cats are also allergic to fleas, making this itching even more intense. It’s this scratching that causes hair loss and skin ulcers.
If you’ve dealt with external parasites before, you may be tempted to get rid of them with over-the-counter treatment. If you do this, remember that fleas do not fall off cats after treatment; you will have to comb them out or vacuum them up once they are dead and harmless.
While these medications can eliminate infestations, I would still recommend you go to the vet for a professional opinion. They will be able to advise you on how to speed up your kitty’s healing process and can provide alternative medications if your cat still has fleas after their treatment.
While fleas are the usual culprits, your feline may also have mites, lice, and ticks. So, if you see your cat scratching but there are no fleas, don’t rule out this cause: they may have a different external parasitic infection instead! Your vet can advise and prescribe an appropriate treatment to eliminate the responsible parasites.
Ringworm sounds like a worm infection, but it is a fungal infection that is relatively common in cats. It is highly infectious; it is contracted through direct contact with a fungal spore which can live in the environment for up to two years!
The most distinctive sign of ringworm is the round, itchy rash that appears on an infected cat’s skin. As the infection progresses, these rashes may start to blister and ooze and eventually scab over. So, if your cat has scabs on its neck or body instead of sores, this could still be the cause.
Unfortunately, these sores may not be clearly visible until your cat’s hair further thins out. This will happen as the fungal spores infect more of your kitty’s hair shafts. Your feline’s skin will also be very itchy, so they will likely overgroom, causing yet more hair loss.
If you suspect your kitty has ringworm, I suggest you seek treatment from your vet as soon as possible. Although this infection can go away on its own, this process can take up to a year. Within that time, your feline friend’s fur will continue to fall out, more sores will form, and they will become more vulnerable to further infection.
3. Cutaneous Lymphoma
Perhaps the most serious cause of hair loss and sores in cats is cutaneous lymphoma, a rare form of cancer. Although this always affects the skin, it will also interfere with any other areas of the body in which it is present. This is usually the kidneys, nose, and mouth. Unfortunately, the exact cause of cutaneous lymphoma in cats is currently unknown.
This cancer will infiltrate your cat’s hair follicles, interrupting hair growth and causing the hair loss you can see on their body. Your kitty’s skin will also become red and ulcerated. Alongside these signs, your feline may also exhibit:
- A loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Lethargy and weakness
- Nose bleeds
- Nasal discharge
If your feline friend shows any of these symptoms, take them to the vet immediately. It may turn out to be a different condition entirely, but I always think it is better to be safe than sorry. Although cutaneous lymphoma is not curable, catching the disease early on can significantly increase your kitty’s life span.
An abscess is a type of sore that forms when an infected wound is left untreated. The infection causes an immune response that causes pus to collect under the skin, creating a lump. These sores can develop anywhere but are most common on the head, neck, back, limbs, and base of the tail. Any kitty with an abscess will be in great pain, so you must get the sore treated as soon as possible.
The hair around an abscess often falls out, leaving your feline with bald patches. Once an abscess ruptures, it may release a thick, yellow discharge that smells pretty rancid. Your kitty mustn’t irritate the wound after this point, as it could be detrimental to the healing process.
If you spot an abscess on your feline, whether it has ruptured or not, the best port of call is to take them to the vet. If they aren’t treated properly, abscesses can lead to fatal conditions, such as feline leukemia and immunodeficiency virus.
5. Skin Allergies
Like us, cats have allergies. These can cause your feline friend to erupt in sores and experience intense itching that will not go away. As a result, you will probably see your cat scratching and licking its fur off and leaving behind the worrying bald patches on its body. Sometimes, your kitty may also develop an ear infection. In this case, the scratching will lead to your cat losing hair around their eyes.
The three primary triggers of skin allergies in cats are food, environmental, and flea allergies:
- Food Allergies: Surprisingly, the most common source of food allergies in cats is protein. My kitty is allergic to chicken, so I have to make sure I buy her food with an alternative protein source instead. If you think your feline friend has a food allergy, they will probably have to go on a hypoallergenic diet until you figure out what the allergen is.
- Environmental Allergies: Environmental allergies are often triggered by dust, mold, pollen, or dander. Unfortunately, these are all common substances usually found on the ground or in the air your kitty breathes. Therefore, your feline will likely have to regularly take medication to keep this kind of allergy at bay.
- Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD): Finally, we have cats allergic to fleas. As briefly mentioned, this allergic reaction is set off by the flea’s saliva left behind after they bite. Fortunately, it is straightforward to shield a cat from this allergen. Get rid of the fleas, and your kitty’s allergic reaction should stop.
6. Skin Trauma and Burns
If you have an indoor cat, their exploration is limited, but for free-roaming cats, the world is their oyster. Unfortunately, a feline’s travels may put them in harm’s way. Perhaps they got into a catfight, stuck in a thorn bush, or got too close to the fire. No matter the cause of the accident, the resulting skin trauma or burn could cause your kitty’s fur loss and skin sores.
In the case of burns, the heat will cause the fur to disintegrate, damage your feline’s hair follicles, and cause their skin to blister. The more serious the burn is, the worse these symptoms will be. When it comes to skin trauma, your furry friend’s wounds may turn into painful sores, and their fur may be ripped out, either during the accident or later on, through overgrooming.
Like all the other potential causes of your kitty’s balding and ulcerations, any sign of skin trauma or burns should be taken seriously. I would book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible so your feline can be examined and receive the help they need.
Treatment for Cat Hair Loss and Sores
There are many ways of treating hair loss and sores in cats, but the treatment your kitty receives will vary depending on the cause. Even if you think you know what is causing these symptoms in your cat, I would always recommend speaking to your vet about possible treatment. They will help tailor a plan specific to your feline’s condition, increasing your cat’s chances of a quick and easy recovery.
In most cases, the treatment plan will be able to be carried out at home, where your cat feels most comfortable. This will probably require you to apply a topical treatment or administer flea treatments, antibiotics, pain medications, or antihistamines. In more severe cases, your kitty may have to stay at the vet for a few days so they can be closely monitored.
While your cat is still recovering, it may be required to wear an Elizabethan collar so it cannot lick or bite at its sores. Of course, most felines won’t be best pleased with this; my cat has had to wear these in the past, and she hates them! But they are very effective, so I would try not to give in to your kitty’s moaning and ensure they wear it for the required duration.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
When your cat is losing hair on their back and has sores all over its body, it can be a worrying sight. I have gone through this myself, and it is something that no cat mom wants to witness.
Thankfully, these signs can result from multiple conditions, and most of them aren’t serious. It is most likely that your kitty has an external parasite, but they may also have an allergy, ringworm, abscesses, or in more severe cases, cutaneous lymphoma.
When my cat has patches of fur missing and sores, I immediately take her to the vet, and I recommend you do the same. It is always best to get a professional opinion of your feline’s condition to ensure the cause is correctly identified and a treatment plan is set up. If you follow your vet’s advice, your kitty should look and feel much better in no time!