Why does my cat lose fur on its ears or head? The factors that can cause this loss are many, environmental, genetic, alimentary, parasitic. Let’s see how it is possible to understand and treat this problem, always asking for help from our trusted veterinarian.
If your cat has a hairless spot on her head, or is losing hair around her ears, it might be time to figure out what’s going on. There are many reasons for cat hair loss, also known as alopecia. It could be hereditary or acquired.
The cat loses hair from hereditary causes
If the cat loses hair on its ears or head, it could simply be a result of genetics. In the case of hereditary hair loss, there isn’t much to do other than a gene transfer, so bald areas shouldn’t show irritation and shouldn’t bother the cat. There is no cure treatment to stop the loss or encourage the hair to grow back once it is lost.
Some of the cat breeds most prone to hereditary hair loss include:
- Devon Rex
The cat loses hair from acquired causes
Acquired hair loss is usually a sign of other conditions that lead to itching. Affected cats scratch, chew, lick or rub the affected parts until the fur is literally rubbed until it falls out. If we have ruled out hereditary factors, there are a number of other possible causes, and some of them are contagious. We keep in mind that the information presented here is not intended to replace the professional diagnosis which must necessarily be made by a veterinarian.
Ear mites: a possible cause of hair loss
Ear mites, known by the scientific name of Otodectes cynotes, can cause severe itching and cause your cat to lose hair on its ears and head. These mites can be easily transferred to other cats, and sometimes even to humans even if they cannot survive on humans.
Signs of an ear mite infestation include:
- Head rubbing
- Shaking of the ears
- Loss of hair
- Buildup of brown ear wax in the ears
- Bad smell
Ear mites can be easily diagnosed with an otoscope. Treatment usually involves cleaning the ears thoroughly but gently, and applying the veterinarian-recommended medicine directly into the canals. It is usually necessary to repeat the treatment for seven to ten days to kill each new hatch.
Fleas: easily found and treatable
The saliva left by a flea bite on a cat causes an irritating reaction that leads cats to scratch like crazy. Although hair loss can occur anywhere on the body, the head, face and ears are especially vulnerable to hair loss because the cat rubs them on furniture and carpets to seek relief.
Fleas are easily found with the physical presence or with the small needs they leave on the cat’s fur. Infestations can be treated using various types of insecticides including sprays, shampoos, drops, and medications to be applied to the area.
Ringworms: An infection that can cause your cat’s hair to fall out
Contrary to their name, ringworms are not worms. It is actually a fungal infection that lives in the hair follicles and feeds on dead skin cells. While the fungus populates the hair structure, it breaks off at the skin level, and leaves bald patches. Sometimes scabs develop around the ears or affected areas. Ring worms are highly contagious, and can be diagnosed by analyzing the fur for the fungus.
There are various possible treatments to get rid of the infection. These include:
- Application of a drop cycle of calcium sulfur
- Griseofulvin tablets, as recommended by your veterinarian
- Application of a topical ointment such as Itraconazole
- Repeated antifungal shampoos
- Thoroughly shave the cat
Mange: notoedric or demodectic, an annoying problem
Mange is another type of contagious mite infestation, which causes severe itching especially around the face, ears and neck. The skin in the affected areas shows some hair loss, and the skin typically begins to become covered with a sort of greyish-yellowish crust that is similar to a bad case of eczema.
Feline mange is divided into two types: notoedric and demodectic. Each type is diagnosed by collecting a fragment of skin from the affected area, and by checking it under a microscope for the presence of mites.
To treat mange, it is necessary to trim the long coat, and apply a drop of calcium sulfur once a week until the skin check shows that the mites are gone. The treatments can be repeated up to six to eight times to cure the infestation.
Food allergies: Food can also affect feline fur
Food allergies can also produce severe itching and purulent wounds, especially on the head, face, ears and neck. If infected, the cat loses hair quickly, and chronic ear infections contribute to the problem.
Having a diagnosis for a food allergy requires a series of food processes, in which the vet will prescribe a restricted diet that can slowly reintroduce foods one at a time until an allergic reaction is noted for a particular food.
Sometimes more than one food affects the reaction, but all problem foods will be eliminated from our kitty’s diet. Once the harmful substances have been eliminated from his system, the cat’s wounds will heal and his coat will tend to grow back, although it may be slightly different in color and texture than the original coat.
Chronic stress: if the cat licks itself too much, it sheds hair
This may be a less obvious cause, but chronic stress also plays a role in hair loss. Cats comfort themselves by combing their hair, and the more stressed they feel, the more they comb their hair. Their continuous licking in the long run weakens the coat, especially in areas with very short hair such as the head and ears. This particular condition is called psychogenic alopecia.
Managing feline stress means identifying the things that cause anxiety, and eliminating them from the cat’s environment as much as possible. Some cats also respond to healthy stimulation, like a tree pulling scratches to practice on. This type of accessory relieves them of boredom, and gives our cat something to focus on as well as on himself.
Alopecia Areata: the cause of hair loss is still little known
Alopecia areata is not yet well understood, but researchers suspect that it is an autoimmune condition and may also be complicated by the cat’s diet. It appears to cause most of the hair loss around the head, neck, and back due to excessive friction. Vets primarily try to treat the condition by testing for any food allergies, and then eliminating the allergens from the cat’s diet.
Atopy: allergies that cause the cat to scratch
Atopy refers to allergies caused by inhaling environmental irritants, such as mold, pollen, dust mites, etc. The allergic reaction produces intense itching that leads the cat to scratch a lot, especially around the head and ears.
Treatment includes removing the allergen from the cat’s environment as much as possible , or limiting our cat’s exposure to the allergen. Antihistamines are sometimes given to help reduce itching in the case of more severe reactions.
Facial alopecia: the cat loses hair due to normal causes
Facial alopecia is considered normal hair loss that occurs on the head, between the eyes and ears. This type of hair loss appears more pronounced in cats that have short, dark hair. Since it is considered normal, there is no treatment for it unless we notice other signs of a skin condition that may actually be the real cause of the hair loss.
Sebaceous adeniti: a rare inflammation of the glands
Sebaceous adenitis is an inflammatory disease of the sebaceous glands. It is quite rare in cats, but causes hair loss around the face, head and ears. There is no cure for this disease, so treatment mainly consists of managing the symptoms by giving the cat anti-inflammatory treatment, and using an anti-flaking shampoo, to clean the encrusted lesions that form around the hair follicles.
Solar dermatitis: sunburn that can be very bad for a shedding cat
Also known simply as sunburn, sun dermatitis causes a painful sting followed by peeling and partial shedding. The condition is usually most noticeable around the ears, but the nose and eyebrows are also prone to it because they have little or no basic hair protection. Treatment includes keeping the cat out of the sun, and applying antibiotic ointment to improve healing.
We consult the veterinarian: only a professional opinion can prevent
If we notice hair loss on our cat’s ears, don’t hesitate to take him to the vet. The sooner the cause of the cat’s shedding is diagnosed, the easier it will be treated, and we can prevent the problem from getting completely out of hand. In many cases, in fact, our cat’s hair will eventually grow back.