Cat hair loss during pregnancy

Cat and her litter
This is for illustrative purposes only. Photo: Phil Dolby
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Cat hair loss during pregnancy and lactation may be caused by stress. A visitor, Carolyn, asked for advice in a comment on the hair loss in cats page:

Hi, my tuxedo cat, Panda, approximately 4 years old has been losing hair rather similar in appearance to this tuxedo cat pictured. It appeared to be thinning some weeks ago during her pregnancy was when I first noticed it. It appears thin on her sides. There are also a few patchy patches on her front legs mostly, also shoulder area, and between her eyes and ears the hair appears just a little thinner than the rest of her head. She had 5 perfect healthy kittens almost month ago now who are all well. She is feeding them fine. She is displaying no unusual behaviour otherwise. she seems to be herself other than excessive meowing (she has always been a chatty cat anyway), no excessive grooming or itching that I have noticed. She is currently outdoors with her litter in the shed, but is an indoor/outdoor cat coming and going as she pleases. Please can you help? Ive had financial difficulties lately and cant afford the vet at the moment but the moment I get a few £ (hopefully soon) I shall take her to the vet immediately. Please help if you are able, many thanks indeed from Carolyn

This was my response:

Hi Carolyn. I can only guess to a certain extent because I am not a vet. However, the hair loss appears to be linked to her pregnancy and perhaps lactation. If that is the case and it looks that way it is a condition called telogen effluvium which is widespread hair loss (alopecia) in response to metabolic stress. Pregnancy is one cause of this condition. It happens in dogs too. It is normal although rarely diagnosed. For dogs the layperson name of this is ‘blowing her coat’.

Hair growth is in phases. There is the resting stage, telogen, and the growth stage called anagen.

Stress and hormonal changes due to pregnancy may cause a large number of hairs to enter the telogen phase early. The large number of hairs in the telgoen phase are shed simultaneously resulting in a hair loss appearance. The telogen hairs are being pushed out by the growing hairs underneath. (sources: pet and this page on PoC – you can see it listed about half way down the article).

I’d watch and make sure she has the best nutrition and care. If things deteriorate re: hair loss and/there are other signs I’d take her to vet asap.

I hope this helps.

Here is some more info:

The key issue here is to go to a vet for advice. Hair loss during pregnancy may or may not be caused by the stress of pregnancy. The book: Skin Diseases of the Dog and Cat: Clinical and Histopathologic Diagnosis – By Thelma Lee Gross, Peter J. Ihrke, Emily J. Walder, Verena K. Affolter states that:

“telogen effluvium is a rare…reaction pattern seen in dogs and cats characterized by widespread alopecia in response to severe metabolic stress.”

Therefore an kind of stress may cause it. As the hair loss occurred simultaneously with pregnancy it is reasonable to presume they are linked.

Mild cases of telogen effluvium go undiagnosed. This is interesting because there are probably many cases of undiagnosed hair loss in cats which could be put down to metabolic stress. Other possible stressors are:

  • serious illness
  • high fever
  • lactation
  • anesthesia
  • surgery
  • shock
  • severe anemia
  • FeLV positive cats

Rapid, progressive hair loss develops over much of the body. Hair loss is the only skin abnormality noted with this condition. The hair loss continues for less than a week.

11 thoughts on “Cat hair loss during pregnancy”

  1. My cat Bella is the same she is losing a little bit of hair and she is very hormonal and doesn’t eat some food that we give her also she is very sleepy we dont know if she is pregnant or not

  2. Being shut in a shed and this losing the ability to roam free is obviously stressful for an animal used to the outdoors which instinctively has to hunt and provide food for her kittens. She is prevented from doing what her instincts tell her. In the case of my cats I keep them in the house at these times but they have a largish area to roam and find food in different places which seems to be an adequate substitute for outdoor hunting. Is the shed small and dark? That would be equivalent to solitary confinement for a person. Lack of human company may be an added stress.

      • Thank you Harvey. My cat shed is more akin to a cat ‘palace’. It houses ONLY my cats. It is 8′ x 6′ and equipped with a single bed and bedding of course! In it are cats baskets, ‘houses’, etc also for added comfort and security. My children even put up artwork for the cats. 😉 There is even a clock and barometer in there! It has a large window so it is light and airy, and the door is never, ever shut, just left ajar so they can come and go as they please (until such time as I can get a cat flap fitted.) It is certainly is not a dark,damp or cramped garden shed. Also Panda has always been a cat that likes the choice of both and outdoors and indoors. This litter was kept indoors for the first couple of weeks and then put out in a comfy warm ‘nest’ which is on top of the bed with plenty of fleecy warm blankets. I give my cats hot water bottles in their cat dens and baskets when required. Panda has always been an excellent mother hunting for her kittens and providing for them well. I am considering having Panda spayed soon as I think she has done her duty for Northern Ireland!

  3. Hi, Michael! This is a very interesting article. I am glad that you posted it because I, like many others, had no idea about hair loss triggers or the stages of hair growth. Thanks!

    On a similar note, you didn’t mention anything about localized hair loss. One of my males had that many years ago, mostly around his back end. The vet said it was a flea allergy and we quickly got it under control with Advantage for Cats.

    Thanks for the fantastic articles!


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