Categories: hair loss

Skin issues on 7 yo female cat

An anonymous visitor asked the following question using the visitor input form:

My 7 yo female developed balding on her front legs.Thought she might have fleas even though she is indoors. Occasionally goes outside on our deck. Never in grass. Deck is about 6 ft above ground.

First tried flea collar. But took it off in 10 minutes because she was licking it. That was about 1 1/2 months ago. She still scratched herself so I purchased a spot on flea med. Now she has a cut like sore. I applied this a week ago.

Flea treatment damage?

I think this is from the spot treatment, as it is located about where it was applied. Not sure why she is balding on her leg. Perhaps over licking. She has been healthy her whole life.

Any help would be appreciated.


From Michael: I’ll attempt to provide some sort of useful response. Firstly, it is worth mentioning that although I have first hand experience of dealing with hair loss on my cat (Charlie) and know about the topic through books, I am not medically qualified.

You say she is scratching herself but not how much. Cats scratch themselves all the time but not excessively. If it is excessive then it could well be due to a flea bite allergy but there are many other reasons.

I sense (and you have hinted) that she is over-grooming her legs. Legs are easy to get at to groom for a cat. If this is over-grooming there are two possible common reasons: stress and flea bite allergy. However, I believe a flea bite allergy causing itching occurs on the body and not the legs. You can check for a flea allergy. You’ll see small, red blisters on the skin over the body. Also your cat will lick her body to alleviate the itching. Also you have not told me if you have flea combed your cat (using a 32 prongs to the inch comb). This is the best way to check for fleas. You’ll comb them out and kill them. Do it around the shoulders and at the bast of the tail where there will be flea dirt (small black particles).

Stress can cause over-grooming as it comforts a cat. It is usual to over-groom the groin and lower belly area – symmetrical baldness. If you think your cat might be stressed, ask why. Are you out all day ’til late? This can cause stress. There are other causes of course such as seeing other cats outside the window. Stress can also cause cystitis (urinary tract infection).

You think she is over-licking. I guess you get this idea from observation. You might like to confirm this by further observation. You should be able to tell if she is over-grooming. If she is, probably the most common cause is stress and a common cause of stress, as mentioned, is the absence of a caretaker. This can be compounded by being an indoor cat (a confined environment).

Check out the points I have made and return to make a comment if you wish. In the meantime you might like to visit a page on cat hair loss where there around 250 comments which may give you some ideas.

Without wishing to state the obvious, if things don’t improve or deteriorate, the standard recommendation is to see a vet. Thanks for using the visitor input form and good luck to you both.

Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • Thanks for this information. Phenols are toxic. That is exactly why I wash the bedding and towels in it -to kill any bugs or larva. Then I rinse in baking soda which is an alkalizer and re-wash all bedding in hot water with lemon citrus natural soap . I would Never bathe an animal in pine sol, just to be clear.
    Eva
    I stated earlier that I bathe my cats mixing in to dilute " Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar" and wash with oatmeal soap.
    Sometimes I wash my Mama cat with natural baking soda soap or witch hazel soap.

  • Dear anonymous' Sandra is right.
    Please dilute Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar in your cats bath water. You can add additional healing to the skin by diluting it in a spray bottle for her skin and coat. When the cat licks herself she will like the taste and benefit from the ACV internally, dealing with bladder infections or other intestinal upsets. Do not pour ACV in her water bowl. They won't drink it.For best results, Use Braggs all Natural Apple Cider Vinegar. I bathe my older cat with it as she has some skin and bladder issues now and then. Today I am diluting a spray for my female Calliope who has suffered with dermatitis for several years now. This condition developed, sadly after I started applying Toxic flea liquid treatments to my cats necks !!But she has a food and a flea allergy which is also part genetic from her father. We have gotten rid of most of the fleas; but one bite drives her mad and causes a sore. She is allergic to Temptations cat treats and cheap dry cat food containing dyes,soy,wheat and corn> to name a few.

    Thank you Sandra and Michael.
    Eva says

  • Discovering the cause of a cat's itching and scratching can be difficult, and takes some good detective work.

    If a cat is scratching prior to any spot on treatments, it can be from stress or a food allergy.
    Detection of the cause is done by process of elimination.

    Checking for fleas with a flea comb would be first. If flea evidence is found, then treatment is necessary, for the cat and the environment. Some cats are highly allergic to fleas and flea treatment, including collars and spot on products.

    I've recently found a new spot on treatment that is non-toxic, made from a geranium extract. It's a third of the cost of the popular brands that have caused a lot of problems, such as shown here, and worse. The product is from Only Natural Pet, and it's called Herbal Defense Squeeze on. My cat is an indoor cat, but I take her out on a halter and leash, so she is more vulnerable to fleas. I use the flea comb daily, and haven't seen any evidence so far. But I ordered this product, so I can have it on hand. A 3 month supply is only $20 plus shipping. It's a US company.

    Even indoor cats can get fleas, since we can bring them in on our clothes. Even though the outdoor porch is 6' high, fleas are high jumpers.

    As Eva mentioned, food grade diatomaceous earth can help. Sprinkle on carpet, sweep in the fibers, leave for a few hours, then vacuum. I wouldn't bathe the cat in 100% apple cider vinegar, but put a small amount in the water.

    If you do find fleas on your cat, with the flea comb, you can pull them from the comb, and place in a small jar of vaseline to suffocate them. They can be difficult to kill with fingernails.

    Cats usually don't like citrus, so it may repel the fleas, but your cat may not like it either.

    If no flea dirt is found, then I would look at the possibility of a food allergy. Chicken is a high offender, but it could be any one of the by-products or chemicals in the pet foods. Knowing how to read the labels become very important in a case like this.
    There is an ingredient analysis on the website PetFoodRatings done by Dr. Lisa Newman. It's very helpful to know what we're really feeding our pets.

    I would not use any prescription foods, since they contain some of the worst ingredients; some of which are in the cheapest low grade pet food.

    If a pet has a food allergy, rice based pet foods can be used for awhile to see if the symptoms clear up. But "brewers rice" is a waste products from breweries and is a cheap, non-nutritive filler.

    There can be many causes for allergic reactions as Michael pointed out. Look for stressers in your home. They could be from cleaning chemicals, perfumes, or even the soap used to wash your clothes.
    Some humans are affected by these harsh chemicals, and have started using soaps that are chemical free.

    And as Michael pointed out, if a cat is alone all day, they can start biting and scratching themselves to relieve the stress. Just like humans bite their fingernails to relieve stress.

    A vet might suggest steroids, which can help temporarily, but they don't get to the root of the problem, and can cause problems of their own.

    I do hope you find the cause, and share with us how you're doing. We're a caring community of cat lovers, willing to help out with our own experience and knowledge from research.

  • Dear anonymous visitor_Michael has offered some good tips on why your cat is itching and possible reasons for the hair loss. From the photo I would say your cat is highly allergic to Spot on-Frontline_Advantage _or any chemical flea treatments which will compromise his or her immune system and bring on neurological disorders and dermatitis. A condition she may not have suffered before the toxins were used.Bathe her in apple cider vinegar to heal her skin and silken her coat. and use natural oatmeal soap to wash her if you must use soap. buy a 20lb. bag of diatomaceous earth at the hardware store for $ 12.99 and sprinkle on your carpets and the cats bedding. This is the best natural way to kill fleas and larvae and all the stages of a fleas life. Since your cat appears to have allergies, make sure her bedding is free of chemicals, bleach perfumes and fabric softeners. I wash my cats beddings with diluted pine sol and rinse with baking soda. any natural citrus scents and cleaners will keep fleas and other bugs off the bedding, towels, blankets ect....Some animals will get a red and very raw ring mark around their necks from a flea collar.

    Although it is true some pets do not show any side effects; I have read of pets dying from flea treatments. some live thru the agony but develop dermatitis, heart murmurs, hair loss, nervous habits, neurological disorders and seizures to name a few. Please do your research.Good Luck-

    Eva says_In addition: make sure her diet is as natural as you can afford and feed wet food often, 70% wet food 30% dry food and fresh water.

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