Help! Cat ripping her own fur out!(27 Posts)
Briefly- she's 5 years old, neutered, with thick fur and lives here with with her practically identical neutered brother (same age) and an old 15 year old neutered male puss in his dotage. All feed well, groom well and seem quite content.
Whilst none are mates as such, they pretty much ignore each other, except, being 'the time of year', there have been scuffles, but largely confined to a bit of hissing, mainly from her to her brother and the occasional paw swipe- but at between times, they'll sleep on the same bed or lie within 3 feet of each other on the rug, ignoring each other.
The point I'm making is that there doesn't appear to be any unusual stressors around them.
They younger two are shedding like crazy and spend a lot of time grooming themselves, and they get regular brushings. I'd noticed this girl puss would leave clumps of hair around where she'd been sitting and grooming, and I'd also noticed over the past maybe week that the proximal (closest to her body) end of her tail-fur was thinning- something that happened as I recall 2 odd years ago when these 3 cats were living with my now deceased mum.
Today I watched her closely and saw and heard her physically rip a clot of hair out from this area! I had to help her get the fur off her lips as it was stuck in a clump, hence the distinct clumps I'm finding on the carpet..
Why is she doing this and can I help her stop? Last time, the fur regrew in its own time, as it will this time but I am worried that it's an underlying sign of a problem- almost certainly psychological as there's nothing to see or feel on the skin of her proximal tail, and the area is a good 3-4 inches away from her bottom so that doesn't appear to be irritating her!
Get some Feliway and get her to a vet. DM's cat did this, he has some allergy to something (can't remember what - sorry).
DH's workmate suggested skin mites. The cats are Frontlined regularly but maybe it needs something stronger initially?
Mine has a flea alergy so if I'm a few days late with the defleaing she starts to do this, I actually have the dates on my planner now.
My cat age 15 started doing this a year ago, vet can find no evidence of any issue such as flea allergy etc, she had drop on flea treatment monthly. They have put it down to stress. I think now she is older the stress is related to creaky bones, she is getting stiff.
She did respond well to steroids but when they stopped it came back. I think it will be medication for rest of life now.
Could it be stress? Females like to be top of the hierarchy.
If you think it's stress, you could try feeding her Royal Canin Calm kibbles. It's really helped with one of my cats who was seriously over-grooming to the point that he was getting bald patches. It's quite expensive but worth it IMO. I buy it online from Pet Planet.
Also check for fleas, in my area they have become resistant to Frontline. I use a product called Program now, which I also buy online.
I second Feliway too, it's really effective.
If no fleas it's just a habit. Some children do it too. Feliway didn't stop mine and there's no stress in his life.
Mine started doing it when he got fleas before I realised Frontline was no longer working, and then it became a habit. He is quite a nervous stressy thing anyway.
Let us know how you get on OP
I would try to rule out fleas and stress first.
You do need a good 3 months of feliway and/or flea treatment to really rule this out though.
Is it always in the same place?
if so it could be sign of localised discomfort.
My cat did this and unfortunately it was due to hyperthyroidism. But my cat is quite geriatric.
- sorry, just noticed it is localised (Read TFP Mugga !)
Please get her checked by your vet. She may be in pain, especially if the fur pulling is local (eg on her belly which could be a sign of chronic cystitis). However, the most likely explanation is over-grooming because of stress caused by her housemates. Cats are masters of psychological bullying so you could very well not be catching what's going on, even when you're being watchful. It could be a parting of the ways between her and her brother or it could be your oldest cat becoming more nervous due to pain or just old age and trying to scare off these young thugs! There could even be a new cat in the area and it has upset the balance of your household. Cats find grooming soothing, so they can groom until they're pulling their fur out.
If the vet doesn't think there is a physical cause, then ask for a referral to a behaviourist. They'll be able to help work out what's going on and the best way to sort it out.
In the meantime, I can recommend books by Vicky Halls, a top cat behaviourist, who addresses the problem of over-grooming in her books. Cat Detective and Cat Confidential are two that I believe discuss it.
You should also check the basics, do you have at least one litter tray per cat, plus a spare, in different areas of the house? One of the methods cats use to mental torture their housemate is to block access to the litter tray, so make sure that there is nowhere a cat could sit to block access to all the trays.
Then look at how you're feeding them, having dry food around for your cats to help themselves to, plus one or two small meals of wet food, is perfect, as cats naturally eat 10-20 small meals a day. Again, access could be blocked, so make sure you put the dishes in different places. The same goes for water (try getting a couple of cat water fountains and place them away from the food), beds and hiding places. You want to give your cats the message that there is plenty to go round, so they don't need to fight over resources. I know you're probably very busy but try to include your affection in that list of abundant resources.
Give yourself a lot of credit for noticing this and for understanding that you might not be able to see what goes on between your cats. So many owners think that if they love Fluffy and Tiddles, then Fluffy and Tiddles must love each other too
Frontline doesn't always work.
Any evidence of fleas?
Sorry, just noticed the description of it being at the tail. If it's happened before, it's most likely stress, so she needs a behaviourist but as you need a vet referral, they can make sure it's not a physical problem. That could include nerve damage to her tail, urinary tract infection or constipation.
Im sure you are OP but just a suggestion - are you reguarly worming them as well as the flea treatment, as they wont work without eachother.
One other potential issue for the vet to consider is thyroid problems. My cat had hyperthyroidism and the first visible sign was him ripping out his fur due to stress and anxiety. There's some great advice above, I hope you can soon get to the root of the issue and get it sorted.
Our cat started doing this about a year ago. She would be washing her back,just above the base of her tail,and then start tearing a lump of fur out with her teeth. It got so bad,she ended up with a small bald spot. Asked a friend of ours who has a lot of experience with cats,and used to be a veterinary nurse,and she said it was probably fleas irritating her skin. Took puss to the vet to have an anti-flea injection,as the DIY back-of-the-neck liquid treatment obviously wasn't working. Within a few days,she had stopped pulling her fur out.
In a multicat household the likeliest cause is stress - the avoidance behaviour you describe is exactly how stressed cats avoid conflict- they're not actually fighting because they're spending their lives avoiding fighting and this is massively stressful! Feline psychogenic slope is is a very common consequence of stress and you need to get to the root of it - that may be a lack of resources, a change in social dynamics with age or an underlying health problem. Something like feliway is helpful but won't fix the problem - you need to change the trigger
Please google the ISFM guidelines on enrichment and environmental management to reduce stress
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