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15 year old cat pulling hair out

Fritzy's Mom
February 5th, 2008, 11:42 AM
My 15 year old cat, Fritzy started pulling his hair out just after Christmas. I was concerned, so I took him to the vet. My regular vet was on vacation and a new vet that I hadn't seen before was covering for him. She suggested that it was stress due to having lots of dinner guests over. My sister-in-law brought her dog into my house even though I requested that she didn't since Fritzy doesn't like dogs. Fritzy hid in the bedroom closet for a full day. The vet suggested that to reduce his stress we should keep things as normal as possible and he would be OK. Well, its been over a month and he is still pulling his hair out! We have made sure that we haven't had any company in the house and we've been treating him very gently, trying to make sure there are no loud noises and that nothing disturbs him, in an attempt to reduce his stress. Nothing else has changed recently.

His coat is looking very patchy in spots and I'm worried that he might be swallowing some of the hair he is pulling out and be more prone to hairballs. But believe me, there is plenty of evidence all over the house that he is pulling out his hair. Big clumps of hair appear on the carpet, sofa and bed at all times of the day and night.

Does anyone have any experience with this? Any ideas on how I can get him to stop pulling his hair out?


February 5th, 2008, 11:57 AM
My cat gas a belly-licking OCD that began when his brother was sick and subsequently died (over 3 years ago). It was an extremely stressful time for him (and me!), and even though he no longer has that stress anymore, he still does this behaviour. He apparently got some type of comfort from doing it in the first place, but now it's just habit for him. Since he isn't actually causing himself harm (just has the cutest bald pink belly) I haven't tried to stop him, but I know there are anti-anxiety meds that can be prescribed for this sort of thing. You might also want to try a calming pheromone such as Feliway ( (comes in spray form and a room diffuser).

I would also try to rule out any allergies. Food allergies often manifest as itchy skin. What does your cat eat?

February 5th, 2008, 11:59 AM
I've been dealing with the same thing for over two years now with my Fagan. The thing is there are many many causes for it, we are almost sure we have it narrowed down here to flea bites (none on my guys or in my house... but ones coming from others visiting the house ... on pant legs etc). The most common causes are flea bites (you don't have to see them, just one bite is enough to start that if they have an allergy, say one from a doggie guest?), and food (chicken, fish, beef, grains). Cats can develop these allergies at anytime. What we did was had the hairless irritated area scraped and tested, which showed that it was in fact an allergy of some sort (although they aren't like people allergy tests, they can't tell you exactly what the allergy is just that it is one). If you rule out the allergy, I imagine blood tests etc should be next as it could be secondary to some other health issue. Stress can also be a cause and thats what was first diagnosed here, but he showed no improvement with anxiety meds so we went on to further investigate.

Best of luck to you and your kitty in finding an answer! :pray::goodvibes:

February 5th, 2008, 11:59 AM
Poor Fritzy. Is the vet absolutely sure it isn't a skin condition, perhaps an allergy to his food? Was there a blood test? I know it is an extra expense but older cats can develop chronic conditions that are not always easy to figure out. If his health is OK, he might benefit from a low dose of tranquilizer, which you could taper off after a few weeks.

February 5th, 2008, 12:01 PM
OMG how ironic! My Sega (who will be 15 this spring) also started pulling his hair out (mostly on his poor little belly) and my vet also said he must be stressed, but nothing has changed in my home.
We have tried to make it evven less stressful for him by banning guests for the time being, but he still pulls his hair out!

I wonder if he misses Lucky:sad:

I know is that he has ALWAYS wanted outside, he has screamed at the doors for 15 years!! not all the time, but at least once a day. I wonder if he has gone crazy becuase he can't go out? Letting him outside is not an option, as there are large dogs, coyotes, a train, cars!!

If you find the answer, please let me know

Fritzy's Mom
February 5th, 2008, 12:24 PM
Fritzy has been on the same food for over a decade. I tried changing it about 6 years ago - which caused him to stop eating and resulted in fatty liver disease. It was a long, hard recovery for him and I have never attempted to change his food again! He did start on an arthritis medication a few months ago, so the first thing the vet did when I took him in about his hair issue, was to give him a blood test. She also checked for skin irritations and other medical conditions that might have contributed to his behaviour. She found no fleas and no skin irritation. He is not picky about where he pulls the hair from - his tummy, left and right sides and hind legs are all patchy. The vet said that it wasn't a huge issue as long as he doesn't rub the skin raw - which he hasn't yet since he's not licking it off - he's pulling it out with his teeth and then spitting it out of his mouth. He's causing quite a mess to the house along with his coat.
Fritzy is allowed supervised outdoor visits (and he always stays near), but he won't go anywhere near the door from the first snowfall in October or November until the warm spring weather arrives in April or May. Can't say as I blame him - he was a stray and I rescued him during a snow storm in -30C temperatures when he was about 3 years old.

February 5th, 2008, 12:52 PM
My sister's cat used to do the same thing! CC (short for Cosmic Cat!!!) showed up on their property as a stray and just stayed! She had her fixed right away and the cat seemed happy, but my sister had to keep her as an outside cat for the first year because she had a dog and a cat in the house that just HATED her and she hated them back also. My sister cut a walk through in her garage door and the cat came and went and slept in the furnace room…and then she started pulling out her fur something terrible….the Vet said it was stress, she wanted to be with people!
Well, she now lives with my niece Kate…has become an indoor cat (read… Queen of the Castle!) and has been that was for years and years…it took months and months but no more hair pulling (and she was bald in some places!!!!!)

Keep at it..sounds like you have a very sensitive feline and it may take awhile!

February 5th, 2008, 12:52 PM
My cat also has some form of OCD and likes to lick herself bald in places, but then contimues to lick the skin away. :eek:

I can't remember how it started, but it was so bad the first time round she had to have a GA and have the dead skin cut out and the healthy skin stitched back together.

Sadly this didn't solve the problem and as soon as her Elizabethan collar came off she started again. In short she spent over a year wearing her Elizabethan collar and I was set to have her PTS on the advice of my vet...........thankfully that vet left and on my cats last visit before "execution" day we visited the new vet. She gave her antibiotics, a steriod injection and gave me a Feliway Diffuser ( which releases a feromone to relax the cat.

That seemed to work and so far my cat has been better, she does revert back to her OCD a couple of times a year, which means we regularly go back to the vet for steriod injections and the Feliway has to be renewed every month - 6 weeks.

I would recommend the Feliway in your situation as it seems your cat might be quite stressed out, it could be worth a try?!

February 6th, 2008, 12:36 AM
Fur pulling can often be a sign of HyperThyroidism. Cats that are 12 and older are very prone to getting HyperThyroidism which is treatable and all cats over the age of 7 should be regularly tested.

You said the vet tested for medical conditions but did they do a T4 Thyroid test?

The arthritis medication might have masked the presence of HyperThyroidism as well so if the T4 was tested I would still do a retest & be sure they test the Free T4 as well.

If the total T4 and Free T4 was not tested I would go back to the vet and have them test it now.

The total T4 tests the thyroid hormone in the blood whereas the Free T4 tests the thyroid hormone in the serum.