Psychogenic Alopecia – CattleDog Publishing


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A photo image of a cat showing a nearly bald patch on stomach and left hind leg and hip

Hair loss patterns like these could be attributable to behavioral or medical causes, indicating the necessity for a complete dermatological workup, as there could be many underlying causes.

Psychogenic alopecia, also referred to as self-trauma, is a situation wherein cats compulsively pull out their hair, resulting in skinny, uneven coats or baldness. This habits sometimes serves as a analysis of exclusion, which means all attainable medical causes should be dominated out earlier than a behavioral analysis could be made. Psychogenic means “of the thoughts” moderately than having a medical or bodily trigger.

A research by Stephen E. Waisglass, et al., revealed in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Affiliation, involving 21 cats suspected of this situation, discovered that 16 had medical causes for his or her habits, two had been purely circumstances of psychogenic alopecia, and three had medical and behavioral causes. The medical points primarily included unfavorable reactions to meals, allergy symptoms, or parasites, with half of the circumstances having a couple of trigger.


Behavioral causes are sometimes linked to environmental stress, frustration, or battle. Potential triggers for this habits vary from modifications within the family atmosphere, together with the introduction of recent pets or individuals, to competitors for assets in multicat households, lack of hiding areas, inadequate psychological enrichment, and even the sight of neighborhood cats. Though it will possibly additionally stem from a compulsive dysfunction, that is comparatively uncommon. Cats in multicat households are significantly susceptible to displaying this habits when their fundamental wants are unmet.

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Orange and white cat with wrapped tail, showing marked balfnessl

Medical Indicators

Initially, the pores and skin might seem irritated attributable to pruritus (itch). Itchiness can result in scratching and licking, chewing, biting, and hair loss and is the most typical symptom of pores and skin illness in cats and canines. The areas most affected are the flanks (sides). You might not initially discover your cat is overgrooming, because it typically happens solely when they’re alone or at evening; nonetheless, the results on the pores and skin could be seen.


To diagnose the rationale for hair loss in your cat, your veterinarian might begin with fundamental checks, together with cytology, to search for infections and pores and skin scrapings to examine for mites, adopted by fungal cultures and flea medicines. They could additionally conduct blood checks and a urinalysis, together with a thyroid profile, to evaluate your cat’s general well being. Allergy testing or making a swap to a hypoallergenic weight loss program could also be beneficial.

If testing doesn’t determine the reason for your cat’s hair loss, glucocorticoids like prednisolone could also be prescribed. Diagnosing this situation could be difficult, as each self-inflicted trauma and stress can result in bodily signs. Nevertheless, a main behavioral trigger is extra probably if there’s a minimal response to therapy with no important findings from these checks.


The therapy plan for psychogenic alopecia facilities round assembly the fundamental wants of your cat, which incorporates environmental modifications.

Often known as The 5 Pillars of a Wholesome Feline Setting by Sarah Ellis et al., an inventory of fundamental wants was revealed within the Journal of Feline Drugs and Surgical procedure and are:

  1.      A secure place for relaxation and/or hiding.
  2.      A number of and separated assets.
  3.      Alternatives for play and predatory behaviors.
  4.      Constructive, constant, and predictable interactions with people.
  5.      An atmosphere that respects the cat’s sense of odor.

Constructive reinforcement coaching can present social and psychological enrichment, enhancing communication between you and your cat. It additionally helps in educating behaviors that may redirect your cat from overgrooming to totally different actions, lowering general stress ranges. Punishment, resembling yelling, bodily punishment, or spraying your cat with water, is rarely beneficial. If particular stressors are discovered, habits modification could be employed to assist your cat develop optimistic associations with no matter is inflicting them misery.

Medical Remedy

Behavioral medicines could be useful in some circumstances and embrace:

  • Pheromone merchandise assist cut back anxiousness in some cats. Pheromones are chemical substances that cats produce as a way of communication, and the merchandise obtainable for buy can be utilized whereas altering your cat’s atmosphere together with different behavioral therapies. They’re obtainable in both a room diffuser or spray.
  • Clomipramine (Clomicalm®) is an antidepressant. A low dose will not be enough for psychogenic alopecia. Advantages will not be seen for a number of weeks.
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac®) can be an antidepressant. Your veterinarian might advocate beginning your cat on a low dose after which growing it if wanted. Advantages will not be seen for a number of weeks.
  • Amitriptyline (Elavil®) is one other antidepressant that features an antihistamine. It doesn’t work nicely for compulsive issues however could also be useful to cease itching.

Monitoring and Prognosis

After the self-trauma has stopped and the hair has regrown, you might be able to slowly discontinue behavioral medicines whereas watching your cat to verify the identical behaviors don’t begin over again. You should definitely seek the advice of together with your cat’s veterinarian earlier than discontinuing any medicines. Your cat’s long-term prognosis is dependent upon what the underlying trigger is for the habits. Some cats may have medicines for a very long time, and even for all times, whereas others might not.

With psychogenic alopecia, some circumstances are simpler to deal with than others; efficient strategies could also be recognized early on, whereas some behaviors might by no means utterly disappear. A lot is dependent upon the extent to which you’ll tackle your cat’s supply of stress and the way nicely secondary pores and skin infections brought on by the trauma of overgrooming could be managed.


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