Do you see little clumps of fur around your home? Is your cat mysteriously developing bald spots along their spine and perhaps other places like their legs and tail? These are all signs that something is wrong, and you should pay attention. There are many causes for cats pulling hair out along their spine.
You’ll need to determine the cause of the behavior first. Depending on the evidence, you might be able to take steps to correct it at home, like ridding the house of fleas. Many causes, however, will require the help of your vet. Keep reading to learn more about the many reasons for this distressing behavior and what you can do about it.
The 8 Causes for Cats Pulling Hair Out Along Their Spine and What to Do
1. Fleas or Mites
Fleas are one of the most common reasons for overgrooming. Cats are typically allergic to flea saliva, causing skin irritation. Once they start overgrooming, the problem becomes much worse. The hair loss usually begins at the base of the spine near the tail and will spread as the flea infestation worsens, as fleas are most likely to reside there.
2. Environmental Allergies (Atopic Dermatitis)
Even though cats have fur covering their skin, they can still come in contact with things that irritate them and cause a rash or other itchy reaction. They might rub against a toxic plant or be allergic to seasonal pollen they encounter while outdoors. Many cats scratch their back along items they find particularly helpful, which could cause irritation along their spine and overgrooming when they become itchy.
3. Food Allergies
A skin rash may also be caused by something they eat. This is similar in humans who break out in a rash or hives if they eat something they are allergic to. Some food reactions have very distinct signs, so recognizing them is easy2. Others will require more investigation. Reactions can also cause joint discomfort, including the spine, leading to overgrooming.
4. Skin Infection
Skin infections, including fungal infections like ringworm, are particularly unpleasant3. Cats with skin infections regularly overgroom for two reasons. The first is instinctual to help rid themselves of the infection, and the second is to comfort the irritation. The frustration at being unable to reach some areas, like the spine, could lead to overgrooming or pulling the hair out in the areas closest to it.
5. Thyroid Problem
Hyperthyroidism in cats causes many distinct signs, including increased hunger and thirst, weight loss, aggression, vomiting, and diarrhea4. Another sign is that they may have a greasy and unkempt coat even though you see them overgrooming. This condition causes the body’s metabolic rate to increase, and your cat may become very stressed, leading to unnecessary overgrooming.
6. A Wound
Your kitty may be wounded for many reasons. Perhaps it was accidental while your cats played and got too rowdy. Or, maybe they got into a little misunderstanding with a cat outdoors about territory. It could also be a wound healing after surgery or other medical procedures. No matter the cause, they will most likely want to lick the area instinctively to heal and relieve itching if it is located along the spine.
Licking is soothing for cats, and they will groom themselves for cleanliness and comfort. Overgrooming can be a sign of pain, which could be acute, like a UTI, or chronic, like arthritis. Excessive grooming along the spine may indicate that they are experiencing painful arthritis or have received a spinal injury.
8. Stress or Anxiety (Psychogenic Alopecia)
Cats are creatures of habit, and it doesn’t take very much to cause anxiety. It may be as much as moving the food and water bowls or as big as bringing home a new pet. When a cat becomes stressed, it could cause them to overgroom. While the most common areas are those that are easily reached, like the legs and flank, it can occur anywhere, including the spine.
Many things can cause overgrooming and hair loss along the spine. The first step is to determine why it’s happening. Then, you will know how best to treat it so your kitty can get back to living comfortably, and you can relax knowing they are healthy. If you ever have concerns about your cat’s physical or behavioral health, be sure to contact their vet.
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