What you need to know about Behavioral Alopecia

White cat grooming paw

Have you ever come back from vacation to find your fur baby has some bald spots on his/her legs?  Maybe you’ve moved to a new house or started a job with very different hours.  Kitties are creatures of habit and big shifts to their routine can often lead to changes in behavior.  Once your vet has ruled out any underlying medical issues, you’re generally left with the dreaded “behavioral” diagnosis.  I say dreaded, because often time behavior issues take more time and effort to overcome than say simply treating an acute medical issue.

Normal Grooming to Excessive Grooming

Cats spend anywhere from about 30-40% of their day grooming.  It’s important to understand that when your kitty grooms, the licking releases endorphins.  These happy hormones relax your kitty so during a stressful time they may resort to extra grooming to self-sooth.  When normal grooming becomes more obsessive, hair loss (psychogenic alopecia) and even skin lesions can occur.

Most common areas of over-grooming

Usually the easiest to reach areas tend to be chosen.  Bald patches can often appear symmetrical on both sides of the body.  Some of the most common areas to notice missing fur are as follows:

  • Belly
  • Front legs
  • Inside of the hind legs

Treatment

Behavior issues aren’t as clean cut to treat.  Your vet will likely recommend several of the following potential solutions, which looking to the pet parents for updates on progress.

  • Return your kitty to his/her normal routine as closely as possible.  If this isn’t possible because of a major schedule change, set a new schedule and stick with it.  Structured food time, play time, and snuggle time can help return stability to a chaotic environment.
  • Help burn off that excess energy with added play time.  Get your kitty’s favorite toy and have a little game of hunt and catch!
  • Avoid negative reinforcement.  Cats do not learn from being scolded, often it just makes them afraid of the person trying to curb the unwanted behavior.

Has your fur baby ever experiences psychogenic alopecia?  What did you do to reverse the behavior?

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