Suddenly Morris goes from grooming himself to ripping out his own fur, leaving bald spots on the backs of his paws. Before you do anything, get him to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. Several medical issues can cause this odd behavior and your buddy may need professional attention.
Allergies can cause hair loss in felines. Poor Morris is itching like crazy all over his body, but can’t reach every single spot, so he’ll bite and tug at the fur on the backs of his paws. After all, his paws are like his hands and they’re right there in front of him all the time -- reminding him of the itching. Allergies can stem from problems with his food, seasonal allergies, like mold and pollen, or even from your harsh perfume.
Boredom and Stress
Some kitties nip at their fur if they're feeling bored or stress. Maybe Morris doesn’t have anything to do while you’re gone; he gets lonely and soothes himself by pulling the fur out of his paws while he’s grooming. Make sure he has all kinds of toys in all rooms, as well as a cat tree or post to scratch away some of his energy. If the hairs on the backs of his paws are broken, leaving little patches of stubble, it may be a sign that he’s fighting with another kitty in your home. The hairs break off during one of their brawls. Try separating them while you’re gone, for a period of a couple weeks. His fur will grow right back if his fights are the cause.
Diagnosis and Treatment Plan
Get your mischievous chum to the veterinarian right away. Your vet will draw some blood to see if allergies are the cause of Morris’ fur loss. Even if you can’t get a positive allergy diagnosis, your vet might still prescribe a specialized mild food designed for allergies. Hopefully a change in diet will do the trick. Let your veterinarian know about anything else going on in your home. A recent move, addition of a pet or a new baby can be stressful for your purring pal. If your vet suspects that stress may be causing your buddy to remove his own fur, he can prescribe medications to calm poor Morris so he doesn’t feel the need to make himself bald.
What You Can Do
You can do a few different things to discourage his self-destructive behavior. Get a bottle of feline-friendly bitter spray that is designed to go on skin. Using a cotton swab, dab a bit on the fur surrounding the bald spots -- putting the product directly on raw skin can be irritating. The next time Morris goes to tug his fur out, he’ll wind up swallowing a mouthful of nasty bitter formula. You’ll have to do it several times, possibly for several weeks, but he’ll start to learn that his paws taste terrible. Your veterinarian might suggest wrapping up his paws to allow the fur to grow back. Although if Morris’ skin is oozing, covering it may not be the best solution. In this case, you may have to put an annoying Elizabethan collar on his head, so he won’t be able to nip at his paws.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.