It's understandable to worry about your cat if he suddenly starts to go bald, but don't go shopping for a synthetic kitty coat for him just yet. There are various factors that can cause your cat to shed excessively, and some are relatively easy to manage and prevent.
With the exception of hairless breeds, all cats shed fur every day throughout the entire year. New hairs are constantly sprouting from your cat's skin as old ones fall out. As your cat sheds, the hairs either float away into your house or disappear down your cat's throat, only to emerge again when it's time for him to discharge the hairball he's been working on. This routine shedding becomes more severe during the spring, particularly for outdoor cats. The increased rate of shedding is actually triggered by the increased exposure to sunlight resulting from longer days in the spring compared to winter, according to Cat Care Hospital.
Fortunately for us, humans usually don't have to worry about losing their hair because of allergies, but the same cannot be said for cats. In fact, excessive shedding is a primary symptom of allergen irritation in felines. Skin rashes and irritation resulting from allergies prompt your cat to scratch at the same spot hard and often. He destroys the fragile follicles that hold the base of his hairs in place by scraping his nails across the same patch of skin repeatedly. If your cat frequents the dusty, forgotten corners of the basement, or if he's regularly exposed to pollen, mold or other irritants, then allergies may very well be the reason that your cat has lost some of his sleek.
You may be surprised to learn that cats and humans are both highly vulnerable to ringworm, which is a skin disorder caused by a fungal infection. Don't worry, your cat won't be sprouting mushrooms any time soon, although you should treat the condition promptly so it doesn't spread to you, your family or other pets. The fungus creates loose rings of damaged skin that expand and multiply as the fungal spores take root on neighboring tissue. Skin infected with fungi becomes brittle and cannot support hair, causing distinct bald patches across your cat's body. While ringworm is certainly an inconvenience, it very rarely poses a serious health issue. Oral anti-fungal medications are prescribed only for the worst cases, while topical ointments and shampoos are recommended for localized infections, according to the ASPCA.
Shedding can also be a symptom of a more serious problem with your kitty's health. If your furry friend is showing other unusual symptoms, like lack of appetite, digestive troubles or extreme thirst, then you should take him to the vet as soon as possible. Excessive shedding is a symptom of disorders stemming from organ dysfunction, including diabetes and hyperthyroidism, according to Animal Planet. If your cat is feeling under the weather, then he is also less likely to groom himself to remove hairs as they shed. Loose hair from a lack of grooming alone can be overwhelming at first, but brushing your cat's coat for him will help out a lot.
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.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.