Johnny’s new bald spot on his tail isn’t only unattractive, it may also be a warning sign of something more serious. Cats are supposed to groom themselves and can lose some hair in the process, but he shouldn't be pulling out his hair. He needs immediate medical attention.
Fleas are a big trigger to chronic itching on and around a kitty’s tail. Fleas tend to hide out where their predator – Johnny – cannot get to them. That’s why they’ll burrow along his spine or base of the tail where your furball can’t quite reach them. Cats are good about picking off fleas that are bothering them, especially if they have a flea allergy. If you check Johnny’s coat carefully with a flea brush, you may not even see any of the fleas, although they may have been there. Your veterinarian can thoroughly check Johnny for fleas and flea eggs and give him a flea dip bath if need be. Because Johnny was so sensitive to the flea outbreak and plucked out some of his own coat, you’ll probably want to talk to your vet about preventing fleas with prescription flea medications.
Some cats are allergic to everyday things in their environments – pollen, grass, mold and dust. On days when allergens are high, your itchy buddy will scratch like crazy and unintentionally pull out his fur in an effort to relieve the itch. Your fluffy pal may also be allergic to his food, your laundry detergent or that air freshener you spray throughout the day. He’ll nibble on his paws, rub his ears and of course, do his best to get to that itch on his tail. If you don’t rule out allergies right away, he’ll wind up with hairless patches all over him.
Your beloved buddy may be losing fur on and around his tail because he has ringworm. It’s not actually a worm as the name implies, rather ringworm is a fungal infection. Ringworm causes irritating red patches to form on your kitty’s skin, leading to fur loss. Usually ringworm starts on the head, ears and front paws, although it can affect his entire body and spread all the way down to his tail. Your vet can get you a topical ointment or special shampoo to rid Johnny’s body of the irritating fungus, although if he has a severe case, he may also need oral medications.
Johnny could just be one of those cats who always has to have something to do, or else he stresses out. He may not be itchy at all, just a little anxious. He’ll start chasing that wiggling thing that always follows him – his tail – and then start over-grooming it, tugging out balls of fur in the process. Grooming is soothing to felines and he’s just trying to make himself happy until you return. If you’ve ruled out all other medical conditions with your veterinarian, try giving him a bigger variety of toys and make sure he has several in every room of the house. Give him some catnip toys too. Catnip can entice to play with the toy, rather than the last of the fur on his tail.
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.