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What is psychogenic alopecia in cats and how to treat it?

Updated on November 29, 2007

Cats by nature are clean animals and when you think about it, of course they are if you take in the fact they can self-groom up to 3 hours a day. However sometimes they can groom a bit too much and it is actually a condition most of our humans know under the name OCD or Obsessive compulsive disorder. Before the definition for the human condition went under the name of impulse control disorder, however with this new term not only does it help to shed more light on the human condition but it can also be used to shed some light on the cats who suffer from this disorder.

Cats like humans will engage in the activity of self-grooming when they are bored, under stress or simply frightened. Or simply it can be something they do to pass the time. The grooming that happens is actually a displacement behavior as cat caught between 2 objectives will pick a 3rd irrelevant activity. In general this is no cause for concern because both humans and cats do this. However if this behavior is connected with stress and anxiety levels self-grooming will happen for prolonged periods of time and out of context (when there is no stress factor) and then you have OCD. In cats most affected are the areas on the limbs and torso, but also take a notice of your cat's nails because they can also be chewed to the point where they get completely frayed. It is believed that cats that have had a stressful life up to the point you have adopted them are more prone to this disorder, as well as oriental cats.

How to know if your cat has Psychogenic Alopecia?

Your cat will get nervous, anxious or over attached to you in the times of stress. Then there is the aforementioned baldness on the abdomen and inner limbs. Also if you have ruled out the possibility of fleas and mites and your cat is not reacting to prescribed treatments. Do not neglect that old rule of observing your cat. You might notice if there is a new source of stress in the household, such as a new cat or another animal or some other environmental change that your cat is excessively grooming. And as said before oriental cats and cats that have been subjected to neglect and abuse earlier in life are more prone to this condition.

What are the possible treatments?

You can try and eliminate possible sources of stress for cats. If it is another cat, you might want to separate them and introduce them to each other in new, more pleasant circumstances. If your cat is suffering from separation anxiety you might want to train her to associate your coming home with cuddle and treat time so your cat will be looking forward to it, but also it will establish a routine that cats love. Also to keep your cat occupied have plenty of toys at hand, as well as climbing trees, scratching posts and other things that cats love to play with. Another thing you might want to do is to talk to your vet and consider possible medical treatments. You can always try with Feliway that is said to reduce stress levels in cats, however sometimes that might not be enough for your cat and medical treatment is in order. I would advise against trying to self administer medication consult the vet first.

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