Alopecia in cats is balding or hair loss. The most common type of balding is feline endocrine alopecia which is seen most often in spayed middle-aged females and neutered males. It has long been believed that a hormone deficiency is the cause of the problem, but hormone levels are usually found to be normal. Psychogenic alopecia (caused by compulsive self-grooming) occurs in the same age range as well. Many cases that are attributed to hormone deficiency are quite possibly the result of compulsive self-grooming.
Hair loss is seen occurring in a symmetrical pattern on the lower part of the cats abdomen, genital areas, perineum, and on the insides of the back legs. The remainder of the cats coat is only affected in severe cases. Sometimes the hair will grow back on some cats, but they will usually just lose it again later. Itching is not a problem in alopecia.
Self-grooming in cats is often a response to stress. This stress may be the result of the addition of a new pet, new baby, a new move, or even something as simple as moving furniture or making other changes in the home. Breeds that are often predisposed to psychogenic alopecia are Siamese, Burmese, Himalayans, and Abyssinians. In cats with hyperthyroidism, about one-third of them will show areas of alopecia because the hair pulls out easily.
Alopecia is mainly seen as a cosmetic condition. It is not recommended to be treated with sex hormones because of the risk of serious side effects, which includes bone marrow and liver toxicity.
Treatment for cats with psychogenic alopecia that may be helpful are behavior modification and in some cases, behavior modifying medications such as amitriptyline.