What is feline psychogenic alopecia?

Psychogenic alopecia is a version of obsessive compulsive disorder in cats. Cats can engage in a number of obsessive behaviors, just like people. Of course, the behavior is different,  but they will engage in normal cat behaviors taken to extremes.

   

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The symptoms of feline psychogenic alopecia are usually obsessive grooming (the cat version of an OCD person washing their hands over and over), hair loss caused by the cat biting at it or pulling at it, and generally acting nervous or anxious. This is very common in breeds such as the Siamese or Burmese. You should be aware that these exact same symptoms can be caused by fleas or by mange - so check for those as well.

It is usually caused by stress. If your cat has had trauma, has been abused or neglected or come from a bad home, it is at risk. "Oriental" breeds especially do not react well to this and can develop psychological disorders such as feline psychogenic alopecia.

The solution is to eliminate sources of stress while giving your cat something else to do. Sometimes stress is caused by a new cat, so watch out for that - you may have to separate them for awhile and make the introduction more gradual. Give the cat more toys - sometimes things like aquariums and outdoor birdfeeders that the cat can see work well for this because they give it something to do when you're not around. Don't let the cat eat the fish or the birds of course, but they will be very happy to sit there and fantasize about it. Anti-stress medications are sometimes used as well.

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