My Cat Is Pulling Out His Fur

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger discusses how some cats express stress by overgrooming.

Q: I am moving at the end of this month and I have 13 cats but I can only take two with me. They know something is going on. An organization is hopefully going to help me get my kids adopted. One of my cats has started pulling his fur out on one side. I have taken him to the vet, but they haven’t found anything medially wrong with him. I am worried that I won’t be able to get him adopted because people might think he’s sick. How can I help him to quit this behavior? I give him plenty of love but it’s not working. 

A: After taking your cat to the vet and ruling out possible medical causes, including allergies, you can concentrate on the behavioral aspects. From your description of the situation it sounds like your kitty is responding to the changes in his world by engaging in a behavior commonly called psychogenic alopecia, or overgrooming. The stress of the move, the packing and the general disruption has resulted with your cat feeling insecure and unsafe. Essentially, his world is being turned upside down and he is stressed, responding to it by overgrooming.

Help him through this stressful time by giving him as much consistency as possible both in his environment and with daily scheduled activities. Scheduling activities he loves, such as eating and playing at the same times every day may help. If he enjoys grooming, then have regular grooming sessions every day.  And don’t forget the cuddles and love! When you are packing and moving furniture around, put him and his best buddies in a room that has their favorite objects, such as cat trees and toys, in it. Pheromone diffusers, such as Feliway, that plug into the wall may take the edge off the stress a little bit as well. They aren’t the answer, but they can help. Additionally, you may want to talk with your veterinarian about the possibility of prescribing a medication to help calm him down.

This is a sad situation, for both you and your cats. I hope you and the group you are working with will be able to find excellent homes for the cats you need to adopt out. Rehoming bonded pairs of cats together will also help your cats get through this stressful time.

Article Categories:
Behavior and Training · Cats