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Why is my Cat’s Back Bald?

My female spayed shorthair recently started grooming excessively to the point of chewing off hair at the base of her tail where her spine meets...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Apr 26th 2008


My female spayed shorthair recently started
grooming excessively to the point of chewing off
hair at the base of her tail where her spine meets
her tail. She was licking and chewing only in
this area and her skin became raw. This has
continued up her spine to her mid-back but no
where else on her body. The vet checked her out
and found no mites or mange and said if it were an
allergy it would not be found in only one area.
He suggested it may be that she is rubbing her
back against a pet door or table but I have never
witnessed this behavior only the licking,
scratching and biting. Do you have any idea why
she is so itchy in this area?

Kristina
Huntington Beach, CA

I have a few thoughts on this matter.

First, Huntington Beach is flea territory. And cats with allergies to fleas tend to develop skin problems in exactly the area you describe. Remember that cats with flea allergies often won’t be infested with fleas. All it takes is an occasional bite for a severe reaction to occur. So, if your cat isn’t already receiving regular, high-quality flea treatment, start with that.

As well, your cat may be suffering from psychogenic alopecia, a syndrome in which cats excessively groom themselves for psychological reasons. Click the link in the preceding sentence to find out more about this syndrome.

Although allergies to pollen, food or dander usually lead to skin problems that are more spread out over the body, I have seen these types of allergies cause the sort of problems you describe. You could consider allergy testing, antihistamines, or, as a last resort, prednisone.

Finally, there are rare diseases in which the immune system attacks the skin. These syndromes can cause the sort of symptoms you describe.

Of the causes I have listed, it is my opinion that the first two are by far the most likely. So, start with good flea control. If that doesn’t help, I recommend another trip to the vet to have the other causes explored.