Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Feline predicament

Dear readers, I confess I am at the end of my wits. Though the photo above is quite shady, you can still clearly see Rufus has a bald patch on his abdomen. This particular problem has been dragging on for a little less than a year. We took him to the vet several times and they performed all sorts of tests which all came back negative.
Apart from the apparent hair loss and his FLUTD (Feline lower urinary tract disease) problems he was a normal healthy kitty. I have always suspected that the hair loss may be stress induced from the move but couldn't prove it. Since then we have tried a myriad of vitamin supplements and foods and whatnot. Nothing worked.

gone are the days when Rufus looked like this...

About a month ago we finally figured out Rufus was in fact chewing the fur off himself. I have only heard of such behaviour before and know very little about the symptoms and the treatment. Our course of action so far was to have Rufus wear what the vets refer to as "the satellite dish" or the lampshade collar. We've also given him feline pheromones Feliway. And we of course continue with the regular treatment of quality food and vitamin supplements.
Has anything similar ever happened to your cat and how did you handle it?


  1. My cat had a similar problem. The vet gave him a steroid shot, to make him feel better. It was a one-time thing. Then I supplemented his diet with essential fatty acids, and also changed his food to one with high EFAs (a "natural" brand from the health-food store). After a few months I stopped the supplements and just continued to feed him the healthier food. His hair grew back and never fell out again.

    I've also heard of cats having flea allergies. It only takes one flea to cause the reaction.

  2. I wonder if he has allergies? I once had a cat who developed a bit of a skin conditioned as she aged, and the vet had me put her on lamb and rice baby food for a few weeks, which seemed to help. This was probably close to 20 years ago; now they even have lamb and rice pet foods.

  3. Poor Rufus. I don't know what to suggest, but it seems the others here have given some good ideas.
    If you do a google search for the problem that might help to yield some further ideas aswell.
    Give him a little get well stroke from me x

  4. I don´t know about cats, but our first flat-coated ( dog ) had a v e r y bad rush in the front of his chest. He had lots of antibiotic and all sorts of other medical treatments, which calmed the large, red area, but in no time, the rush was there again. He was elderly at the time, but the reason never got an explanation. Indeed, it was a difficult time.
    Sorry not to have an answer for you. I guess how you must be feeling, and can well empathize with you.

  5. Ms. M: Thanks, that steroid shot sounds promising. As for the fleas, we keep him on Frontline and have erradicated all the fleas years ago.

    Une femme: no idea about allergies or what would cause them :-( and I think the vets ruled it out.

    bead addict: yep, will do that :-)

    Mette: thanks for the kind words. the solution will present itself, I just have to be patient

  6. Oh I've been in your shoes! Our tomcat Masa has had exactly the same problem as your Rufus; the vet ruled out anything medical/allergies, so the issue was behavioral. He'd just lick his lower belly, sort of compulsively, until the hair came off.

    Our Masa used to be feral, and adapting him to a normal household life was very stressful (for him, that is). The problem really flared up when we moved to the US, because his familiar foods and litter were not available here. The only thing we could do was to plug in Feliway diffusers everywhere in the house and try our best to provide a calm environment for him. We made an effort to socialize with him as much as possible, even though he was a very shy cat back then. Masa's problem is under control now, it eventually went away with time, even though some of the hair never grew back entirely. I no longer see him licking himself the way he did before, and he's become a very social cat in the process, so I guess we must have done something right.

    I'd advice you to think if there have been ANY changes in Rufus' life since the problem started. It could be something as miniscule as changing the location of the litter box, unfamiliar noises, new people/pets... there is a reason for why he is behaving this way. I understand that you'd be tempted to use the lampshade collar to prevent him from licking himself, but my experience is that cats become even more stressed out because the collar will also prevent them from hiding and doing normal "kitty things". If cats can't "work out" their stress by their chosen method, they might start urinating outside the box, and that's another beast to beat! So I guess my advice is this: trace back all changes in your household you can think of, even the small ones, and try to eliminate them one by one. Perhaps give Rufus more one-on-one time, get him new toys and give him his favourite treats more often than usual.

    As for steroids, they are heavy-duty drugs and should only be given to cats with serious, dignosed skin problems. Steroid shots burden the cat's kidneys, so they can't be used as a long-term solution. Another cat of ours, Illusia, has granuloma complex (an allergy of sorts, which causes her to chew off small sections of her skin) and she's been given steroids for that. The treatments have been successful, but since Rufus' allergy tests came back normal, I don't know if steroids are the answer for him.

    Sorry for the superlong comment... I'm just rambling on here, aren't I! I wish you and Rufus the best of luck in figuring out what the problem is!

  7. Oh, one more thought! If Rufus has a history of FLUTD, it could well be a contributing factor. If he's had lots of infections, he might have developed the habit in the process, even if he is healthy now.

  8. The Waves: Thanks so much for taking the time to explain. As I said, anxiety and nervous conditions in cats are still an uncharted territory in Slovenia. I've tried hard to provide Rufus with a stable stress free environment but the move may have upset him more than we initially guessed it would. There is also the possibility that my personal issues with anxiety and panic attacks may be upsetting him and I just feel horrible if there is even a remote chance that might be the cause. Working towards resolving those issue as well. As for the collar, it was meant as a temporary solution, I thought Rufus might be experiencing discomfort with hairs growing back as the new hairs growing might be itchy so I thought leaving the collar on until they grew in a bit might be useful. So far we've seen a remarkable growth and also the ever slight improvement in Rufus' behaviour. Keeping my fingers crossed the Feliway will work. Oh and thanks for the steroid shot warning, desperate as I am I was willing to try that too.

  9. Poor Rufus! My Nene is horribly stressed out, too. When my sister and her daughters moved in with me seven years ago, my poor nervous kitty got even more stressed out. She weighs six pounds and looks like she's wearing jodhpurs from the chewing on her legs. I tried feliway but it made no difference. Right now I've got her on terribly expensive food and am giving her prescription skin vitamins. I'm afraid this is just going to be way she is.

  10. B and B: I'm so sorry to hear about your poor kitty Nene. Cats are different, some are more sensitive than others and my Rufus and obviously your Nene are the super sensitive kind.

  11. Licking like this is habitual, but usually brought on by stress. He may be missing someone, or not settled in. The satellite around his head will help stop it (if it a habit) as he won't be able to reach it.

  12. Annette: I'm sort of learning as I go along and it's been difficult. Rufus is getting on in age and I believe he's becoming more and more sensitive and easily annoyed. The lamp shade really worked but I'm afraid it also upset him and it's a vicious circle agh!!!
    But I ramble. Thanks for your kind words and I'll definitely do an update on Rufus' condition.