Some cats have visible balding around the eyes, while others have a slight thinning of the fur above the eyes, but you need to know why.
Hair loss above a cat’s eyes (facial alopecia) commonly occurs as cats grow in size and the fur thins out. However, feline hair loss can also be genetic. Fungal infections, mites, fleas, and stress are other causes.
Facial hair loss in cats is often due to the aging process. As a cat grows, the same amount of hair on its body begins to spread out, causing the hair to thin in some areas. There are other medical explanations, though.
Table of Contents:
Why Are Cats Bald Above Their Eyes?
We’ll look at the different reasons why cats lose fur over their eyes. If you notice any excessive itchiness, lesions on the skin, or redness, your cat likely needs treatment for a medical condition.
Facial alopecia or preauricular alopecia (meaning before the ear region) is a normal part of the aging process in cats. It typically occurs on the head, above the eyes, and between the eyes and ears.
Hair thinning is neither a medical disorder nor a disease. Facial alopecia is most prominent in shorthaired cats with dark hair after the age of 1 or 2.
Kittens have the same hair density all over their bodies. As they grow, certain regions may appear to thin out. This thinning of the fur may continue until the cat reaches 3 years of age.
Since facial alopecia is considered normal, there is no treatment. However, if you notice other signs of a skin condition, such as scratching or lesions, your cat’s bald patches may be a result of a medical condition.
Hereditary Hair Loss
Some cats lose hair on areas near the eyes or ears because of their genes. Apart from the transfer of genes that lead to bald patches in cats, there is no underlying cause of genetic hair loss in cats.
It does not bother a cat or cause any itchiness or irritation. There is no treatment for stopping genetic hair loss, or encouraging it to grow back. Some breeds of cats that are more susceptible include:
- Devon Rex
Ringworm is an itchy fungal infection that thrives in hair follicles and feeds on dead cells. As the fungus occupies a cat’s hair shafts, the shaft breaks at the skin level, resulting in bald patches.
Ringworm typically causes itchy, round patches, typically on the top of a cat’s head. It is diagnosed using a wood lamp, which can be passed over the affected area to illuminate it and detect signs of infection.
Older cats may get ringworm due to stress caused by moving home, a new family member, bereavement, a dominant cat, or a bullying dog. Another common cause is not maintaining proper hygiene in your home.
In most cases, ringworm is a self-limiting condition, so your cat’s immune system will work to restore the skin to its normal condition. The hair will then grow back when the skin is healthy.
Ringworm can often be resolved without the use of medication. This is achieved by removing the cause of the stress, controlling your cat’s diet, and taking steps to improve your cat’s immune system health.
At times, ringworm may cause unpleasant crusty patches around your cat’s ears and other affected regions.
If your cat has a severe case of ringworm, your vet may administer an antifungal treatment. The antifungal is commonly in the form of a topical cream (Itraconazole) or an oral pill (Griseofulvin).
Treatment may continue for up to 4 weeks, depending on the severity of the condition. Some vets may recommend an antifungal cat shampoo. Other treatment options include lime sulfur dips and completely shaving the cat.
Ear mites can cause severe itching, causing them to rub their faces. Ear mites are easily transferrable and can cause mite infestations in other cats. Signs of ear mites in cats include:
- Continuous scratching
- Head rubbing
- Shaking of the ears
- Hair loss on the ears and head
- A brown, waxy buildup in the ears
- Foul odor from the ears
If you suspect your cat has an ear mite infestation, take it to a vet. Ear mites can be easily diagnosed using an otoscope. Treatment often includes gently, but thoroughly, cleaning out the ears and applying a prescription medication into the ear canal.
You will have to repeat treatment for 7 to 10 days to kill any new hatchlings and prevent mites from recurring.
The most common flea that affects cats is Ctenocephalides felis. According to Parasite Immunology, it is the saliva left behind by a cat flea bite that leads to itching in cats.
Hair loss from fleas can occur anywhere on a cat’s body. Its face, head, and ears are most vulnerable when the cat rubs itself against carpets, furniture, and scratching posts while trying to relieve the itchiness.
Use a flea comb to detect fleas. If your cat has fleas, there will be tiny black dots, or flea excrement on the comb. The flea dirt will turn red when you smash it due to the residue from your kitty’s blood.
Start by removing as many fleas as possible by combing your cat and bathing it. This will eliminate most fleas from your cat’s body and help prevent future infestations when you use a topical flea control medication or natural remedy for fleas.
Comb your cat’s entire body using a flea comb. Keep a bowl of diluted bleach near you to shake the fleas off the comb.
Doing so will kill the fleas you’ve collected instantly, preventing them from falling back on your cat while you comb other areas of its body.
Bathing the cat after combing will drown the remaining fleas. You can use a mild cat shampoo or a flea control shampoo or dip while bathing your cat.
Mange is another type of mite infestation that causes severe itching in cats. It can easily be transferred between cats and usually affects the ears, face, and neck. In most cases, you’ll notice significant balding in the affected regions, along with a grayish-yellow crust on the skin.
Mange is diagnosed by retrieving a scraping from the affected area of the skin and viewing it under a magnifying glass to detect mites.
Mange can only be treated by clipping away your cat’s fur and applying a lime sulfur dip once a week until the mites are absent when viewed again under magnification. The treatment takes 6-8 weeks to work.
Although not fully understood, most researchers believe that alopecia areata may be an auto-immune response triggered by a cat’s diet. In most cases, alopecia areata causes loss of hair in the head, back, and neck regions due to excessive rubbing or scratching.
Your vet may try to treat the condition by testing for food allergies and then completely removing any allergens from your cat’s diet.
Hair loss around the head, ears, face, and neck, accompanied by oozing sores and intense itching, can also be a sign of a food allergy.
Often, a food allergy may also lead to chronic ear infestations, increasing the rate of hair loss in affected cats. In such cases, hair loss occurs mainly due to the intense skin irritation caused by an allergic reaction.
Regardless of the cause, any skin irritation will cause the cat to scratch and bite its skin, pulling out hair from the affected region.
Food allergies can also cause hair loss from the bottom of the tail, or the lumbosacral area. It may also extend to the abdomen and flanks.
The diagnosis of food allergies requires multiple food trials. Your veterinarian will recommend a restricted diet and slowly reintroducing certain foods one at a time.
This will allow your vet to determine the possible allergens in your cat’s diet. According to the Journal of the American Medical Veterinary Association, the most common food allergens are fish and dairy.
If a food substance does not cause an allergic reaction, your vet may consider other allergens such as pollen or saliva from fleas. Your cat may be prescribed deworming medications and other drugs to manage skin irritation and itching until the allergen has been determined.
According to the Canadian Veterinary Journal, feline atopy is a pruritic skin disease in cats caused by environmental allergens, such as pollen, dust, and mold.
Signs of food allergies and feline atopy are indistinguishable as both cause intense itching that causes cats to scratch themselves excessively. This results in balding around the ear and head region of cats.
Treatment for feline atopy involves removing the allergen from your cat’s environment, or restricting its exposure to the allergen. Your vet may also prescribe antihistamines to soothe the itchiness.
If your cat is stressed, it may groom itself excessively to self-soothe. However, constantly licking, pawing, and biting may cause your cat’s fur to fall out, especially in areas where the fur is short, such as the head and the ears. This type of hair fall is often referred to as psychogenic alopecia.
Rarely, overgrooming can also be a sign of a neurological condition, especially if you have an older feline. Cats are susceptible to stress and may be affected by changes in situations in your home, from moving to a different house to the loss or introduction of a family member or pet.
In severe cases, overgrooming can also result in large bald patches. Therefore, you must put a stop to it early. Doing so will prevent it from becoming a habit that might continue after a stressful situation has been resolved.
Start by removing the cause of the stress. Check if another cat is bullying your cat or invading its territory, or if there’s any loud noise near the area where your cat rests.
Consider moving its bed to a quieter location or to an area of the house where there’s less traffic from other family members or pets.
Another important step is your own intervention. If you notice your cat grooming for prolonged periods, interrupt it by playing a game. Play is a good source of mental and physical stimulation for cats. It also enhances the bond with your pet while reducing stress.
Some cats also respond well to healthy stimulation, such as toys, cat trees, and high perches in multiple areas of the house. If your cat is overgrooming because it is feeling bored, then some exercise and play can also serve as a means of shifting its focus away from itself.
Sebaceous adenitis is an inflammatory condition of the sebaceous glands that leads to the destruction of the glands.
The sebaceous glands found in the hair follicles in the skin are responsible for releasing sebum. Although this disease is uncommon in cats, it can result in balding in the face, head, and ear regions.
There is no cure, but symptoms such as itching and irritation can be managed using anti-inflammatory drugs and anti-scaling products. These will remove the crusty sores that form around the hair follicles.
Solar dermatitis, or sunburn, is a painful burn that may result in flaking and subsequent hair loss near a cat’s eyes.
Sunburn is most obvious near the ears, but the eyelids and nose may also be prone to hair loss due to the lack of hair for skin protection.
Treatment for solar dermatitis involves keeping your cat out of the sun. Use an antibiotic ointment to prevent infections and promote healing.
Rare Causes of Bald Patches in Cats
Although rare, hair loss can also be a symptom of an immune system problem, an overactive thyroid, diabetes, or cancer.
If you notice sudden hair loss on your cat’s face, avoid waiting too long before taking it to a vet. Even though hair loss near the eyes is normal in cats, or may result from your cat’s genes, you still need to get a diagnosis.
If you notice other unusual signs such as constant rubbing, itchiness, and skin lesions, it’s likely due to a health condition. In most cases, your cat’s hair will grow back following treatment.