Cricket and the Hair Loss Mystery

Mystery readers/savvy cat owners will probably identify the culprit in this whodunnit, but I was completely clueless about what was wrong with my adopted tabby cat Cricket.

CricketBald

She had been like that when I adopted her back in 2001…missing hair from the side of her face, her tummy, and even bald patches on her legs and tail. She’d been at the shelter for a while, and I felt so bad for her while working adoptions at PetSmart that I adopted her myself. At home, she would chase escaped crickets (I had a pair of leopard geckos) and made this adorable chirping meow when she caught one. So I christened her Cricket.

I figured that I could just feed Cricket some good food and give her some TLC and time and her hair would grow back. Well, that was a complete red herring. She continued to pull her hair out. (Not to mention the ten tons of hairballs all over the house!)

CricketBald2

I tried everything I knew how to do in my Jackson Galaxy-esque file box—nothing worked. I mean, the cats even got the same purified water I drank. On top of the hideaways and cat towers and separate feeding dishes and the right mathematical ratio of litter boxes per cat and cat toys I rotated out and lots of play time with cat wands, I even tried a period of alone time where I gave Cricket an extended period of solitary bliss. There weren’t even any problems with interacting with the other cats and animals—at least not while I was home, but I wanted to try everything to help Cricket adjust.

CricketDND

The only behavioral issue that I noticed is that she developed some dependency/neurotic traits towards me. She had to be everywhere I was. And, she would get more stressed when I moved things around for cleaning. So, I figured that she was undergoing separation anxiety and/or had other anxiety issues and was pulling her hair out as a result.

CricketEditing

But, to be on the safe side, I took her to my vet to see if there was an underlying medical cause. That’s when things got really mystifying. I felt like I was in a house of mirrors in trying to deal with veterinarians (plural) and pet stores.

  • Urinary tract infection was ruled out. Mange was ruled out.
  • Course of steroid shots was recommended. I consented. Her skin condition worsened after each shot, and her skin got red and inflamed. I discontinued the shots.
  • I bought pet licking deterrent natural pepper spray, but when it wore off, she was right back to licking. Then one day I forgot to wash my hands after using it and I rubbed my eye (probably to dislodge cat hairs!) and I got pissed off and tossed it in the garbage.
  • Among lots of other second (and third, and fourth…you get the idea) opinions from conventional vets, I took her to a homeopathic vet, who recommended pet-safe calendula ointment. Which Cricket promptly began licking it all off, and then continued on to pull her hair out after the cream application. (I don’t know why I didn’t get a pet cone.)
  • The homeopathic vet also said to try a blend of Bach’s flower remedies—Crab Apple and some other flavours. This didn’t do a damn thing for Cricket. Except make her run for the hills every time I came near her with the dropper. I can’t imagine why—they’re like 40% alcohol (brandy) per bottle—happy hour for cats, right?
  • Then a friend set me up with their psychic friend to come over and “read” Cricket. Skeptical, you betcha, but it was free, so I agreed. Said psychic told me some creepy stuff about Cricket which freaked me out, skepticism aside. She didn’t really have any suggestions about how to resolve the situation, so I gave her a cup of tea, then kindly thanked her and shooed her out the door.
  • Three years or so later, conventional vet #164 (slight exaggeration) said the only thing to do with her was to give her heavy-duty tranquilizers (the cat equivalent of Valium) to get her to stop pulling her hair out. I said I would think about it, and took my poor half-hairless baby home. I just couldn’t bring myself to put her on tranquilizers.

CricketMouseToy

At this point, I was just about at my wit’s end with her. I mean, here I was, animal rescuer extraordinaire, and Cricket looked like a hard-luck street cat with terrible mange. As a last resort, I decided to try yet another homeopathic-type vet that was fairly new to the area. This vet asked me what I was feeding Cricket. I told them the name of the fancy, expensive-as-heck dry cat food I was feeding my cats. He was like “Does it have chicken and grain in it?” The Chaos Fairy aka ignorant pet owner says, “No, why?” “Because cats can be allergic to grain, chicken and/or fish.” “Uh, really?” I stammered. The vet said to try an elimination diet and gave me a list of foods and a schedule to transition Cricket into trying.

CricketSnuggle

I tried Wellness Core Chicken and Grain-Free dry food (now, I feed her wet, given her age and health). And it worked. She stopped pulling out her hair. Queen Cricket’s now about 18-20 years old, and completely spoiled. And still neurotically dependent. But she still has her fur, and her sucker mom.

(Visit The Realm of the Chaos Fairy for more tales of chaotic fun!)

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42 thoughts on “Cricket and the Hair Loss Mystery

  1. I’ve had the same problem with Bear. I haven’t tried all of the things you tried because my vet said that if it didn’t bother me, he wasn’t going to worry about it. Now I wonder. Bear is skittish and neurotic and the vet’s first assumption was stress/boredom but it’s continued. I’m wondering if I should question the vet again. It’s mainly on Bear’s belly and the inside hind quarters. Because the vet didn’t seem concerned about an allergy, I let it go but I’d never forgive myself if I found out I’d been feeding him what he’s allergic to for all this time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s mostly where it was for Cricket! And, I also had to switch bowls–from plastic to metal. Indy pet food stores are a good place to go for grain-free/chicken free foods…but you can also find them online. I’ve had good luck with Chewy.com.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The story of Cricket is an all too familiar one, though I don’t think I’ve heard one where things have taken quite so long to resolve. Having run a cattery for 12 years, lived with cats all my life and developed a real interest in cat diet, I am more and more convinced that the vast majority of cat illnesses and disorders are a result of incorrect diet. What you put into a cat (into any animal) is what makes the body, the bones and muscles and everything. Put in the best and the whole system functions well. In Cricket’s case the sensitivity to a particular food ingredient may have been a genetic predisposition or could have been triggered by food additives. Either way a good high quality protein diet, wet for preference, right from the start can help reduce the chances of this kind of situation. For thousands of years cats have eaten rodent pests, our domestic mogs still have the same metabolism, so we need to feed them appropriately. Sadly much of the pet food industry, like the human food industry of which it is a part, is more set on making a profit than providing real nutrition to our pets. Thankfully there are more independents out there who are making foods that are more biologically appropriate. Chaos Fairy is not alone in only finding out after years of trying different treatments, that food is actually the problem. My advice is always to look on the back of the packet, choose foods that have high percentages of named meats, avoid anything that has vague terms like ‘meat and animal derivatives’, and accept that even if each tin of food is a few pence more expensive, if it saves you paying for Vet visits and medication, you will be better off financially in the long run, and have a happier healthier cat.

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    1. Absolutely. Thanks for the extra advice…like I said, I wasn’t even feeding them big-brand cat food, and I was still having issues. Was totally ignorant about the whole food allergy thing. It took so long, because the multiple veterinarians I was dealing with have a predisposition to blow me off, quite frankly. I don’t know why, but it was emotionally devastating With my former cat Sid. (he was that certain cat that you have a special, intense bond with…hard to explain) but for 8 months I took him to a total of ten vets. He was sneezing blood, had these little scrapes on his nose and he kept rubbing his nose. Shortly after the last vet, he had a tumor on his head. I drove him to another vet who diagnosed him with cancer and said that the tumor “threads” were going into his nose. They did surgery but the tumor came right back. I can’t even describe how I felt. I called the vet and told them my decision to have Sid put down, but that I was going to have someone come to the house and do it. They never called back. I called them again after the fact, and updated them about Sid. (spoke to a real person). Six months later, I get a phone call, saying that Sid was due for his shots. I was still very upset over the loss, and just broke down…I used some language that is best not repeated here, because I was so upset and frustrated. It was the last straw with vets, for me, in addition to vets’ continuing to blow me off in regards to my other animals. It’s why I won’t be adopting any more, after Cricket.

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      1. Vets are so frustrating . . . .just like medical doctors. They only treat symptoms. I feel as if they think we don’t know our pets and our own bodies (talking about medical doctors) because they have been taught certain things. They don’t take the whole into consideration. I have higher hopes for Holistic vets, but have not been able to find one (that will take new patients) in my area. They are rare.

        Sad to hear about Sid.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good luck in finding a holistic vet. I’m not a vet, but I’ve been through a lot with cats and rabbits etc., so if you need some…clarity?…have questions, I’d be glad to try to help. (Also done wildlife rescue).

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  3. Being English (the same would be true if I was Australian or Indian or New Zealander or Pakistani or Sri Lankan or from the former British Caribbean or South African) I thought this was a post about why many top cricketers go bald early. Something to do with their cats, presumably.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Glad the mystery was solved. Vets are trained much as human doctors and while I’ve found them to be better informed about pet nutrition than human doctors are about human nutrition, food allergies seems to be low on the list in diagnosis. Probably because the signs are so diverse. Fur pulling would seem behavioral. My Tony had recurring diarrhea but all the tests came back negative. Interestingly it was the surgical specialist who told me to try an elimination diet, they were really busy so she took some regular appointments that day. Who knows how long it would have gone on if I hadn’t talked to her.

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  5. Having the same issue with hair loss on the abdomen and inner thighs of one of my cats. Lots of scratching too. I was thinking maybe yeast infection in the ear which isn’t always diagnosed but I will revisit the food. I recently picked up the wrong (but grainfree) brand and maybe that’s when it started. Just which they could tell us what’s wrong!

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  6. Wow, I sure have a lot of sympathy for you and Cricket. Poor cat! I’m glad you found the remedy and she is doing better now. Don’t blame yourself. These kinds of things come up and sometimes are hard to diagnose. You were doing the best you knew for Cricket.

    I have a cat and a dog. My cat is doing fine.

    Now I started feeding my dog milk bones because he had them at my daughter in law’s place. He liked them so much I bought him a box. Suddenly his anal glands were infected. I took him to the vet and he immediately identified it as a food issue and asked me if he was getting anything new in his diet. I told him milk bones and he said that was the problem. I stopped feeding those to him immediately. Now he doesn’t have a problem.

    But first the vet had to drain his anal glands and put him on an antibiotic. But now Merlin, my GSD is doing just fine.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Snark! LOL! Well my vet said I had to hold my Shepherd down as hard as I could, that he would try to blast out the window having his anal glands expressed, but he was so good. Merlin never even tried to blast his way out of the window. I don’t know why he didn’t seem to mind so much. Or maybe he was just in shock. 🙂

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