Cat Health Questions? Ask a Cat Vet for Answers ASAP.
What you are describing sounds like feline psychogenic alopecia (FPA).
With this condition, the cat “barbers” the fur (chews it, bites it or licks it) in one area to the point of baldness (alopecia), or even until there is bleeding. Often, this barbered coat is very short - like peach fuzz.
FPA is often due to an underlying stress. FPA is a bit like nail-chewing in humans – it is done because it makes the cat feel calmer, as a way of dealing with stress. As with people who chew their nails, it may continue even when it must be causing pain if the skin has become raw.
Some breeds seem to be a bit more prone to FPA (Siamese, Burmese, Himalayan, and Abyssinian) but it can occur in cats of any age, sex or breed.
Before Kitty can be diagnosed as definitely having FPA, your veterinarian would need to rule out a few other possible causes of hair loss in the belly area. These would be fleas, ringworm, Demodex (mange), allergies and bladder inflammation (some cats lick over the bladder area when it is uncomfortable).
There is no specific test for FPA, it is a “diagnosis of exclusion” which means that when we have ruled out physical problems, then what is left is a stress response problem.
Unfortunately, there is no quick cure for FPA and it is something that one has to “manage” as opposed to “cure.” Treatment involves trying to minimize the stress in your cat’s life.
One of the things that I would strongly recommend is a Feliway Diffuser system. This is a plug-in device that sprays a cat pheromone into the air, helping to calm the cat without drugs.
Here’s a link to more information: http://www.catfaeries.com/feliway.html
I find the plug-in diffuser to be the most helpful since it works even when you are not there, which is when Kitty is most likely to feel stressed and lick her tummy.
Also, keep in mind that this may flare up at times of stress for your Kitty - such as moving, a new room-mate, new pets in the home, and so on. Using the Feliway diffuser at those times may really help Kitty to adjust.
It is hard to know what might have triggered this. Often things can be stressful to cats and not even register with us. Maybe your upstairs neighbours moved their furniture around, and the loud noises from that really frightened your cat. Maybe she is seeing another cat in the window across the way. It could be something as simple as her favourite couch no longer being near her favourite window to allow her to look out when she wants.
Another treatment option would be to give her a very safe anti-anxiety drug called Composure Liquid from Vetri Science It is composed of a protein extract from a milk product and a soy product plus a few other things. It seems to work great for cats that are stressed. http://www.vetriscience.com/composure-liquid.php http://www.1800petmeds.com/Composure+Liquid-prod10809-10809.html http://cgi.ebay.com/Composure-Liquid-for-Dogs-and-Cat-(94-SERVINGS)_W0QQitemZ140281987698QQcmdZViewItemQQimsxZ20081115?IMSfp=TL081115101009r22998 Another thing that you could try would be Rescue Remedy. More about it here: http://cats.about.com/cs/healthissues/a/stress_3.htm http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=0+1306+1448&aid=1360 It is pretty widely available at health food stores. If you don't have one near you, here is a link: http://www.gnc.com/sm-bach-flower-remedies-rescue-remedy--pi-2134400.html I have found the results variable with Rescue remedy. Some cats do seem more relaxed with Rescue Remedy, some don't seem to have any change with its use. But it is safe!
If this does not work, your veterinarian could prescribe a number of different "Prozac"-like drugs for cats. As with humans, sometimes it takes a while to find the best medication for relieving your cat's stress, and you might have to try 2 or 3 different drugs before finding what works for Kitty. Usually, medications are only used when the problem is so severe that the cat is damaging her skin.
I will include some links to further information about FPA:
So, in summary, it sounds as though Kitty has feline psychogenic alopecia, though physical problems would have to be ruled out first to be able to diagnose this.
Treatment aims at minimizing stress, using a Feliway diffuser and possibly using medication if needed for worsening problems or known upcoming stress, such as a move.
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The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian.