Q: My cat has been losing hair from her ears for a while now. It’s odd because it doesn’t seem to be bothering her at all. What causes it, and what can I do to help her?

A: The condition may have started some time ago. The hair loss probably progressed very slowly until it gradually became more apparent. As it does not seem to bother your cat, it should not be causing any itchiness or pain.

There are many causes of hair loss from the ears. They include fungal infections, fur mite or flea infestation, allergies from food and/or the environment, hormonal imbalances, environmental conditions, dietary deficiencies, behavioural issues or inherited genes that code for hair loss. Your vet will need to examine the whole body to see if there are any other parts that are starting to lose hair, any red or discoloured areas, any loose skin flakes or small ectoparasites. Both ears need to be examined for ear mites, or yeast or bacterial infections.

Run a fine-toothed comb through your feline’s coat to check for any small skin flakes and fleas. You should be able to see if there are any bald, red spots or discoloured areas. Clean out the ears—check if there is any ear discharge. There are a few factors to consider: Is there a change in diet or any new food/treats being introduced? Are there any new plants, animals or humans in the home, or new chemicals being used? Are there any other cats in the house that may be sucking or licking on your kitty’s ears? Is there anything or anyone in the house that could be stressing your cat out? Is the hair loss accompanied by a change in the behaviour of the feline, such as hiding more often and avoiding contact with specific animals or humans? If possible, enquire whether the parents and siblings have the same hair loss issue.

A visit to the vet is most likely needed to check for skin and ear infections. Blood tests can be carried out to rule out hormonal imbalances such as abnormal levels of thyroid hormones or cortisol levels.