Cats are known for their meticulous grooming habits and occasional scratches. But when excessive scratching and itchy skin become a regular occurrence, it can be uncomfortable for our feline friends. Itching is not a diagnosis but a symptom, and your vet may need to play detective to determine the underlying cause.
How can you tell if your cat is itchy?
There are several signs to watch out for to determine if your cat has uncomfortable skin. While the occasional scratch is normal, frequent scratching every few minutes is a clear indication that something is amiss. Excessive chewing and nibbling of their coat, which can escalate to overgrooming and result in bald patches, is another telltale sign. Keep an eye out for more hairballs than usual, as cats may overgroom in secret! Dry, flaky, or red sore skin can also be a giveaway. Itching can be generalized or focused on specific areas, so regularly checking your cat’s entire body is a good habit to develop.
Why is itching a problem?
Itching is an ongoing and uncomfortable situation for your beloved pet. Finding a resolution will make them much happier. Additionally, persistent scratching and licking can cause inflammation and damage to the skin, leaving it susceptible to infection.
Top Causes of Itching
Pesky parasites like fleas and mites are common culprits behind itching in cats, even if they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Fleas, for instance, can hide in a cat’s dense haircoat, making it difficult to spot them. You may notice flea dirt, black spots of gritty material, on the skin. Certain mites can even burrow under the skin and require microscopic examination for detection.
Fleas are the most frequent cause of cats seeking veterinary help for itchy skin in the UK. With modern heated homes, fleas can thrive year-round, so there’s no “off-season.” Don’t underestimate the impact a few fleas can have on your cat. Look out for red, sore skin and patchy baldness, especially along the spine and the base of the tail. To eliminate these irritating parasites, use certified products recommended by your vet for all your pets and your home. Cats can be highly sensitive to flea bites and may experience intense reactions, so preventive treatment is crucial.
Mites can affect cats in various ways. Some target the whole body, while others localize in specific areas, such as ear mites (Otodectes) causing violent scratching and accompanied by ear infections. Harvest mites, visible as bright orange specks, are particularly problematic during late summer and autumn. They tend to infest the toes and little flap of skin around the ear-tip (known as the Henry’s pocket).
Cats are more prone to allergies than we might think. Fleas are a widespread cause of allergies in cats, with even a single flea bite triggering a severe skin reaction. Outdoor allergens like pollen and grass can also contribute to itching. Similarly, indoor factors such as dust mites and dander (skin particles) can be the culprit. If your cat’s itching varies with the seasons or reacts specifically to certain areas of the garden, allergies may be the cause. Your vet can conduct tests to identify specific allergies.
Food intolerance or allergies are another potential trigger for itching in cats. Itching may accompany gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, diarrhea, or weight loss. If you suspect a dietary change has led to skin problems, a trial with a hypoallergenic or exclusion diet can help identify the cause. Your vet can guide you through this process.
Bacterial, fungal, or yeast infections of the skin can cause itchiness in cats, often accompanied by sore, red patches. Bacterial skin infections are not common in cats but can arise as secondary problems. Antibiotics usually resolve these infections. While yeast infections are not a primary concern, they may require medication to clear up. Fungal infections, on the other hand, are typically not itchy.
4. Insect Bites
Similar to humans, cats can experience large welts on their skin from wasp and bee stings. Smaller insects like midges, flies, and mosquitoes can also cause intense itching. Cats can be highly sensitive to the saliva injected by these insects while biting. Non-hairy areas such as the bridge of the nose or ear-tips are often targeted. Keep an eye out for small red lumps in these areas, especially during the summertime.
5. Psychological Factors
Sometimes, cats may overgroom themselves without any apparent medical cause. Overindulging in grooming can lead to sore skin and bald patches, typically on the tummy. If your vet cannot identify a specific medical cause and you’ve recently had changes in your household, such as introducing a new pet or undergoing building work, emotional factors may be at play. Discussing this possibility with your vet can help explore ways to minimize anxiety and potentially recommend supplements to aid in the process.
Itchy skin can be distressing for your cat. Diagnosing skin conditions may require multiple trips to the vet and various tests. However, many of these conditions can be treated and managed, providing much-needed relief and preventing future problems.
Remember, for the well-being of your feline companion, it’s essential to consult a professional. If you need more information or assistance, visit the Katten TrimSalon website to find expert advice and services dedicated to the health and happiness of your cat.