Cats are typically fastidious groomers, but if your feline friend is constantly licking and chewing, they may have an underlying health condition. Itchy cats can groom themselves raw, leaving bald spots and creating sores (i.e., hotspots). By getting to the bottom of your cat’s itchiness, our Just Cats Clinic team can administer effective treatment, soothing your feline friend’s irritated, inflamed skin, and restoring comfort. If your cat is incessantly scratching, chewing, licking, or rubbing, a medical or behavioral condition is likely causing their itchiness. Learn six common causes for your cat’s itchy skin.
#1: Your cat has fleas or other external parasites
Although you may not see them, fleas can be a major cause of cats’ itchiness. Because cats are generally excellent groomers, they may groom away all the pests before you spot them. However, cats who are allergic to fleas can become an itchy, irritated mess from only a handful of flea bites.
Other external parasites that can drive your cat wild with itchiness include ticks, lice, and mites. Lice are rare in healthy cats who live in clean conditions, but ticks can hitch a ride indoors and feast on your feline friend. Sarcoptic and demodectic mange mites can cause varying levels of generalized or localized itching, hair loss, sores, and skin flaking. Sarcoptic mange can be transmitted to people, so be cautious when handling an itchy cat until your veterinarian confirms the cause. Ear mites can also cause your cat to scratch, rub their ears, and shake their head as these tiny parasites burrow deep into the ear canals. Ear mites are contagious among pets, so if your cat has an ear mite infection and is snuggling with your dog at bedtime, your canine companion will also need treatment.
#2: Your cat has allergies
Allergies to substances in your pet’s environment or food can trigger an itch response, skin inflammation, scabs, ear infections, hair pulling, and various other skin issues. Cats’ common environmental allergens include:
- Mold spores
- Dust mites
- Storage mites
- Air fresheners
Cats can develop seasonal or year-round allergies, depending on their triggers. Pollen allergies are typically at their worst during the spring growing season, while dust mite allergies flare during winter when the furnace constantly runs.
Cats with year-round skin condition signs may be more likely to have a food allergy, especially if they have been fed the same diet for an extended time. Food allergies are uncommon, but if your cat develops one, they may have a sensitivity to the protein in their diet, rather than a grain. Most often, feline food allergens include:
- Dairy products
Mapping your cat’s itching patterns is an important step in diagnosing allergies. Your veterinarian will want to know where the itchy spots are located on your cat’s body, the times of year when their skin is most irritated, and whether any changes at home may have triggered the itching.
#3: Your cat has fur or skin issues
While your cat may not appear to need help grooming, they could use a helping hand with tangles, matted fur, and dry skin. These issues can cause itchiness and skin irritation that leads your cat to lick, chew, and scratch more than usual, so spend plenty of time caring for your cat’s coat. Regular brushing is important to help disperse your cat’s healthy skin oils, remove dead fur, and prevent matting. Bathing is typically not necessary unless your cat has a skin condition that would benefit from medicated shampoo.
#4: Your cat has a skin infection
Bacterial, yeast, or fungal infections can cause itching, hair loss, sores, scabs, inflammation, and other skin issues that may require weeks of treatment to resolve. Bacterial and yeast infections may develop secondarily to allergies or other primary skin problems that cause the skin’s barrier to be broken and damaged. Ringworm, a fungal infection, is one of the most common infectious causes for feline itching, and if your cat is infected, they can transmit the disease to people and other pets.
#5: Your cat is in pain
If your cat has arthritis or another painful condition, they may lick and chew at the affected joint or area in an attempt to ease the ache. Although you may believe your cat has an itchy skin condition, our Just Cats Clinic team must perform a comprehensive physical exam and take a thorough history of their signs to help determine the underlying cause for your feline friend’s itchiness.
A cat’s itchiness can have a multitude of causes, but a correct diagnosis is necessary for their treatment to be effective. If your feline friend spends most of their waking hours grooming themself raw and bald, schedule an appointment with our Just Cats Clinic team.