October 21, 2020 |0 min read
Why Is My Cat Itching So Much?
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From cat snoring to finding the perfect cat exercise plan for your overweight cat, we have you covered. With all of these different issues, scratching may be at the top of your list. Alright, so your cat is itchin’ and scratchin’ and you just want to help them but you don’t know what to do. As far as cat skin problems, it's hard not to wonder why your cat has itchy skin. Is it a flea allergy? Ear mites? Allergies? Let’s take a breath, stay calm, and discuss the different reasons your cat might be itchy.
Before we dive in, let’s talk about what fleas actually are. They are tiny little bugs that live, feed, and breed more fleas on our pets. There are many different kinds of fleas, but Ctenocephalides felis, or cat fleas, are the most common.
An adult flea will lay an egg that can fall off anywhere in your home until it finds the perfect place to hatch. This means the pupae can be dormant for a few weeks before actually hatching. Once it hatches it needs an animal, or a host, to snack on and complete its life cycle.
Fleas are tiny and difficult to see. The egg is a little white speck, and the larvae have light colored bodies with darker heads. They like hiding in homes with carpets and central AC, and will nest themselves into beds, furniture, and wherever your cat spends most of their time.
Fleas need blood to survive, and can consume more than twice their weight throughout their lifetime. This is extremely dangerous for your kitten, as it can cause anemia.
Fleas and a flee bite are uncomfortable for you and your cat, so you’ll want to take care of it as soon as you possibly can.
Now that we’ve got an idea of what they are, let’s terminate those suckers.
To tackle a cat flea infiltration, you’ll need to get rid of them in three locations:
- Your cat
- Any other pets you may have
- Your home
You’ve probably heard of flea collars and sprays, but those can be a little tricky for you and your cat. Most cats don’t like being around spray bottles, and some collars can be harmful to your cat.
Your vet should have access to a variety of helpful products to help with the car’s itchiness. Ask them about which product you should use on your cat. Some products will immediately kill the fleas on your cat, but won’t have lasting effects. To get the longer-lasting results, use products that contain IGR (insect growth regulators).
As long as vet and manufacturer instructions are followed and inspected closely, the insecticide should be safe for you, your cat, and your dog [if you have one]!
To get rid of fleas in your home, you have a few options. You can always go the route of hiring professional pest control, making sure they only use pet-safe options, or you can apply sprays and/or powders to your home yourself.
If you decide to DIY, start with the entire home, then focus on hotspots like the bed, furniture, and rugs. Don’t miss those hard to reach spots! Some people swear by food grade diatomaceous earth, but this should be applied when humans and animals can safely vacate the house for hours, and be vacuumed up after it's settled into carpets and furniture for the recommended amount of time. DE can be harsh to breath in for both you and your kitty (it works by drying out the flea exoskeletons, and can have a drying effect on your mouth, nose, eyes, etc.). Be cautious no matter what method you move forward with!
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Cats are usually protected by their fur when it comes to mosquito bites, but sometimes on a humid day the mosquitoes find their way. They’ll usually manage to find your cat’s nose or ears. Usually the result is just an annoying itch, but a more serious result can be caused from mosquito bite hypersensitivity.
If your cat is experiencing hypersensitivity to a bug bite, you might notice a fever accompanied by scaling, ulcers, or hair loss by the bite. You may also notice tender paws. In a mild case, the inflammation can resolve itself, but if you notice your cat is over irritated and uncomfortable, take them to the vet. But bites can easily be treated with injected or oral corticosteroids.
Ear mites are tiny little bugs that can barely be seen with the human eye. They feed off of skin debris and ear wax (gross!), and can cause swelling, inflammation, and lots of itching. They can be picked up from the outdoors, or other cats.
If you notice your cat is shaking their head or scratching their ears, it’s time to get those ears checked out! You might also notice dry discharge, scratch marks, or redness outside of the ear(s).
Don’t try to take care of this one on your own, as it takes special care from a professional! Your vet will decide on the best treatment plan for your itchy friend.
Since you can learn how to brush your cat’s teeth, there are many other things you can learn, especially allergies. Just like us humans, cats can also be allergic to certain foods, and they can develop at any point in your cat’s life.
If your cat has an allergy, it may manifest with constant scratching or cat overgrooming. Usually the itching affects legs and paws, belly, ears, face, groin, and armpits. If they are overgrooming these areas, you might notice hair loss and wounds. Don’t ignore your cat if they seem extra itchy or groomy, because these wounds on the skin might not only be from overgrooming, but a reaction from a food allergy itself.
In addition to skin issues, another reaction to a food allergy could be gastrointestinal issues like vomiting or diarrhea. You may notice your cat making their way to the litter box more often than usual, or not making it to the litter box at all when defecating.
If you suspect your cat may have a food allergy, ask your vet about a food trial. Food trials involve giving your cat a specific diet that doesn't contain the proteins your cat was exposed to in the past. While your cat is on this special diet, you can’t give them any other foods, treats, or supplements you would normally give them.
There are many different forms of food trials and your vet will help you find the best way to experiment with new foods in a safe way to find the food that is giving your cat a hard time.
Food allergies unfortunately can’t be cured. But as soon as you’re aware of the foods that are causing your cat to have an allergic reaction, the sooner you can avoid them, and the sooner your cat can cuddle up on you and thank you!
If you’ve eliminated fleas, food allergies, mites, or any other bugs as potential causes for your cat’s itching, you might be left with “other” allergies such as an environmental allergy or something bothering the cat's skin such as medicated shampoo. Luckily you can do a pet allergy test on your cat and get to the bottom of it. Your vet might offer a blood test, or a skin test.
Allergies, or atopy, usually requires life-long meds if your cat is extremely uncomfortable. But if your vet does detect a pet allergy it’s possible to use a hyposensitisation vaccine, and if it's a good fit for your cat, could result in no need for meds in the future!
We’re just scratching the surface here, but hopefully this gives you a little more itchy cat insight. As always, consult your vet if you see your cat itching, or think they may have encountered some bugs. Stay safe and stay snug!