Why is My Cat Itching So Much? 5 Common Reasons
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Itchiness in cats is a common problem with our furry friends and can cause all kinds of discomfort. Itching in cats is typically caused by allergies, parasites, or bacterial or fungal infections. Quickly identifying the cause of your kitty’s itching and treating it is the best way to keep them safe and comfortable.
Consult a veterinarian if you have any concerns that your cat may be experiencing discomfort from itchiness. When you schedule an allergy and dermatology consultation with BetterVet, we can help you address their symptoms immediately and determine the best course of action to offer relief.
Does Your Pet Have Skin Allergies?
1. How frequently does your pet seem itchy?
2. Where does your pet scratch the most?
3. Which season is your pet’s symptoms the most noticeable?
4. How often does your pet seem uncomfortable?
5. Can you see any of the following symptoms on your pet’s skin?
6. Is your pet experiencing any of the following symptoms?
Does Your Pet Have Skin Allergies?
Here are 5 common reasons for excessive itching in cats:
1. Environmental Allergies
Once a cat develops atopy, an allergic skin condition, they can suffer from moderate to severe discomfort, so preventing and treating environmental allergies is extremely important.
If your cat experiences seasonal symptoms, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, or itchy skin, they may be suffering from an environmental allergy. An intradermal or blood test for allergies will confirm if your kitty has an allergy, and clarify what to do next to relieve their symptoms.
2. Food Allergies
Cats can develop food allergies, just like people. Most cats with food allergies are reactive to proteins in common cat foods like fish or chicken. A common, simple treatment for cat food allergies is to swap them to a hydrolyzed diet where they eat hypoallergenic foods with broken-down proteins that cannot trigger an immune response.
The easiest and most accurate way to screen cat food allergies is to schedule a nutritional consultation with a qualified veterinarian. Most often in my practice we’ll use a diet trial, where we restrict your cat to hypoallergenic foods for several weeks and then gradually reintroduce other foods to see which, if any, trigger a reaction. We’ll be able to identify and diagnose any potential allergens, make recommendations about dietary restrictions, and figure out what diet will best suit your cat moving forward.
Discover the Recipe for a Healthy Pet
Consult with one of our vets about your pet’s nutritional needs and long-term health.
3. Contact Dermatitis
Contact allergies are also common in cats. If a cat suffers from a contact allergy, they may develop a rash or swelling after coming in contact with an allergen.
Common allergens that trigger a reaction include cleaning products, plants (including grasses), fabrics and dyes, or even products in their litter.
It can be difficult to identify what specifically is causing your cat’s allergy, so if you suspect contact dermatitis, closely monitor your cat’s activities to see what triggers a reaction.
I recommend consulting a veterinarian to schedule an allergy test, where your cat will be tested for a variety of common allergens in your region.
4. Bacterial or Fungal Infections
Fortunately ringworm is treated with topical ointments, dips, and occasionally oral antifungals that will relieve your cat’s symptoms.
If your cat won’t stop itching and you observe areas of hair loss with crusty patches, I recommend an evaluation with a veterinarian as soon as possible. We can diagnose a bacterial or fungal infection using a quick skin cytology, and begin treatment as soon as the problem is identified.
5. Parasitic Infections or Insect Bites
Cats are also susceptible to itchiness caused by flea allergies or insect bites. They react to the saliva transferred by fleas, mites, or other insects while they are being bitten.
If your pet is hypersensitive to flea bites - a common occurrence in cats - they will develop itchy skin (typically around their rear or hind legs).
Keep an eye out for irritation around your cat’s rear if you are concerned about a reaction to fleas, mites, or another insect. Check their body and fur regularly for bugs or small red lumps, and consider using an oral or topical parasite preventative to keep your kitty comfortable and free of bugs. Keep in mind, fleas and other parasites can be difficult to find as they are masters at hiding in fur.
If you are concerned that your cat may be dealing with a parasitic infection from fleas, ticks, mites, or other insects, contact a qualified veterinarian. With a thorough physical inspection or, if required, a skin cytology, we will be able to identify the source of your cat’s itchiness and recommend a course of treatment.
Treatment to Relieve Itching in Cats
Seeing your cat in distress can be extremely upsetting to pet owners, so it’s understandable to want to begin treatment immediately. Always make sure to consult a veterinarian before administering any ointments or medications - we may be able to recommend ways to address your cat’s symptoms at home.
Veterinary approved topical anti-itch creams, anti-itch shampoos, or flea shampoos may be helpful in relieving symptoms quickly, depending on the cause of your cat’s itchiness. It is important to remember that flea shampoos only kill the fleas at that time and will not prevent further fleas from biting.
If your cat’s symptoms can’t be addressed at home, an expert can perform a thorough evaluation to identify the cause of the itchy skin. Diagnosis may include allergy testing, skin cultures or cytology, biopsies, or a hypoallergenic diet trial. Once your cat has been diagnosed, we can promptly recommend treatment, which might include lifestyle or dietary changes, topical prescriptions or oral medications.
When to Seek Veterinary Guidance
If your cat is scratching excessively or seems like their skin is irritated, they’re most likely in discomfort and looking for relief. If you’re concerned about your kitty’s comfort it’s best to seek professional advice from a qualified veterinarian immediately.
We’ll be able to test and identify the source of your cat’s irritation and recommend a course of action, including medication, dietary restrictions, parasite preventatives, and lifestyle changes. Our primary goal is to keep your cat comfortable and happy, so we explore all avenues to ensure that the source of your kitty’s discomfort is addressed quickly.
Even if your cat isn’t currently uncomfortable, proactively taking steps to keep them clean, dry, and bug-free goes a long way towards keeping them healthy and comfortable.
If your kitty is already itchy and in discomfort, schedule a veterinary visit immediately to determine the best course of treatment. We will thoroughly examine your kitty for bugs, bites, and potential allergens, and ensure that they receive the care they need for immediate relief.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I give my cat for excessive itching?
A warm, soothing bath can offer relief to an itchy cat. Veterinary approved topical anti-itch creams or an anti-itch shampoo may also relieve symptoms quickly. If your cat is suffering from an allergy or a bacterial or fungal infection, they’ll require additional treatment from a veterinarian.
Can I give my cat Benadryl for itchy skin?
Consult a veterinarian to determine a safe dosage for your cat, but generally Benadryl is safe for kitties. It is much less effective than in humans and may not relieve symptoms, so it isn’t typically recommended as a first line treatment for itchy skin in cats.
How often is normal for a cat to itch?
Cats typically groom themselves frequently throughout the day, but repeated itching, scratching, or excessive licking is uncommon. If you notice your cat scratching the same area of their body consistently, they are most likely suffering from itchy skin.