Why Is Your Cat Itchy: 8 Reasons You Need to Know

Why Is Your Cat Itchy: 8 Reasons You Need to Know

Why is My Cat Itchy

Seeing your cat scratch itself due to itchiness can be pretty standard. But if your cat has been scratching itself, it may have a nasty case of itchy skin. When pets are itchy all the time, this is referred to as “pruritis” by veterinarians.

As a responsible cat owner, asking why my cat is itchy is natural. Your job is to find out how to make your cat stop itching. Whenever you have an itchy cat, you’ll know you need to learn more about how to help them.

Here are eight reasons why your cat is itchy:

#1 – Ringworm

Ringworm infection, also known as dermatophytosis, is a common fungal infection of the skin, hair, and nails. It is one of the most common infectious causes of cat scratching and can be passed to people. 

As a result, even if you do not believe ringworm is the cause of your pet’s symptoms, it is critical to test for it. Ringworm can be found in several ways, including by growing fungi in a lab and using a PCR test (polymerase chain reaction). Both tests can find the fungus that causes ringworm and help confirm a diagnosis. 

Even if you don’t think your pet’s symptoms are caused by ringworm, you still need to test for it to ensure treatment works and stops the spread of infection.

#2 – Parasitic Infections

Why Is Your Cat Itchy

Insects such as fleas, ticks, and mites are examples of ectoparasites. Because of the prevalence of indoor living among cats, fewer flea and tick preventatives are used on cats than on dogs. 

Contrary to what many people who own cats assume, indoor cats can get parasites. Although fleas are present in over half of all cases of itchy cats, the owners of itchy indoor cats are always taken aback by the phenomenon. Itchy skin on the back and tail of cats is caused by flea infestation. 

Your veterinarian will use a flea comb to inspect the skin and the fur for flea feces. Scrapings of the skin are performed to identify Demodex mites. If the cat’s itching doesn’t go away after treatment with flea and tick preventives, some vets will move on to the next step of the diagnostic process.

#3 – Allergies to the Environment

The allergens that cause environmental allergies are breathed in by cats with environmental allergies, which leads to a skin condition called atopy. A strong suspicion can be formed that a patient has these allergies based on the time of year or where they live. 

However, intradermal allergy testing is needed to make a definitive diagnosis. Even though blood tests for allergies are easy to find, intradermal testing is thought to be more accurate. 

Intradermal allergy testing is performed on cats in the same way it is on humans: a small number of common probable allergens are injected while the cat is sedated or under anesthesia. The skin’s reaction to each injection is visually analyzed. Because allergens like dust and pollen are hard to avoid, allergy testing is helpful for pet owners who want to try hyposensitization therapy or allergy shots.

#4 – Food Allergies

Cats are frequently allergic to chicken and fish. Grain allergies are rather unusual. People wrongly believe that grain-free, limited-ingredient, or other diets may reduce their cat’s itching. Veterinary dermatologists say a feeding trial is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to diagnose a cat’s itch. 

The cat is fed hydrolyzed food during the meal trial. Hydrolyzed diets are prescription pet foods that do not trigger an allergic response because the proteins have been broken down into tiny fragments (amino acids). Eight-week feeding trials are typical, although there is emerging evidence that shorter food trials are possible with steroids, at least in dogs. 

After eight weeks, the cat’s itching is evaluated. If the itch improves on the hydrolyzed diet but reappears on other diets, it’s likely a food allergy. These cats should be fed a hydrolyzed or novel protein diet for life.

#5 – Flea Bite Hypersensitivity

Flea bite hypersensitivity, also known as flea allergy dermatitis, is the most prevalent cause of skin disease in dogs and cats. This condition can even affect humans (FAD). 

Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is an allergy to flea saliva that can result in a disproportionate immune response and substantial discomfort after only a few bites from fleas. Itchiness in the cat’s posterior region is the hallmark clinical sign of feline atopic dermatitis (FAD). 

Eliminating all fleas from the environment and the cat should be the goal because even a small number of fleas can cause intense scratching. For instance, a skin reaction and discomfort can be brought on by a mosquito bite, but it is typically not as severe.

#6 – Contact Allergies

Contact allergies, while not as common as other types of allergies, can still cause irritation and discomfort in cats. These types of allergies occur when a cat comes into direct contact with an allergen, such as a particular type of cat litter, fabric, cleaning product, or plant. 

Cat litter allergies are a typical example of contact allergies. Still, many other potential allergens can cause a reaction in cats. These might include certain plastics, fabrics, colors, and cleaning products. Unlike environmental allergies, which are caused by allergens in the air, contact allergies can often be easily managed by simply removing the offending agent. 

Long-term treatment for contact allergies usually focuses on identifying and eliminating the allergen rather than directly treating the animal. This can help to prevent further irritation and discomfort and can help to improve the overall health and well-being of the affected cat.

#7 – Psychological Factors

This is difficult to pinpoint, but some cats overgroom themselves for no apparent medical reason. Cats groom themselves as a relaxing method, and excessive grooming can result in uncomfortable patches of skin and bald patches, most commonly on the abdomen. 

Consider this option if you have had your cat evaluated by a veterinarian. They will have found no apparent medical cause. Check if there have been any recent changes in your household, such as a new pet or construction activity. 

Talk to your vet if you believe that emotional reasons contribute to your cat’s skin problems. They may be able to recommend strategies to reduce anxiety and discuss supplements that may assist.

#8 – Everything Else That Can Cause Itchiness in Cats

As previously said, there are numerous causes for a cat to feel itchy. The list of possible causes is pretty lengthy if your pet’s itchiness is not due to one of the infectious or allergic causes like the first items above. Such reasons could be genetic, environmental, and even psychological. These other causes are still being studied on a case-to-case basis by experts.

At this point, your general veterinarian may propose a referral to a veterinary dermatologist. Further testing, particularly skin biopsies, may be performed in-house. 

If additional testing or referral to a specialty clinic is prohibitively expensive, treating symptoms alone is occasionally doable, albeit less optimal.

How to Make Cat Stop Itching

It would be best if you always exercise caution when giving your drugs to your pets. Before attempting at-home treatment for your itching cat, see your veterinarian. There are several options for relieving itchiness in cats at home. 

Bathe Your Cat

One option is to give the cat a bath with a shampoo specifically designed for cats. These shampoos can help to hydrate the skin and reduce irritation. Some formulations, such as those containing colloidal oatmeal or phytosphingosine, may be particularly effective. A medicated shampoo prescribed by a veterinarian may be necessary if over-the-counter cat shampoos do not seem to be helping.

Try Antihistamines

Another option is to try antihistamines, which can be safely used in cats and may relieve more chronic cases. However, they are not as effective in pets as in humans. It is essential to consult with a veterinarian before using any medications, as the correct dosage and frequency will depend on the specific drug and the individual cat. 

Use an E-Collar

Additionally, using an e-collar to prevent the cat from licking and scratching the affected area can help to reduce irritation and inflammation in the skin. However, addressing the underlying cause of the itchiness is crucial rather than just trying to relieve the symptoms. 

Consider Cat Creams

Finally, it is generally not advised to use creams containing steroids on cats. These products can suppress the immune system and may worsen infections. They may also be ingested if the cat grooms itself. It is always best to consult a veterinarian before using any products on a cat.

Visit the Vet

Veterinary treatment for itchy skin in cats typically focuses on identifying and addressing the underlying cause of itchiness. This may involve administering antibiotics to treat bacterial infections, antifungal medications to treat yeast infections, or steroids to treat allergies. The goal of veterinary treatment for itchy skin in cats is to identify and address the underlying cause of the itchiness to provide relief and prevent further discomfort and irritation.

Final Thoughts

Itchiness in cats can be caused by various factors, including infections, allergies, and other underlying health conditions. It is essential to consult with a veterinarian to provide relief and address the underlying cause of the itchiness. Treatment options may include medications, such as antibiotics or antifungal medications to treat infections, steroids to treat allergies or immunosuppressive drugs to treat autoimmune diseases. 

In addition to medical treatment, several steps can be taken at home to help alleviate itchiness in cats. Use a flea and tick preventative, groom the cat regularly, and use e-collars to prevent scratching. Working with a veterinarian and taking appropriate precautions at home can provide relief and prevent further discomfort for cats suffering from itchy skin.

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