How do I manage my itchy cat?

Posted by Dr Claire Jenkins on Aug 31, 2015 10:50:45 PM
Dr Claire Jenkins

Management of an itchy cat largely depends on the cause of the itch so make sure you check out our previous blog on causes of an itchy cat here

1. Fleas:  It’s important to use an effective flea product regularly. It’s the only thing that kills them as quickly as possible, so there’s less time for them to cause an itch (remember, a single flea can cause big havoc). You’ll also need to vacuum and wash your cat’s bedding, as well as any blankets or toys that make up their space (preferably in an enzymatic cleaner such as Biozet). 

2. Inhaled allergies (atopy): These allergies are usually treated with corticosteroids or other immune suppressive drugs, so you’ll need to see a vet. Antihistamines are sometimes effective too. In terms of what you can do, oatmeal shampoos (cat approved ones) topically and fatty acids (e.g fish oil) in your cat’s diet are really important.

3. Food allergies: It’s best to identify the problem protein with a food allergy elimination trial (again, see your vet - this trial can take 12 weeks). From there, avoid those foods altogether. It’s truly the best method of management. You should still be able to feed your cat a commercial food, but it really depends on the allergy. In some cases you’ll have to switch to a balanced home cooked diet.

4. Contact allergies: If your cat comes into contact with an irritant that makes them itchy, bathe them to remove it from their coat. As with food allergies, avoidance is best at all costs.

5. Insect bites: Often treated with corticosteroids and reducing exposure to bites- this may involve keeping your cat in during dawn and dusk when biting insects such as mosquitoes are most active or just keeping them inside. Approved mosquito repellents can be used.

6. Ear Mites: Elimination of the mites with an effective product and treatment of secondary infection.

7. Stress induced overgrooming: (nb. Remember, this is only diagnosed after ruling out medical causes for itchy skin with your vet) Managed by identification of the underlying stressor/s through a careful behavioural history. Things that can stress cats include competition for resources (food, water, litter boxes, perches), change in home or routine, new family members, isolation, conflict with other pets, boredom (insufficient mental and physical activity). When the problem is identified work begins to help with that. We need to make sure your cats needs are met with daily play, hidey-places and perches to climb, and a solid routine. In addition to environmental modification, medications are sometimes needed and pheromone product like Feliway diffusers can help reduce anxiety in some cats.

Other tips:

  • It’s important to know that allergies can have an additive effect and often pets are allergic to more than one thing. To reduce allergens for a pet that is prone to itch a good appropriate flea control regardless of the cause is a must. 
  • Shampoos are another key to management of itchy felines (not all will be cooperative with this!). When skin is inflamed colloidal oatmeal shampoos are very effective. Ensure they are specifically for cats as humans have a different skin pH and as such our products just are not appropriate for cats.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids are also a good addition to management for your itchy feline as a natural anti-inflammatory for the skin.

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Topics: cat scratching, fleas, Health, itchy cat