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What is Itchy?

It is completely normal for your cat to have a few scratches every once in awhile. Just like humans, there may be a hair or perhaps a small bug that is causing the cat to itch. This is nothing to be worried about. If the itching continues to persist, however, and you notice that your cat begins to have irritated and inflamed skin, it is best to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

  • Pruritis        
  • Bacterial infection
  • Ringworm
  • Bee sting
  • Mange
  • Feline acne
  • Skin allergies

While fleas can be a major cause of skin irritation, if the little bugs aren’t present the main reason may be pruritus. This condition is simply an overall unpleasant sensation that causes your cat to scratch itself often. Any skin irritation can bring on pruritus, which is caused by chemical reactions in the skin that create an itching sensation. The act of itching will actually worsen this sensation, causing the cat to continue to scratch and bite at itself.

Depending on how severe the itching is will determine the effect pruritus has on your cat’s health. It is best to get your cat to the vet as soon as possible in order to identify the cause of the problem and get it treated.

Why Itchy Occurs in Cats

There are multiple reasons why your cat may be itching. It may be as simple as a little bug bothering them or a stray hair. However, when bugs are not an issue and itching continues, the most common cause is pruritus.  

Pruritus

The medical term for itching and scratching, pruritus is an unpleasant sensation that drives cats to bite and scratch at themselves. This sensation is caused by chemical reactions within the skin that overstimulate the nerves. The stimulation makes the brain believe that there is an existing itch, even when there isn’t. Because of this, cats will continually scratch themselves which actually worsens the sensation and causes a vicious cycle.

While this skin condition may not be life threatening, it can cause the skin to break out in lesions that will then become infected. When watching for pruritus, there will be a few signs to take note of.

  • Scratching or biting
  • Loss of hair and reddening of the skin
  • Licking of the feet
  • Excessive grooming

Failure to seek medical attention for any kind of illness can be detrimental to your cat’s health. 

Bacterial Infection

When a cat itches to excess, the constant scratching and breaking of the skin may lead to a secondary infection. Open wounds are susceptible to the invasion of bacteria. Because of the risk that comes with consistent scratching and irritation of the skin, a veterinary visit is needed. Otherwise, your cat’s itchiness will not relent.

Feline Acne

Overactive sebaceous glands may lead to acne, which can then cause your cat to scratch. A topical treatment or shampoo may be needed to resolve the issue.

Skin Allergies

Contact with a substance that causes an adverse reaction, or even the ingestion of certain additives or ingredients in cat food can cause an itchy reaction in cats who have sensitivities. In some cases, allergy testing or an elimination diet to determine a food allergy will be needed before the hives and itchiness will stop.

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What to do if your Cat is Itchy

If your cat is showing the signs of pruritus, get it to the vet as soon as you can. Due to the multiple causes of this skin condition, medical intervention will be required in order to determine the underlying cause of the itch. Treatment will then be determined on what is causing the pruritus to appear. 

Temporary relief from the itching can be achieved through medications such as:

  • Fatty acid supplements 
  • Antihistamines 
  • Soothing shampoos

Unfortunately, this relief will be temporary and the itching will come back until the underlying problem is resolved. The veterinarian can guide you along as you try suggested treatments for remedying the itch.

Additionally, a bacterial infection may need antibiotics and feline acne can be lessened with topical treatments. Depending on the suspected cause for the itching, the veterinarian may perform a skin scraping to test for the presence of mites or parasites. Fleas can also cause itching; fortunately, this condition is often easy to diagnose.

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Prevention of Itchy

The most effective way of preventing itching, and any form of skin irritation, is to keep your cat’s coat clean and free of matting. Doing this will prevent any bugs or spots to begin irritation the skin. 

Establish proper flea prevention with your vet, and avoid using products such as flea collars and flea bombs; these can be dangerous for your pet. If your cat has already been diagnosed with pruritus, allergies or infection consult with your vet on the proper medication and follow through with those instructions faithfully.

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Cost of Itchy

Treatment cost will vary depending on the underlying causes of your cat’s itching . If your cat is diagnosed with acne for example, the cost will be approximately $250 but will be determined based on the severity. A condition such as allergic dermatitis could cost $500 to treat.

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Itchy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Zoe

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Arabian Mau

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Licking
Itching

Hi, My cat itchy all the time especially behind the ear, licks all her body. Took to vet said: under skin parasite gave an injection and used drops (Bayer) advocate for cats, and after 10 days again, then doctor said this is enough. But my cat still itching until now. As she has no flee or ticks no ears mites no visible parasites. My cat goes out side as other cats, but non has this ! Any shampoo anything else could help to stop her itchiness?

Feb. 14, 2018

Zoe's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. If Zoe had a parasite that was being treated, and she is still itchy, she should have a recheck with your veterinarian, as there may be something other than the parasite going on, or she may need another treatment. I hope that all goes well for her.

Feb. 14, 2018

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Tibbi

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Maine Coon mix

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8 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Itchy

Help for itchy kitten! We took in a stray from the shelter on March 15, 2019 and he was about six months old at the time. He tested negative for ringworm in the shelter, but his chart reported "poor fur", similar to his litter mates. When we got him home, we've noticed excessive licking and grooming and chomping off chunks of fur. We've treated him for fleas every month since getting him. We've done a follicle test for fungus, which came back negative. We tried a novel protein diet for a full five weeks (no change). We tried a prednisone shot a couple of weeks ago, which appeared to help just a tiny bit for a day or two. We're now on to a hydrolyzed protein diet and about 10 days in on that, with again no change at all. Our poor little guy does not show any other signs of distress other than constant scratching and wanting to lick. I don't think it's psychological because he'll scratch himself with his back leg without even thinking about it. We've had the poor little guy in a cone since we've taken him in. His fur seems a bit blunted from the chomping, but his fur and skin look otherwise completely normal and healthy. PLEASE HELP! We don't have a lot of home allergens (wood floors, no carpet, all natural cleaning products and detergents.) We have a resident cat who has not experienced any problems as a result of the new guy coming in.

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