Itching in Cats

Itching and hairless patches in cats are often underestimated. They can indicate serious skin diseases. We explain what is hidden behind scratching, nibbling, and Co. in cats.

The skin is a reflection of a cat’s health and skin diseases have many faces. Like other skin changes, itching can be a symptom of various skin diseases. It is therefore important to recognize itching and then to find its cause, because only then can the cat be treated properly.

Symptoms of Itching in Cats

Cats express itching in many ways:

  • Increased scratching, grooming, or licking of individual areas or the entire body
  • Biting, nibbling, or rubbing parts of the body

If there are hairless patches, red, inflamed, or scaly skin, and a dull, shaggy coat, you should pay attention and consult a veterinarian.

In addition, the itching itself can also become the cause of the disease if the cat injures its skin when constantly scratching, licking, or nibbling. The damaged skin can no longer act as a natural barrier against pathogens or pollutants.

Parasites As a Cause of Itching in Cats

Itching in cats can have many causes. Possible triggers are, for example, parasites and infections. Outdoor cats are particularly affected, but indoor cats can also suffer from parasite infestation. Regular parasite prophylaxis makes sense. Examples of parasites and infections are:

  • fleas
  • autumn grass mites
  • Mites (predatory mites, ear mites, grave mites)
  • biting lice
  • heavy worm infestation
  • bacterial infections
  • skin fungus
  • ticks

Skin fungi spread preferentially to cats with a weakened immune system. A lack of fur hygiene favors the conditions for fungal growth. The treatment of a skin fungus is very lengthy and can take 6 to 8 weeks. Important: All animals in the household must also be treated. In addition, fungi such as Microsporum canis can also spread to humans.

Itching in Cats From Allergies

In addition, allergies can also trigger itching in cats. Examples for this are:

  • flea saliva allergy
  • mosquito bites
  • storage mites, house dust (mites)
  • Contact and food allergies
  • atopic dermatitis

A flea saliva allergy in cats is difficult to diagnose because – paradoxically – few fleas live on cats. They are more comfortable around non-allergic cats, but it only takes a single flea bite to trigger a full-body skin reaction in an allergic cat. The result is severely itchy skin changes that can spread over a large area. Flea saliva allergy is quite common in cats.

Food allergies can also cause skin problems. If the cat is allergic to a certain food component, this can manifest itself in itching, among other things – even if the cat has never had any problems before. Skin changes and digestive problems often go hand in hand with a food allergy.

In the case of atopic dermatitis, on the other hand, the cat reacts to certain substances in the environment, such as pollen. These enter the body through the skin and trigger allergic reactions.

Other Causes of Itching in Cats

Metabolic disorders can also lead to itching or other skin changes in cats. While they usually don’t cause it themselves, they can leave the cat’s skin vulnerable to infection, which in turn can lead to itching. Examples of such metabolic disorders are:

  • hormonal imbalances
  • Deficiency symptoms as a result of an unbalanced diet, severe worm infestation, or e.g. due to a wasting illness

Autoimmune diseases can also be the reason for skin changes or itching, because if the immune system malfunctions, the body’s own defense cells can attack the skin (pemphigus, lupus erythematosus, eosinophilic granuloma complex).

Abscesses Or Tumors in Cats

Itching in cats can also indicate abscesses and tumors. Brawlers outdoors are usually at high risk for abscesses, which develop from bite injuries and often go undetected. If left untreated, they can lead to blood poisoning. Regular touching is therefore useful and can be combined with the daily cuddle round.

Increases in circumference, which indicate a tumorous event, can also be detected early in this way. The most common type of malignant skin tumor in cats is fibrosarcoma, which occurs more frequently from the age of eight. A well-defined lump is usually observed under the skin, which grows either very quickly or very slowly.

Although metastasis or spread to other organs in fibrosarcoma occurs very late, the local tissue is severely damaged. Radiation is the treatment of choice, but the cat must be put under general anesthesia. Chemotherapy usually does not bring any improvement.

Hair Loss in Cats

Another change in the skin that can indicate the disease is alopecia, i.e. hair loss. There are three possible reasons for this:

  • Hair falls out by itself (inflammation in the area of ​​the hair roots, bacterial infections or fungal infestation)
  • Hair cannot grow back (due to internal diseases)
  • Cat pulls out hair (psychogenic causes such as stress).

A so-called Trichogramma provides information: A few hairs are plucked out of the cat and examined under the microscope. If the hair tips are intact, there is a disease-related hair loss. In the case of broken hair ends, however, the vet speaks of “self-induced alopecia” – the cat pulls its hair out itself.

Itching in Cats Should Be Taken Seriously

The attentive cat owner can do a lot to detect skin changes in his cat at an early stage. Parasite prophylaxis, regular touch-ups, and good coat hygiene should become routine.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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