Many people think that a cat scratching itself is a perfectly natural thing and of course to a limited extent, it is. Most people are not infested with anything unpleasant, and yet everyone gets an itch every now and again and a cat is just the same. The point comes when the cat is scratching to excess and then it must be treated, because it can cause some quite serious skin conditions and whenever there is broken skin on an animal, there is always a chance that an opportunistic secondary infection can get in and cause even more trouble. The reasons for a cat scratching excessively, sometimes to the point of causing its fur to fall out should be thoroughly investigated; the cure is often quite simple.
Cats get fleas, and that is just how it is. Fleas can lie dormant for a long while and can get by biting other species for a while, so when a cat goes by or when they are imported into the house on someone’s clothing, they will immediately make for the nearest cat. The best way to make sure that your cat does not get fleas is to keep them protected with a long-lasting anti-flea prophylactic medication, which can be pills or a ‘spot on’ type and also to vacuum thoroughly wherever your cat like to sleep. Grooming the cat with a flea-comb is also a good idea, over a bowl of water if possible so that the fleas don’t just jump off and go and lurk near the skirting board and wait for better times. Some people find that a flea trap, which is essentially a lamp and a sticky pad to catch the fleas, are a good idea to keep in little used corners of the house. These catch the fleas which have decided to play a long game and lie in wait. Although not a one hundred percent solution, they are chemical free and you will probably be horrified at the number of fleas you can catch in even a very clean home.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
This is often shortened to FAD or is known as flea bite sensitivity and is basically a severe local reaction to the bite of the flea. Whereas all flea bites will itch for a while because the flea injects a tiny dose of anticoagulant when it bites, a cat with FAD will scratch, bite and worry at the site until it can make the skin very sort and the hair to fall out. This is often at the base of the tail and so is quite easy to spot, as the cat cannot stop scratching, even when you try to distract it. Many owners assume that their cat cannot have an allergy to flea bites because they take measures to keep them flea free but the fact is that an allergy can be kicked off by a single bite, if the cat is sensitive.
It is important to treat the allergy and the site of the damage, as there is a good chance that the cat may get an infection in the broken skin otherwise. If this is really making your cat miserable, then it is possible for it to have a course of desensitizing injections. These take time to work but are effective because they retrain the immune system to not over react to flea bites.
Allergies can affect cats very badly and can be to all kinds of allergens. The flea allergy is well known, but some cats react badly to stings and if they scratch them not only can they become very sore and infected, but the hair may fall out as well. The itching from an allergic reaction is so extreme that the cat will often bite itself quite severely trying to deal with it and over-grooming around the area can leave it looking quite bald. The stress of constant itching can also mean that the cat will not eat properly and can become quite unwell generally. It is not always easy to work out what the cat is allergic to, so a bit of detective work is sometimes necessary, noting when the scratching is worse. This way you can work out if the allergen is in the house or outside, whether it is contact or breathed in, and so on. This can take a while, but during the process, it is possible to treat the cat with antihistamine and steroids to try and break the itch scratch cycle and give the skin time to recover.
Mites, mange and other parasites
Cats have a dense coat, consisting of long guard hairs and a much shorter, fluffier undercoat which is prime living conditions for all kinds of parasite. Mites can multiply to enormous numbers in a very short time and migrate to hidden areas when disturbed which makes them hard to spot. Sometimes they live in a cat’s ears, which results in head shaking and scratching the ear. This can break the delicate pinna of the ear, causing a blood blister to develop. When this collapses, the ear is no longer pricked, but is often wrinkled and lying over the ear opening, which means that mites can multiply even more in the warm, damp cavity. A careful owner will check their cat frequently to make sure that they have no parasitic infestation, as they can very quickly make the animal unwell due to stress or anaemia.
Watch your cat
It is no hardship to bond with your cat, and having a cat sleeping on your lap is a great pleasure to any owner. Take the opportunity to make sure that you check it over for bald spots, damp patches which will point to over grooming or weeping skin, sensitive patches, flea droppings, ticks, mites and the rest. A cat is generally a clean and well-maintained animal, without staring fur or dirty patches and most stay like that throughout their life. A scratching cat is not a happy cat, but whatever the reason for the itch, it is generally quite easy to put right.