6 Reasons Why Your Cat May Be Itchy

| Published on July 21, 2015

Seeing your cat scratch herself once or twice isn’t a cause for alarm. We all itch every once in a while. If it becomes a pattern, though, you’ll need to figure out what’s causing the itching. At best, having itchy skin is annoying to your cat. At its worst though, itchy skin can lead to fur loss, scabs, open wounds, inflammation, irritations, and even infections.

Since scratching can cause long-term or serious harm to your cat, it’s important to address the problem as soon as you notice it. Your veterinarian can perform an examination, and take your cat’s specific symptoms and history into consideration to develop an action plan that will alleviate your cat’s itchy symptoms while also dealing with the core problem.

Read on to learn about 6 common reasons for feline itchy skin.


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Fleas are tiny and can sneak through small cracks and crevices. They are also notorious hitchhikers that can attach themselves to your clothing if you’re in a place that has an infestation. Because of that, even indoor cats can be exposed. With a bit of investigating, it should be obvious if your cat has fleas. Use a flea comb to inspect the base of her fur for fleas and “flea dirt” (flea feces which will turn reddish if you drip water onto it).

Fleas are very common and relatively easy to treat in a variety of ways. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best option for your cat. Don’t forget to also treat your home, as fleas can breed in bedding, furniture, and carpets!


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Food Allergies 
Your cat may be allergic to her food. Cats can become sensitive to certain ingredients in food at any time, even if they have been eating the same food for years. If your veterinarian suspects a food allergy, they may suggest a food trial. A food trial normally lasts about 8 weeks and will exclude certain ingredients that are common allergens. Several exclusion and reintroduction periods may be necessary to narrow it down to one or two irritating ingredients.


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Environmental Allergies
Your cat may have seasonal allergies if she tends to get itchy in the spring, summer, or fall. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a winter with a deep freeze, however, seasonal allergies can last year-round. If you can’t pin her itchiness to a season, she may be reacting to something more constant in her environment such as perfumed litter or a cleaning product.


Image Source: Tobias Klüpfel via Flickr.com

Dry Skin 
Dry skin can be caused by an array of factors such as poor diet, seasonal changes, or environmental irritants. A more serious underlying issue can also cause dry skin, so it’s important to consult your veterinarian if your cat’s itchiness is accompanied by flakes.


Image Source: David Kowis via Flickr.com 

Despite its name, ringworm is actually a fungus. If your cat has ringworm, lesions, bald patches with red centers, and flaky skin will generally accompany the itching. Ringworm is very contagious to you and other animals in your household, so treat these symptoms seriously. Make an appointment immediately, quarantine your cat from other animals and children, and wash your hands thoroughly after contact.


Image Source: Elaine with Grey Cats via Flickr.com

Poor Grooming Habits 
Cats are well known for their impeccable grooming habits, but some cats have grooming challenges. If your cat isn’t able to groom herself properly because of dental pain, obesity, arthritis, or another issue, it can cause her coat to become matted and dusted in dandruff. It’s important to address the underlying problem, which can lead to more pain and discomfort in the long run. In the meantime, incorporate a full brushing into your daily routine to help work out mats, stimulate circulation, and distribute her natural oils throughout her coat.

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