Catteries with cats close together sometimes experience ringworm outbreaks

Itchy Cats: Pruritis / Itching in Cats Can Be Lots of Things

Cats with Itchy skin – Feline Pruritis

Most everyone has a cat that scratches now and then.

Some people have cats that scratch until they create bleeding sores all over their necks and rumps.

Cats scratch for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, they have fleas, and possibly an allergy to the flea bites. Some cats are “allergic” to their food (rare) or perhaps even more likely, intolerant to carbohydrates like grain, rice, barley etc. Finally, some cats have issues with their own immune system which is called Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex.  I can often tell by looking at some of these syndromes.

Routine allergies that cause scratching are the most common, and the most inexpensive problems to treat in the cat.

But there are other possible causes that have to be considered based on experience and a careful examination. Sometimes cats are allergic or intolerant to their food. Sometimes they are infected with a skin fungus called “Ringworm”.

And other times they are being bathed too often, and in a shampoo that dries the skin out.

Fascinating fact: Cats have no sweat glands in their skin. It is easy to dry out the skin, leaving it itchy and flakey.

Catteries with cats close together sometimes experience ringworm outbreaks
Catteries with cats close together sometimes experience ringworm outbreaks

When I look at your itching cat, I check to see if it looks much like Ringworm. If so, it may be suggested that a Ringworm culture should be done. This test is very inexpensive and prevents human infection by the fungus. Fungal / ringworm infections are rare in cats that are under little to no stress. In catteries / cat breeder operations, crowded together and being pushed for several litters per year of kitten mass-production, cats are more prone to Ringworm.

If it appears to be allergic, I may suggest a cortisone shot, which suppresses the allergic response to the fleas and gives the cat a great deal of comfort.

Finally, I may suggest a flea control method, like Frontline, Comfortis et al, or a shampoo that does not dry the skin, or a flea spray.

In rare instances, a special food may be tried, called Hill’s D/D diet, that reduces a cats allergic response to the food, but only if that is what I actually think is ailing the cat. Other times, choosing a food that uses oatmeal or rice in place of corn or wheat – can improve a tolerance / rejection issue with food.

No matter how you slice it, the vast majority of cats tearing themselves up out there do not have to be suffering like that, and the majority of those cats could be helped immensely.

Dr Erik Johnson is a Marietta, Georgia Veterinarian with a practice in small animal medicine. He graduated from University of Georgia with his Doctorate in 1991. Dr Johnson is the author of several texts on Koi and Pond Fish Health and Disease as well as numerous articles on dog and cat health topics.