It's pretty normal to catch you cat, scratching that itch. However if your cat's itching more than normal, we have the causes of this and the tips to help!
Even the most fastidious feline can become a little itchy from time to time. So this week on the blog, we're taking a look at the causes of cat itchy skin. Why do cats get itchy, can how can we soothe irritating itches and ease the urge to scratch?
Our pets can’t really speak up when something’s not quite right. So how can you tell if your cat has dry, niggly, itchy skin? There are lots of signs to keep an eye out for...
6 tell-tale signs your cat’s skin is itchy..
- Scratching that’s more than occasional – a few scratches a day is normal, every few minutes is cause for attention.
- Is your cat over-grooming and pulling out their coat?
- Chewing and nibbling at their skin and coat.
- Thinner or balding patches in their coat.
- Coughing up lots of hairballs.
- Dry or flaking skin.
Itchy cat skin – what are the causes?
There are lots of reasons your cat might be feeling a bit itchy, but we’ll start with the most common ones, then explore how you can help your puss feel more comfortable in their skin.
1. Pesky pests
Itchy invaders like fleas, ticks and mites tend to be the most common reason for itchy skin in cats. Modern, centrally-heated homes mean that fleas can be a problem all year round, so even when it’s not ‘flea season’. Keep an eye out for:
- Pesky fleas themselves – small black specks (about the size of pin-head) that jump and move erratically.
- Flea dirt – what looks like black grit in the fur. Put a bit on some on damp kitchen roll, if it leaves a rusty mark, your cat has fleas.
- Flea bites on human family members – especially around ankles!
- Harvest mites – these look like red ‘dust’, and are usually found in areas with less fur.
- Ticks – larger than a flea, they grow as they feed. Can feel like a little wart or lump. More common on cats who are free to roam.
Cat’s Protection League produces a great guide to all the different pests cats can pick up – read it here, and scroll on for advice.
2. Dietary factors
Some cat foods don’t contain everything every cat needs to stay in tip-top form. Some cats have dietary allergies (can’t eat certain foods) whilst all need plenty of ‘good fats’ to keep their skin supple, healthy and moisturised. It’s tricky to spot if diet may be making them itchy, but some pointers include:
- A recent change to their food – you’ve changed their brand.
- The manufacturer has changed the the changed the food formula – an internet search will help you discover this.
- You’re feeding a value food – some of these contain bulking ingredients that aren’t well tolerated by all cats.
- A food allergy – your vet will be able to give you advice on testing for this.
3. Environmental factors – central heating and environmental irritants
We tend to keep our homes very warm and dry, which can dry out human and feline skin. It’s easy for us to slather on some moisturiser… but not so easy for our furry friends. Cats can also be sensitive to chemicals from washing powder to cleaning products to the anti-cat spray your neighbours might be using around their garden!
Here are some signs to look out for:
- There are no pests and you haven’t changed their diet.
- Your cat is inconsistently itchy – they suddenly scratch more after coming in from the garden for example.
- You’ve recently changed something around the house – new scented candles, washing powder or cleaning products.
- It’s winter-time, and the heating is on high a lot.
- You’ve moved your cat’s bed somewhere very warm and dry to keep them snug as the weather is chilly.
4. Psychological factors
Everyone knows that cats are clean creatures, who like to groom themselves. But did you know that they also like to groom as a calming mechanism? The action of ‘washing’ feels really soothing to them. However, too much grooming can lead to itchy skin and patches of fur loss, and can be a sign that your cat isn’t very happy. They also sometimes groom because they’re bored.
- Does the cat now spend more (or less) time alone?
- Have you welcomed a new human or furry family member?
- Has something changed recently – is your routine different?
- Have your neighbours recently got a new pet? A new cat on the patch can really upset the delicate territorial balance, especially if you live in a built-up area, and dogs can cause stress as cats adjust to the change.
- Time of year – many cats find changes to their routine upsetting, so may get stressed if you have lots of visitors over Christmas, or there’s lots of scary bangs at fireworks time.
- Are they an indoor-only cat in a smaller home – do they have enough to do to keep themselves entertained if you leave them home alone?
5. Something’s up medically
There are many medical reasons your cat might have itchy skin, from simple infectious things like ringworm that can be easily treated, through to more complex causes, from trauma if your cat gets in a fight with another feline, through to sun damage and inconsistencies with the way your cat’s skin forms. Lots of washing can even be a sign that your cat is in pain, so if the itching doesn’t seem to be covered by points 1-4, it’s best to talk to your vet.
Once you have idea of what might be causing the itch, how do you help your cat feel on purrfect form once more? Let’s take a closer look…
Top tips for itchy cats
Make sure pest protection is up-to-date
When it comes to pesky pets like fleas, prevention is always better than cure. It’s a good idea to use a high-quality spot-on treatment every 4-6 weeks, all year round. Even if you can’t see fleas, an infestation can happen quickly, so take steps to keep these itchy biters away. If it’s too late, and fleas have already taken hold, you can read our guide to getting rid of fleas here.
Support skin from within
A great way to soothe with itchy skin caused by allergies and environmental factors is to build up the skin’s natural barrier with a supplement like YuMEGA Cat. Dry skin affects cats in a similar way to people – if the moisture barrier isn’t well looked after and regularly topped up, it can lead to dry skin, itchiness and flaking. Your cat can’t rub in some soothing body lotion, but you can add moisture from the inside out. By providing Omega 6 oil and Linoleic acid you can help maintain your cat’s skin natural moisture barrier from within.
Did you know?
Even if your cat is getting some of this nutrition in their diet, providing a supplement with a specially balanced combination of the right natural oils helps to support their skin and coat condition.
Enrich their environment
This can help both cats who groom because they’re stressed or bored. There are lots of reasons cats can be stressed including changes to routine, having to share resources with other cats, or being lonely if they are left alone for much of the day. Work on the causes where possible, and give them a happier home by:
- Creating more opportunities to climb and hide – especially if yours is multi-cat household.
- Create separate feeding spots if you have more than one cat.
- Invest in some fun toys to keep your kitty entertained if you work long hours – food puzzles are great.
- Get crafty and make a DIY cat tree – cheap, simple ideas here or get a modular kit and go all-out for a cat castle!
- Make sure they have a place to scratch – it’s natural and healthy for them to do so.
- Treat them to some cat DVDs, or if you want a real treat for your kitty and yourself, invest in an aquarium. Many cats will be transfixed by the movement of the fish!
- Make time for play – cats may be independent, but most really value interaction, so make time for some fun and games every day.
Think about your routine
What have you changed recently? It may be that your cat is feeling itchy because you’ve opted for a fragranced washing powder, changed your bathroom or floor cleaner, or spritzed the sofa with an odour destroying spray. If you have made a change recently, revert back to your old product routine if you can, and with a little luck, your kitty will be thanking you with lots of purrs and less scratching. It can also be helpful to support the skin barrier with a supplement like YuMEGA Cat too.
Change their diet
Talk to your vet about hypoallergenic foods, or do your research online. Then gradually change your cat’s diet and see if it’s sayonara scratching! Don’t forget that treats can cause reactions too, so whilst you’re working out what might be the cause of the itch, don’t feed treats that aren’t 100% natural (dried fish skins are a purrfect choice!)
Don’t just ignore it…
If your cat is itchy and you can’t work out why, it can be an early sign that something more serious isn’t right. A trip to the vets will help to pinpoint what’s happening, and help your feline friend feel on top form again.
We hope you’ve found our top tips for itchy cat skin useful, and would love to meet your cat on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you’ve got some kitty pics and videos to share, you’ll make our day! And if you have a question, just pop it in the comments below...