Allergies and cats: what’s causing the itch? 

Cats are well-known to be clean animals, spending much of their day grooming themselves. But when does this become abnormal? Find out the most common causes of itching in cats, what you can do at home and when it’s time to see a vet. 

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Skin disease is one of the most common reasons why people bring their cats to the vet. What may start off as an occasional scratch can soon turn into excessive overgrooming, hair loss and an impact on their quality of life. There are many things you can do at home to help keep your cat’s coat in good condition and prevent common causes of skin disease. 

Why is my cat so itchy?

The two most common causes of itchy cats are parasites and allergies. 

itchy cat allergies

Parasites that are common in cats in the UK include fleas, ticks, mange (mites), ear mites, ringworm, and harvest mites.

Fleas are, by far, the most common parasite we see in cats and contrary to popular belief, we see them all year round. Even indoor-only cats can get fleas. Apart from itchy skin, other signs of a flea infestation include hair loss, especially along their back and tail, red spots and black dirt in their coat and bedding. Some cats show no signs of having fleas at all!

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And it’s not only fleas that are very common, but allergies to fleas too.

Cats have three main types of allergies: parasites, food, and environmental. To make things even more complicated, they can have allergies to all three of these things at the same time.

Environmental allergies can be due to allergens they come into contact with on a daily basis, like pollen, dust, grass and cigarette smoke. Signs of allergies include ear infections, bald patches, scabby skin, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Some cats may also only show signs of allergies during certain seasons of the year. 

Other causes of itching include wounds from trauma or fights, pain, nutrient deficiencies and stress. Stress is a common cause of overgrooming in cats. Cats are really sensitive creatures and there are many situations that can lead to them becoming stressed. Find out more by following the link.

How do you know if your cat is itchy?

Not sure if your cat is itchy? It’s a natural instinct for cats to hide any signs of illness to avoid being targeted by predators. So it’s not always obvious to owners that their cat is ill until the symptoms are more severe or difficult to hide. 

Things to look out for

When cats are itchy, they may show one or more of the following signs: scratching, overgrooming, licking, or biting. You might also see areas of alopecia or hair thinning. 

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We recommend checking your cat over at least once a week. Part the hair and assess their skin for any dandruff, black spots, rashes, bumps or anything else that looks abnormal. Look inside their ears for any wax or redness. 

If your cat shows any signs of being itchy or you notice any lesions on their skin, download the app and call one of Joii vets right away. 

What can I do for my itchy cat? Can I give them anything?

First of all, try to assess what areas of their body are affected. This can help narrow down the potential causes. Fleas and flea allergies tend to affect the area on their back, where the hips are and down the hindlegs. Contact allergies usually affect the paws, face and underside of the tummy. 

flea allergy cat
Flea allergies tend to cause hair loss and spots near the tail and over the hips

If your cat is showing only sporadic signs of itching, this may be something that can be treated at home. A multi-modal approach is advised to control the symptoms.

This involves a combination of anti-bacterial and soothing mousses or gels, along with skin supplements to improve the skin barrier. Preventing self-trauma is important; you can do this by using a buster collar or pet medical suit. 

Preventative skin care is important too: 

  • Keep your cat (and all other pets in the household) up to date with flea preventatives: these must be used according to package guidelines.
  • Make sure to reduce any home irritants where possible: don’t smoke indoors, dust as often as possible, avoid strong aerosols and regularly clean your cat’s bedding. 
  • Brush your cat regularly and check for any abnormalities in the skin: picking up problems early can improve the response to treatment. 
  • Feed your cat high-quality food that’s suitable for their age, lifestyle and any health problems they have. 

Our Joii vets are available 24 hours a day for advice. We can help advise on products to use at home to help your itchy cat. Download the app and speak to a professional. 

What not to do when your cat is itchy

Try to avoid using products that are commonly recommended on the internet like olive oil, coconut oil, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar, before speaking with a vet. These products are not always suitable and may make some conditions worse. 

Do not let your cat lick, scratch or bite themselves excessively or in areas where you see abnormalities of the skin. This is known as self-trauma and can make the problem much worse, leading to a severe secondary infection. 

When to see a vet if your cat is itchy

While some cases of itchy skin can be treated at home, others may need prescription medication. If your cat is constantly scratching themselves, to the point where it stops them from going about their normal routine. Or if their skin looks infected (moist and smelly) or they are unwell in themselves, then it is time to see a vet.

If you are unsure, download the app and speak to one of our Joii vets. If the problem cannot be treated at home, then we can direct you to your local vet.

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