All cats scratch themselves at one time or another throughout their lives, and scratching is a natural response to irritants. Scratching should not be a regular or consistent occurrence, but occasional scratching is typically nothing to worry about. Excessive scratching, referred to as feline pruritus, is not normal and should not be overlooked.
There are a few reasons that your cat might be scratching themselves excessively. We’ll discuss the reasons and whether there is anything that you can do to alleviate your cat’s scratching.
Commons Causes of Why Cats Scratch So Much & How to Stop It
1. Flea Allergies
Many cats are allergic to flea saliva. When a flea bites them, and their skin and bloodstream are exposed to the flea’s saliva, their immune system overreacts. An overactive immune system can result in extensive and prolonged itching, licking, and scratching episodes. The scratching may be accompanied by other signs of flea allergies, such as skin rash, hair loss, scabs, sores, and raised bumps, often around the tail base, rump area, head, and neck.
Cats may lick so much that skin sores appear and hair falls out. Even cats not allergic to flea saliva will itch and scratch when infested with fleas, but their skin irritation won’t be as severe as in cats that are allergic.
2. Airborne Allergies or Atopy
Another reason your cat might be scratching frequently is airborne allergies or atopic dermatitis. Cats can be allergic to pollen, other environmental allergens, and dust mites. In humans, atopy is commonly described as hay fever and exhibits runny eyes and sneezing, but cats typically show their discomfort by scratching themselves, sometimes incessantly.
3. Food Allergies
Food allergies can affect cats, and excessive scratching is a prime sign. Some cats are allergic to beef, while others are allergic to pork or chicken. The proteins in cat foods can be responsible for cats’ allergy reactions.
The signs of food allergies in cats include chronic skin inflammation and scratching, digestive issues, flatulence, upper respiratory signs, sneezing, coughing, ocular and nasal discharge, and others. Often, cats will suffer from a combination of allergic skin diseases, such as atopy and a food allergy, making it more challenging to manage their signs.
Scabies is a skin disease brought on by parasites called Notoedres cati in cats, but it may also be affected by the canine scabies Sarcoptes scabiei. It is incredibly contagious, and if left untreated, it can result in the development of crusty lesions starting on the ears, head, and neck and spreading over the whole body, along with consistent scratching.
This disease will not go away on its own, and until it is eradicated, the lesions and scratching will not only stick around but also worsen. Luckily, it is quite rare.
5. Other Mites
Ear and burrowing mites can cause scratching problems for your cat. Ear mites live inside the ear canal and can be highly irritating. The irritation drives cats to scratch their ears incessantly as time goes on. Burrowing mites eat the surface of a cat’s skin away, which causes irritation and scratching.
Both types of mites can be transferred to other animals and even humans, so your cat should be treated as soon as possible after the first sign of mites is noticed. Another species commonly seen in catteries and multi-cat households is Cheyletiella mites or walking dandruff. Scaling of the skin, crusts, and bumps are commonly present on the back of cats suffering from the mites. Some cats show no signs of infestation but transmit the mites to other pets and people.
6. Stress Overgrooming
Cats are affected by minor changes in their routines or environment, such as a new pet, the arrival of a baby, changes in their litter box location or litter material, noise, new furniture, and more. This can cause some cats to hide, stop eating, or lick and groom themselves excessively to comfort themselves. It can lead to skin sores and wounds, hair loss, and, in some cases, skin infections.
Pyoderma is a condition that involves puss buildup in the skin. The illness may result from various health conditions, including infections, allergies, and cancers. Luckily, it is not a common condition in cats, but any of the previously mentioned causes, such as allergies and skin parasites, through itching, licking, and self-trauma, may lead to pyoderma if left untreated. But if it does develop, it typically results in bacterial overgrowth on the skin and signs of scratching.
Hair loss and scaling, crusts, sores, bumps, and draining wounds on the back and the base of the tail are other signs of pyoderma to watch out for.
There are many reasons that your cat might be scratching. It is essential to schedule a checkup with your veterinarian as soon as possible so you can get to the bottom of the problem once and for all. Your vet will prescribe your cat the appropriate and prompt treatment based on their diagnosis so they can finally feel better and their skin can recover.
You should speak to your vet before considering home remedies that have not been proven to work in cats, as they may worsen their skin issue and delay getting the treatment they need.
Featured Image Credit: Susan Santa Maria, Shutterstock