My Cat Won't Stop Scratching!
What can I do?
Skin allergies, itchy skin and the accompanying scratching is probably one of the most difficult complaints a cat owner has to deal with because it can be triggered by various causes…
Skin allergies, itchy skin and the accompanying scratching is probably one of the most difficult complaints to deal with because it can be triggered by various causes. When the allergy takes hold the immune system reacts and goes into overdrive.
Allergic reactions appear to have become more prevalent these days and it can be distressing for the cat owner trying to cope with seeing their cat in constant discomfort.
So firstly – how do you pinpoint what triggered the allergy and secondly what can you do to treat it.
What Are The Signs
The obvious signs of course is the constant or sparodic scratching in an attempt to relieve the itchiness. A skin rash may be present and you may observe your cat licking its paws. In severe cases redness, inflammation, hair loss and skin lesions can occur.
Cats have sensitive and complex systems. Skin allergies can be triggered by the slightest changes in their routine, diet and environment with stress sometimes being a contributing factor.
Despite popular belief dairy products are not part of a cat’s natural diet and can and indeed do cause allergic reactions.
Milk, cream, cheese and yoghurt should be avoided, not only can they cause alleergic reactions such as skin irritations they can also cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Fish, although we often think this is fine, can also be a trigger in some cats. Simeon my Siamese had a bad reaction to Pollock while he was fine with Coley fish.
Of all the meats, beef is the most common allergen for cats and is the reason I have always avoided buying my cats any food containing it.
Commercial cat food has become far removed from the natural diet of cats with many containing unnecessary additives: chemical anti-oxidants, mould inhibitors, artificial preservative and colourants. Dry food in particular is highly processed and contains a fraction of the moisture content of wet food – this in itself it a reason to avoid it. Cats, unlike dogs, are not natural drinkers. In the wild most of the moisture they require to stay hydrated comes from the blood of their prey.
External parasites, fleas and dust mites can trigger allergies. Therein you have a two-edged sword. Occasionally a cat will react to the very product you are using to eliminate the parasites. Flea treatment powders, collars infused with insecticides, flea drops which are applied onto the skin at the base of the neck and penetrates into the bloodstream can all be culprits.
In cats, Atopy is an hereditary disease. This allergen is convoluted, it involves systems and cells, Cytokines and T-cells. It is these cells that release lgE antibody.
The allergic reaction is triggered when lgE meets with the allergen. This in turn triggers mast cells to secrete Leukotrienes, Histamines and substance P into the system. The result is inflammation and itching commonly known as Pruritis.
So What Can You Do To Help Your Cat?
The first thing is to ascertain what caused the allergy.
Many cat owners make the mistake of believing their cat’s allergic reaction was triggered by a sudden change in diet when the actual cause is the food they’ve been feeding their cats for a number of years. In such cases an improvement can be seen soon after regular food is eliminated and a completely new diet is introduced. Especially so if the new diet consists of a more natural, low or non-carbohydrate and high meat content food with unnecessary chemical additives, which may be the cause of allergies in the first place.
Eliminate Possible Allergen Triggers
First eliminate the following:
- Dairy, milk, cream, yoghurt
- Carbohydrates: rice, corn wheat, soya
- Treats containing any of the above
If after a few weeks the allergy persists then it could be the regular food. If your cat’s regular food contains chicken and or fish try giving food without these in it. If after doing this your cat still shows no change then you will need to be looking at other possibilities.
Breaking the flea cycle.
Check your cat for flea dirt. Use a flea comb and a clean piece of white paper. Any dirt. debris that you gather on the paper, rub your finger over it, if it turns red it’s flea dirt (dried blood).
Eliminating the flea cycle is crucial if your cat’s allergy is due to fleas. As aforementioned, for some cats who react to chemicals in conventional flea treatments this is a two-edged sword. In such cases your only option is to opt for more natural solutions.
Non invasive solutions
Fleas don’t actually live on your cat 24/7. They live in your home and jump onto your cat (and you) when they need blood. Fleas can lay dormant in empty houses with flea infestation for years, only to resurface when new hosts take up residence. Fleas like hot humid conditions and invade gardens when the weather conditions are favourable. Ants are enemies of fleas so if you have them, unless they are a nuisance to you, leave them be.
You need to do all you can to stop the flea cycle, this includes:
Placing a saucer of soapy water (washing up liquid in water) in the middle of the room overnight. Place a light over it, a lamp is ideal and safest or a battery operated light. The fleas will be attracted to it and go into the soapy solution. This will help but is not the total solution.
Diatomaceous earth is another natural solution. A powder which can be sprinkled into crevices and edges of carpets around the skirting boards of your home.
Prior to doing this thoroughly vacuum all areas. A tip is to put a flea collar inside the vacuum bag so that any fleas sucked up will not survive. Dispose of the bag safely.
Wash all bedding on a fairly high temperature or dispose of the bedding responsibly by burning it (safely and securely) and buying new. Same with your cat’s beds too.
New Diet Trial
If you suspect a food allergy then you need to stop your cat’s regular food and introduce a new hypo-allergenic diet or one that is least likely to trigger an allergy.
I suggest feeding a good, high meat content no carbohydrates food. One such food is Nature’s Menu. They have cat food without the above allergen triggers.
COUNTRY HUNTER Duck and Pheasant
COUNTRY HUNTER Turkey and Rabbit
If you know your cat is fine with Salmon then their raw bits are also a good choice:
TRUE INSTINCT Raw Bites Turkey with Salmon
Avaiable from selected pet food stores and direct from Natures Menu: https://www.naturesmenu.co.uk/
These foods are only suggestions, you can choose your own of course so long as they don’t contain any of the above listed food in the possible allergen triggers. Once you decide on your cats new diet, if you have a fussy cat then it might take patience to complete the transition. On the other hand you might find your cat takes to the new food straight away. Stick to the new diet for about three months. If after this time your cat is still scratching then the food is not the cause of the allergy.
Other Things To Consider Doing
Essential fatty acids is the number one supplement to consider giving your cat to help the scratching. It is excellent for skin conditions. If you give no other supplement do consider this one. They assist in lowering inflammation associated with skin irritations.
Salmon Oil is a good one providing you know your cat is not allergic to Salmon.
Lintbells YuMEGA Cat Supplement being just one good one.
A good non fish source is: LUPO SAN’s LupoDerm.
Another excellent non fish source is: HEMP OIL FEED (can also be used topically).
All of these supplements are available from Zooplus
An infusion of Camomile flowers is soothing to the skin. Apply with soft cotton pad to the affected areas.
Calendula is another soothing herb.
You can get both these in ointment form but before purchasing do read the label and check for any unnecessary additives. Otherwise stick with the natural infusions and preferably use organic herbs
Hymalayan Crystal Salt is another excellent soothing topical treatment. Just add a pinch to warm water and apply with cotton pad. DO NOT use common table salt (Sodium Chloride) it has anti-caking agent and does not have the full spectrum of minerals like Hymalayan Crystal Salt, which is what provides the additional soothing and healing properties. Salt can be drying to the skin and so do not use too often and always use a mild solution.
Be especially cautious if your cat doesn’t have an Elizabethan Collar attached (cone) because your cat will lick the area and ingest the salt. Hence a mild solution and not too often.
In this case it is probably best to stick with applying pure HEMP OIL to the affected areas.
Share this with your cat loving friends…
The above are suggestions only and are not intended to treat, cure or replace veterinary treatment. If you are concerned always seek the advice of your veterinary surgeon. Never attempt to diagnose and or treat any condition yourself.