Written by Dr. Candice Bittner, DVM
Cats are tricky, secretive creatures. Even the most sociable cat will tend to do their itching or overgrooming in private. It can be hard to know your cat is itchy if you aren’t seeing them in the act, however there are patterns of symptoms, such as cat overgrooming, which suggest that your cat is uncomfortable.
How to Stop Cat Overgrooming
When cats itch and overgroom they fall into one of three categories:
1. Head and neck pruritus – cat overgrooming of their face/ears/neck and end up with scabs and fur loss in these regions specifically.
2. Military dermatitis – these cats are itchy along their back and sides and tend to have areas of fur loss/thinning at the base of the tail or along the spine.
3. Eosinophilic plaque complexes – these cats have fur loss with moist, red lesions, typically near the groin but this can be near the lips and face.
The majority of itchy cats have an ectoparasite (fleas or ear mites) resulting in flea allergy dermatitis or an ear infection. Before your vet would perform any diagnostics, they would ensure you are using reliable, year-round flea preventative on all cats in the home. Products like Revolution treat for fleas, intestinal parasites, and ear mites, which makes this product a great option for itch control.
In order to stop cat overgrooming, your cat might also needs support to control the itching. This would come in the form of an E-collar to prevent over-grooming and treatment with injectable or oral steroids to break the cycle of inflammation.
Cat Itching but No Fleas?
There are other causes of itching in cats including food allergies, environmental allergies, or a fungal infection called ringworm (dermatophytosis). For those cats on year-round, reliable flea prevention that are still itching, skin diagnostics such as cytology, skin scraping, or fungal cultures might be performed. A veterinarian might suggest a blood test to rule out any hormone-driven diseases manifesting as skin irritation.