cat can't stop scratching

Itch, Itch, Itch – When Your Cat Can’t Stop Scratching

Understanding Itching in Cats

If your cat spends a large portion of his time scratching, he may have a condition known as pruritus, or itching, an unpleasant sensation that causes your cat to scratch or bite at himself. It is caused by chemical reactions that occur in the skin and stimulate the nerves, causing the brain to feel the itch. In fact, the act of scratching itself may stimulate these inflammatory reactions in the skin and make the condition worse. Any skin condition that causes inflammation can cause pruritus.

How pruritis affects your cat’s health depends on the degree of the pruritus. Mild pruritus may hardly have any effect at all. However, severe pruritis leads to intense scratching, which may result in painful skin lesions that may become infected.

Every cat has a threshold of pruritis or an “itch threshold.” This is the point where all of the sources of itching finally add up to enough irritation to cause the irresistible urge to scratch. Scratching begins when the stimulation exceeds that threshold. For example, a cat with a mild allergy to house dust mites may be below the threshold but may begin to scratch severely when he becomes infested with fleas.

Pruritus is associated with other skin diseases, including secondary bacterial skin infections (pyoderma) and secondary yeast infections. But it is the main symptom of skin conditions like allergies and skin parasites.

Allergic Skin Diseases in Cats

Parasitic Skin Diseases in Cats

Other Causes of Itching in Cats

What To Watch For

Veterinary Care for Itching Cats

The key to treating pruritis is to identify and treat the underlying cause. Your veterinarian may want to perform some diagnostic tests to determine the cause. The condition may be relieved with medication but the itching often recurs after the medication is finished.

At Home Care

At home your care will be aimed at preventing pruritis by keeping your cat’s coat clean and brushed free of mats. Consult with your veterinarian to establish a complete flea control program. If your cat is being treated for pruritis, administer all prescribed medication and follow all your veterinarian’s instructions.