Cat scratching itself

If a cat scratches itself frequently and its skin or fur have changed, you should determine the cause.

Itchiness can cause cats a lot of discomfort. Animals often injure themselves when scratching, and these injuries, in turn, can become infected and inflamed. Significant itchiness represents a problem which must be taken seriously and should be investigated by a vet.

Causes of scratching

It often makes sense to create a list of possible causes, based on the evident symptoms. Not all itchiness is caused by fleas, for example, although fleas are very often part of the problem and flea treatment often comprises part of the therapy. Causes can also include food allergies, fungal infections, bacteria, foreign bodies, neurological disorders, hormonal imbalances and tumours. Sometimes several factors can be causing problems at the same time, for example if the skin has been previously damaged by a fungal infection and bacteria subsequently also infect the area.

Treating chronic cases

A systematic approach is especially important in difficult or chronic cases. You should not become disheartened too prematurely as it can often take some time before the cat responds to treatment. In Germany, the Chamber of Veterinary Surgeons for each federal state can provide pet owners with a list of vets who are specialised in the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions (dermatology).

Reasons for prolonged periods of scratching

When parasites such as fleas and mites as well as other micro-organisms and contact allergies have been excluded, a food allergy should be considered as a possible cause. Itchiness is triggered by so-called allergens, i.e. water-soluble proteins or sugars attached to proteins (glycoproteins), which are thermostable. Although all proteins in animal food can be antigens, it is often a small proportion that have an effect as allergens. All foodstuffs an animal is regularly fed have the potential to trigger an allergy. Identified food allergens include beef, dairy products, wheat, poultry, lamb and soya. Many pet owners also believe colourings and preservatives are the cause of allergies. As yet there is no scientific evidence to support these beliefs, however. Nevertheless, additives can act as partial antigens.

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