Why is my cat scratching?

Written by Carolanne Ciccero RVN
January 13, 2022

Allergies in cats 

Allergies in cats or allergic dermatitis is when a pet’s immune system is triggered by an allergen. To most pets these allergens are harmless but a pet with allergies will have an extreme reaction to them. For example, some cats are affected by allergies all year round while other are only itchy at particular times of the year, similar to us as a human suffering with hay fever. In summary, it is not always possible to find the single trigger of an allergy. As the pet owner may suspect a particular event to have been the cause of the allergy. 

Common allergens

  • Flea/insect saliva (from bites) 
  • Pollen 
  • Trees 
  • Grass 
  • House dust mites  
  • Household products 
  • Certain foods 

 Common signs

  • Itchy skin 
  • Licking or biting one area 
  • Rashes 
  • Fur loss 
  • Scabs 
  • Itchy/runny eyes 

 Top Tips to help your cat with allergies 

These are some simple steps you can take at home to improve your pet’s skin health.  

  • Firstly ensure all pets in the household are treated for fleas every month all year round, many treatments can be ineffective and it's best to consult your vet who can advise the best treatment and use a household flea spray, which will kill any fleas and help to control house dust mites too. 
  • Vacuum regularly to reduce dust and mites.
  • Ensure that you clean your pet’s bed regularly and rinse well so your cat doesn’t react to any soap/powder residue 
  • Use a supplement to reduce itchy skin (ask your vet or vet nurse for details) Identifying the cause of itchy skin can take time but itch relief can be provided whilst investigations take place. 
  • For cats that are sensitive to pollen and other outdoor irritants try to tailor the times when you let them outside. Pollen count is usually at its lowest between 5am and 10am. 
  • Every time your cat has been outside, wipe their feet with a damp towel. which can help prevent pollen and other irritants being brought into the home. 
  • Ensure you always follow your vet's recommendation about recheck appointments. 
  • Avoid your pet coming into contact with anything that you suspect is an allergy trigger. 
  • Often in the case of skin allergies, treatment is likely to be more about long-term management and prevention rather than finding a cure. Many cats will need long-term anti-itch medication. 
  • Food allergies or intolerances can be tested for by carrying out a dietary exclusion trial. This involves feeding your pet an alternative diet for a period of 6-8 weeks. The choice of food is very important and your vet will advise you on the most appropriate diet to use. 

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