Feline Itching | Cat Itching – Causes
Fleas and flea bites are often the first culprits that come to mind when cat owners observe incessant feline itching (known as pruritis). However, fleas are not the only cause. Allergies also cause excessive feline itching. So do certain skin diseases referred to as “itchy skin diseases.” Skin diseases-and feline itching-commonly plague cats. Every cat has a unique itching threshold, reached when the biochemical reaction to a particular stressor stimulates the nerves and the cat’s brain to feel the itching sensation.
An allergy to flea saliva left behind on the skin after a bite causes flea allergy dermatitis. A cat does not have to suffer a flea infestation to react this way; even a couple of bites every few weeks can trigger a bout of feline itching. Not all cats are actually allergic to flea saliva, either; the presence of the flea itself can trigger feline itching in non-allergic cats. However, the itching in non-allergic cats is less severe than it is in allergic cats.
Atophy, which is an allergic reaction to airborne substances that trigger feline itching, occurs when a sensitive cat comes into contact with dust, pollen, mites and mold. Experts consider atophy an inherited itchy skin disease. Allergens may be absorbed through either the skin or the respiratory system; path of entry does not matter. Feline itching follows soon thereafter as the cat’s system begins to react. Diagnosis of this disease is usually difficult.
Food allergy causes the same reaction as atophy does and is uncommon in cats. Beef, chicken, eggs, fish and milk are the most common food allergens that trigger feline itching and do not have to have been recently introduced to the diet to set off an allergic reaction. Experience shows that approximately 70 percent of affected cats were exposed to the allergen for more than two years prior to the appearance of their first reaction. Insect allergy (insect bite hypersensitivity) and contact allergies (reactions to an allergen touching the skin) are even less common in cats and instigate a feline itching attack when they do occur.
Parasitic skin diseases cause excessive feline itching in the infected cat. Scabies, or sarcoptic mange, is a highly contagious condition caused by a microscopic mite that invades the skin surface of healthy young animals. The infestation triggers intense pruritis that does not respond to standard treatment, leaving the cat to bite and scratch at itself in an attempt to get rid of the mites. Lesions may appear on ears, elbows, ankles, chest and abdomen.
Other causes of feline itching include:
- Ear mites, which are highly contagious, crab-like parasites that settle in the ears and heads of infected cats and the most common mite to affect cats;
- Cheyletiellosis¸ caused by an infestation of the cheyletiella mite;
- Demodectic mange, an uncommon disease caused by the demodex mite that results in hair loss and dermatitis and secondary infections that trigger feline itching; and
- Notoedric mange, which is a contagious disease caused by a mite similar to the scabies mite.
Lesions may develop in some of these conditions.
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