Cats are some of the best groomers and can spend up to 30% of their awake time cleaning their coats. As a very general rule of thumb, the healthier a cat’s coat, the healthier they usually are on the inside too. Sometimes however, you may notice that your cat is grooming much more than usual, or potentially evening scratching, and these symptoms may be an indication that they may have a skin condition or allergy that is bothering them. Cats that have itchy, irritated skin will generally increase their grooming habits to help relieve their discomfort. The exact cause of skin problems in cats can take some investigating, but the good news is that there are many treatment options available to help manage their issue and reduce their scratching, including certain diets.
Adverse food reactions to their diet, or from your cat eating something they shouldn’t, can sometimes be the underlying cause of red or itchy patches on you might see on your cat’s skin. These adverse food reactions can also potentially bring about gastrointestinal issues like vomiting or diarrhoea as well. A trip to your local vet is the best way to go when these signs first appear in your cat, so that they can help determine what the cause might be. If your vet decides that a food allergy could be to blame, you will most likely need to undertake a food elimination trial for your cat, to help figure out the potential cause of their allergy, so that it can be avoided in their diet.
What is a food elimination trial?
A food elimination trial involves removing all the potential allergens in your cat’s diet including treats, dinner scraps and even certain chewable medications and toothpastes, over a period of time to see if there is any improvement in their skin issue. To help with this process, a special diet like ROYAL CANIN®’s Anallergenic and Hypoallergenic diets, will generally be recommended by your vet to help your pet avoid these allergic reactions to their food. These diets have been specially formulated to use during these important food elimination trials, and can also be used as complete and balanced nutritional options long term if your cat suffers ongoing food related issues.
The environment your cat lives in everyday can have a big impact on their skin health. Environmental allergies (also known as feline atopy) can cause your cat to constantly scratch because of their sensitivities to a range of different allergens including grasses, pollens and mites. You may see red and irritated patches or small bumps under your cat’s fur and you may notice stained fur in areas they are constantly licking. As many health problems can first present themselves with itchy skin as a symptom, it’s a good idea to head to your vet first to identify the cause and understand the best way to treat the issue. Environmental allergies are often diagnosed once other potential causes (such as adverse food reactions, dermatitis and infection) are ruled out. In cases of environmental allergies, it is often impossible to remove the offending allergen(s) from your cat’s environment, however thankfully certain medications and specially formulated diets can help ease their symptoms. The nutritional management of feline atopy usually includes a combination of nutrients to help protect the skin’s natural barrier role, alongside good amounts of omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil, to help minimise skin inflammation.
For many dogs and cats, skin parasites can be a nuisance and the most common ones we see in cats are fleas and mites. If fleas are the issue, you will see your cat scratching a lot around their hindquarters. In some cases, severe irritation can lead to flea allergy dermatitis if your cat happens to develop an allergy to the flea’s saliva. On the other hand, ear mites are also incredibly common in cats. A strong indication your cat could have ear mites is if you see them scratching at one or both ears a lot, alongside a dark, dry discharge from their ears. If your vet determines parasites are the cause of your cat’s skin issue, then treatment will generally involve treating your cat with an appropriate product, as well as removing the infestation from your cat’s environment. If you would like to know more, please read of our “Common ear problems in cats” blog to learn about the symptoms you should look out for, as well as how best to treat ear mites.
Your vet knows best
All cats will bite or scratch at their skin at times, but if these habits seem excessive and are accompanied by lots of licking or hair loss, it may be a sign of something more troublesome. For any kind of skin issue in your cat, it is always a good idea to check in with your vet to make sure there are no underlying health issues that are presenting themselves as a skin condition. Your vet will be able to give you the best treatment options available, and will help guide you through managing your cat’s problem skin.