Skin problems that cause itching and scratching are one of the most common reasons cat owners seek veterinary attention. Skin problems can be caused by parasites, allergies or an underlying disease. There are numerous home treatments that can help to relieve itchy skin; however, it is important to seek veterinary attention if the skin condition does not improve. Treatment of the underlying cause is often necessary.
One of the most common causes of itchy skin in cats is fleas. Many cats are allergic to fleas and can experience intense itching with just one flea bite. When faced with a flea problem, it is important to remember that flea control requires a three-step approach: the cat's body, the indoor environment and the outdoor environment. Diatomaceous Earth, a mineral dust, is an excellent flea killer that can be used safely indoors and out. Make sure to purchase "food grade," which is designed to be safe around mammals. Spread this over your entire yard; you will want to repeat the application after a heavy rain. Inside, you can sprinkle small amounts around your cat's bedding and on carpets. Just vacuum the area after a couple of days. For fleas that are on your cat, purchase a good quality flea comb and comb your cat daily. Place a small amount of liquid dishwashing soap in a cup of water, and scrape the fleas collected on the comb into the solution. Baby shampoo works well as an all-purpose shampoo for your cat. Allow the shampoo to remain on your cat for several minutes and rinse thoroughly.
Food allergies are a common cause of itchy skin in cats. Most food allergies are caused by corn, wheat, soy, yeast, potato and beef. To determine the exact cause of the food allergy, a food elimination trial should be performed. In this trial, you will feed your cat a specially prepared diet for 30 to 60 days. After this time, one food from his previously fed diet should be added every 2 weeks; this will enable you to pinpoint the cause of the food allergy. The special diet should consist of 50 percent protein, 25 percent vegetables, and 25 complex carbohydrates as well as ½ teaspoon olive or flaxseed oil. Suggested foods can be found by following the link "Home food for cats and dogs" in the resource section. You can modify your cat's diet using the foods listed and continue to feed your cat this diet as long as you wish.
Other causes of itchy skin in cats: kidney disease can lead to dry, itchy skin which is caused by a buildup of toxins in the body that seep through the skin; heart disease, which causes poor oxygen circulation leading to dying skin cells; and, hypothyroidism (low thyroid), which slows the cat's metabolism and leads to slow skin cell growth. Treatment for these diseases requires veterinary attention; however, there are some things you can do to make your cat more comfortable. Aloe vera gel can be applied to areas of broken skin, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar diluted at a 1:3 ratio with water can be poured over your cat's coat (do not use on open sores), and omega 3 and fish oil supplements added top your cat's daily food will help to keep your cat's coat shiny and healthy.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.