How can I stop my cat from scratching?
Cats scratch themselves due to pruritis (itchy skin), and the way to stop scratching is to address the cause of their pruritis. The most common cause of pruritis in cats is FLEAS, and to a lesser degree, other parasites such as skin or ear mites, so if your cat is not receiving regular ectoparasite control this is the first step. Eradicating fleas can take time and persistence, so don’t expect an instantaneous result.
For more information on successfully eradicating fleas in your cat, see the following article (written by yours truly): https://www.australiancatlover.com/2020/09/cat-flea-protection-starting-from.html
Sometimes identifying the cause isn’t that straightforward, and skin conditions can be frustratingly difficult to diagnose and treat, so if your cat is really ripping itself to shreds or distressed by pruritis, veterinary attention is needed. (Consider how long you would last yourself if you were constantly itchy). The most common signs of pruritis in cats are scratching and over-grooming, which can lead to loss of fur and self-mutilation (which can make pruritis even worse).
Skin disease and pruritis are sometimes caused by dietary intolerance, which is an adverse reaction to a particular protein source in the cat’s food. If your vet suspects this then he/she might recommend a dietary trial to try to ascertain whether the condition resolves when your cat is fed a “novel protein diet”, which is food with a protein source which your cat is unlikely to have previously encountered and therefore not developed an allergy to (such as venison). Your vet might also recommend a hypoallergenic diet, in which the proteins have been altered so that they do not cause an allergic reaction. These processes are not something you can do yourself without veterinary advice because there are strict processes involved to increase the likelihood of allergens being correctly identified, and your cat also needs to continue to eat a diet that meets all of its nutritional needs.
Another cause of pruritis is atopic dermatitis, which in cats is often a diagnosis of exclusion (other potential causes have already been ruled out). Skin allergy tests can be performed but these are often inconclusive in identifying a particular allergen. These cats usually need steroids or other drugs to suppress their immune system (which causes them to react to allergens) for the remainder of their lives. If a particular allergen/s is correctly identified, an individualised “vaccine” can be created for your cat, which reduces the need for other drugs but doesn’t eliminate the condition altogether.
Bacterial skin infections are uncommon in cats but can occur; fungal skin infections can also cause pruritis. These also need to be diagnosed and treated by a veterinary professional.
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