Skin Irritations in Cats

Skin Irritations in Cats
Skin Irritations in Cats (Image: Kelsey Shipman)

Skin irritation in cats occurs frequently. Though there are many possible causes, an allergy is almost always to blame. It is important to monitor your cat's health and treat symptoms as soon as they arise. Skin irritations can be dangerous if not treated, because excessive scratching and biting can lead to bleeding and infections.


Cats can demonstrate a wide range of skin irritation symptoms ranging from mild to severe. They may experience itching in one specific area or all over their bodies. Small or large irritated bumps, redness, loss of hair, pus-filled blisters or dandruff are also signs of irritated skin.


Skin irritations are most often caused by one of four types of allergies---contact, flea, food or inhalant. Ingestion of or contact with these allergens can cause an overreaction in the body. Excessive insect bites (fleas, ticks or chiggers) can also cause itching and discomfort. Several feline diseases also manifest as skin irritation. Dermatitis, memodectic mange, hypothyroidism, acne and cellulitis are possible causes.


Food allergies often cause general itching over the entire body of the cat. Cats are rarely born with food allergies but develop them from exposure to the same food over a long period of time. Other cats are allergic to the saliva of fleas and react with swelling and intense itching to a single bite. Contact allergies to bedding or flea collars affect just the area of contact. Felines can also be allergic to the same inhalant allergens as humans---dust, ragweed, cedar, pollen, mold and mildew. Allergies often affect multiple systems of the body at once, including the respiratory tract and mucus membranes.


For allergies, owners may have to search out the exact substance causing the allergic reaction. Try completely removing a possible allergen from your cat's diet (such as wheat or pork) until the symptoms stop. Keep strict control over fleas, and remove any irritating substances from beds and collars. Bathing with hypoallergenic shampoo can ease symptoms and prevent onset of allergic reactions. In extreme cases, your cat may require steroid injections to block severe allergic reactions.


Pay attention to your cat and notice the times of year and types of food eaten when he gets sick. Feed your cat a variety of wet and dry food to prevent the onset of dietary allergies. Regular bathing is also helpful in keeping insects away and removing unwanted substances.


When your cat becomes ill, always check with your veterinarian. Infections resulting from intense scratching can be dangerous and lead to serious health problems. In severe cases, skin irritation can be a sign of feline diseases only treatable with prescription medication.

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