Why is my cat scratching himself?


If your cat is scratching himself he may have fleas, allergies or a skin condition. Read on to find out why you cat is scratching.

If your cat is regularly scratching himself, it may be that he has fleas. It's nothing to be ashamed of - the cleanest cats and the smartest homes can be affected. And fleas can be an year-round problem, so don't just expect to see them in the summer.

Groom your cat thoroughly - ideally outside - and look for small specs of dirt which are flea droppings. You can check for certain by putting them onto a damp tissue - they'll turn a reddish-brown which is the blood they've sucked from your cat!

You may see live fleas too. Fine-toothed cat combs are useful for removing flea dirts and fleas. (Catch the latter and drop into a bowl of water!)

Once you have ascertained that your cat has fleas, you will need to treat him, and any other cats in the household. Ask your vet about spot-on style products. Read and follow the instructions on the label of any product you use very carefully and store them safely. You will need a household flea spray or powder to treat your home as fleas lay their eggs in soft furnishings such as curtains and sofas, as well as in carpets of course. Again, follow the instructions carefully and repeat when necessary, according to the specific product you've chosen. Always make sure you use flea treatment designed for cats -those designed for dogs are toxic to cats.

If your cat continues to itch and scratch after the flea products have been given the chance to work, it's worth taking your cat to the vet for a check-up. Some cats develop an allergy to flea bites and the presence of just one insect can set them off.

Content continues after advertisements

Other causes of itching include other insect bites (mites for example), an allergy to an element of your cat's diet, feline acne (on the face) or rarely, a bacterial problem. Your vet will be able to guide you in treatments and on feeding specific diets to eliminate the cause if a food allergy is thought to be the cause. Trial and error, along with lots of patience, is usually required.

If your cat claws and scratches at his face it's possible that he may have discomfort with his teeth and/or gums, so take him along to your vet as soon as possible for examination and treatment.

Veterinary experts are currently researching a recently recognized behavioural issue known as Feline Orofacial Pain Syndrome (FOPS), which may be another option as a cause for face scratching. It can be brought on by teething in kittenhood, or may develop in adulthood. 

Scratching can be distressing to watch and cats can rip their skin raw, so if your cat's scratching is an ongoing problem, and particularly while the cause is being sought, then your vet will be able to advise on options for minimizing the damage your cat is causing to himself.