Do you have a scratching cat? Cats can scratch for many reasons. Fleas remain the most common cause of skin disease in cats and are usually the cause of itchy skin in your feline.

But the causes of excessive scratching in cats can be due to other factors. And in some cases, in cats, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between skin disease due to pruritus and skin disease induced by other causes.

For example, in humans and dogs, hair loss is almost always hormonal. However, in cats, hormonal skin disease is so rare that it is practically non-existent.

Cat scratching: The different causes

If the hormonal problems are not related to the cat’s self-scratching, many other causes can cause it:

Milia dermatitis

This form of skin disease is characterized by the presence of tiny scabs 2-3 mm in diameter over the entire surface of the body. The skin and coat may also be oily and have excessive dandruff.

What to do ?

The only solution is to go to the veterinarian so that he provides a basic treatment to solve the problem. In the meantime, you can brush your cat with a dedicated dandruff comb to prevent it from multiplying. In addition, you can give him an anti-dandruff shampoo for cats, and therefore adapted to his skin, to cleanse the area and prevent him from scratching.

Granuloma complex

This is a variety of lesions commonly associated with allergies. All of these manifestations of pruritus look completely different, but can all be caused by the same things – in most cases the cause is fleas, but other parasites and allergies can be involved. Some cats may have more than one disease manifestation present simultaneously, for example, an indolent ulcer and symmetrical hair loss

What to do?

Here too, a visit to the veterinarian will be essential, but you can act upstream by giving him an anti-parasitic and leaving him inside so that he avoids getting into the tall grass, which is often full of fleas. But be careful, because even indoor cats can catch them, via mosquitoes that contain larvae for example.


A food allergy

No one knows the exact mechanisms by which certain foods can cause itching in animals and humans. An allergy may be involved, but in some cases it is possible that the pruritus results from chemical reactions to the food or to additives and preservatives. If you recently changed their diet, go back to the old one because that’s probably the cause (unless the change in food is due to a problem with the old one).

What to do ?

Changing the diet can cure some cases of skin disease. This involves removing the foods that your cat is intolerant to.

Cats may need an alternate diet for a period of 6-8 weeks to get rid of food-related dermatitis, and the choice of food is important.

It’s not just about switching from one brand of cat food to another, as the ingredients are often very similar.

Your vet will advise you on the most appropriate diet to use – this may be a home prepared diet or your vet may suggest a special ‘hypoallergenic’ diet. Many cats also hunt or may be fed by neighbours, which can make switching difficult as it is important that no other foods are eaten during the period when new foods are tested and others removed to find the specific cause.

The ideal is to cut it from the outside to see the effects of the new diet and see if when it comes out the problems reappear. If he eats something outside that he is intolerant of, feed him before he goes outside.


Atopy is not well characterized in cats. In humans and dogs, the term is strictly used to describe an inherited predisposition to develop allergic reactions to environmental allergens (such as pollen and house dust).

Pollen and house dust allergies occur in cats and can be a potential cause of excessive scratching, but they are difficult to diagnose and it is not known if there is a hereditary component to the condition.

What to do ?

A visit to the veterinarian is necessary. In most cats, atopy is diagnosed by excluding other potential causes of pruritus, including fleas and other parasites, and food.

Allergy testing can be done on cats (e.g. intra-dermal skin testing ) but the results are rather unreliable. Blood tests are also offered by some laboratories to « diagnose » atopy and the underlying cause of the allergy, but they are less reliable than skin tests.

Atopy is incurable and lifelong medication is needed to prevent unacceptable discomfort. Treatment with essential fatty acids and antihistamines is successful in only a minority of cases. Many cats require long-term corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive drugs such as cyclosporine.

If an allergy test has successfully identified the offending allergen, then a ‘hyposensitization vaccine’ can be used as therapy – these rarely resolve the condition but in some cases reduce the need for treatment medicated.

Insect bites

Insects such as wasps and bees can cause stings that lead to itchy, painful, and swollen cat skin. Certain other insects, including fleas, gnats, flies and mosquitoes, can bite and the reaction to the bite (or the insect’s saliva) can cause intense irritation and itching.

Flying insects usually bite relatively hairless areas such as the bridge of the nose and the ears. Notably, mosquitoes have been reported to cause an eosinophilic granuloma-like reaction on the bridge of the nose in some cats (mosquito bite hypersensitivity).

What to do ?

Go to the veterinarian to prescribe antihistamines or even corticosteroids to solve the problem.


Mites that enter the ears are the main cause of otitis externa (inflammation of the ear) in young cats and in breeding colonies – see common ear problems in cats.

However, it is also possible for the mites to wander onto the skin around the head and neck and cause an itchy skin condition in those places. When cats sleep curled up, spread of infection (and subsequent dermatitis) to the rump and tail can also occur.

What to do ?

You can already take an anti-mite treatment to have a solution on hand to relieve it without having to scratch until it bleeds. Obviously, if this is not enough or if the scratching is already causing open wounds, the veterinarian is essential.


Field parasites are a recognized cause of skin disease in cats in some areas in late summer and fall. These parasites are visible to the naked eye. You can see them in stool or around his anus.

What to do ?

Deworming your cat is necessary, especially for outdoor cats who are often in contact with many parasites in the foliage. Parasites are dangerous for the cat because they feed on its nutrients and can thus endanger its life.

Bacterial and fungal skin infections

Although bacterial skin disease in cats is rare, it can occur and there are occasional cases of dramatic recovery after antibiotic treatment in pruritic cats. This is unusual, but more work is needed in this area.

Dermatophytosis (infection with a dermatophyte fungal organism) is usually not itchy, but yeast skin infection (Malassezia) can be a problem in some cats – it is often secondary to an allergic skin disease, but yeast can also contribute to pruritus.

What to do ?

These cases require the care of a veterinarian because only medical treatment will be really useful.

Special cases

There are many special cases of cat self-scratching. Here are the most common ones and the answer for each one.

Cat scratching its ears

It is probably an excess of earwax caused by a parasitic infection. It can affect one ear or both. The veterinarian must be consulted because the situation can go as far as the permanent deafness of the cat.

Cat scratching until it bleeds

It is vital to consult a veterinarian because the parasites present on the skin of your cat begin to proliferate and he scratches harder and harder to make them go away.

Cat scratching and licking all the time

Your cat is doing everything it can to get rid of the parasites. There too, it is necessary to consult urgently because if your cat does it all the time, it is because the parasites are more and more numerous in him.

Cat scratching its neck

Cervicofacial pruritus is the major cause of scratching specific to the neck and basic treatment will prevent the development of sometimes spectacular lesions.

Cat scratching and losing hair

Once again, the parasites are at work and more and more numerous. Your cat loses its hair following successive scratchings. It will be necessary to treat his wounds with a cleanser dedicated to the wound of cats which will allow him to feel better.

Cat scratching above eyes

As with the throat, these are parasites that cause cervico-facial pruritus.

Cat running around and scratching

Your cat is suffering more and more intensely from the parasites which are literally driving him crazy, it is urgent to put an end to the problem. Try soothing it with an anti-stress spray for cats and an anti-itch lotion also for cats.

Cat scratching and biting

It is probably a seasonal allergy, but be careful because it can also be stress, and in this case your cat will be very agitated and defensive, an anti-stress spray will calm her down but it will take Either way, address the root cause.

How to stop him from scratching?

To prevent your cat from scratching, there are several simple solutions. The first is to put protective socks on his paws so he won’t scratch himself, and the second is to put a collar on him so he can’t reach his face with his paws, if that’s that area he is scratching. You can then wash it with a cat shampoo which will keep its skin in good condition, except if there are wounds, which will hurt it.

Finally, apply an anti-itching spray for cats to allow him to be relieved while waiting to fix the problem permanently. This will make life easier for him in addition to ensuring that your cat does not see his situation worsen because of scratching.

Also remember that he should not go outside, because in this case, your cat may cause new problems and the itching will increase, especially if he has fleas or parasites. the wounds can also be in contact with harmful elements which could aggravate their condition or cause necrosis.

The final word

A scratching cat is nothing trivial because unlike us, it does not scratch by reflex or to relieve something very regular. Keep an eye on these symptoms and analyze his skin because an appointment with the veterinarian is often essential.