Does your cat lick its fur off? Is she constantly scratching herself or stopping mid-play to intensely lick or scratch? Is your cat vomiting a lot of hairballs? These are all abnormal signs that may point to skin disease which are fairly common in our pets. Even for those animals that are ‘strictly’ indoors, skin problems such as fleas, fungal and allergies can arise. With careful examination and thorough history, we will hopefully narrow down the list of possible etiologies, rule in or out common problems and develop a plan to help you and your cat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Did you know the medical word for hairball is ‘trichobezoar’ (trike-co-be-zoar)? Cats have fabulous gastrointestinal systems that can normally handle a lot of ingested fur. But, when your cat is vomiting more frequently than what we consider “normal” (about 2 times per month), there may be something else going on. Underlying disease such as intestinal diseases, allergies (food or environmental), metabolic diseases, skin problems, and others should be screened for before your cat’s symptoms become even more severe.
Fleas or other ectoparasites can find many ways to enter your house. We can bring them or their eggs in on our shoes and coats. If you have a dog that goes outside, he can bring them in. In apartment situations, fleas can very easily migrate through carpeting from one unit to another. Many times we do not see fleas on our pets because cats often ingest them through grooming. Fleas do not actually live on the animal. They live in the animals bedding or carpet and are only go to the animal to feed. Fleas can transmit intestinal parasites (tapeworms), be very inconvenient to clean up after and can even cause life-threatening anemia in young or compromised patients. The best practice is to keep your indoor and outdoor animals on parasite prevention year round. In addition to fleas, monthly parasite control prevents heartworm, ear mites, and many gastrointestinal parasites. In a nutshell, we have safe and effective flea preventative available for cats. It’s much easier to prevent these problems than to fix them once they develop!
Cats can overgroom or undergroom for many reasons. Unfortunately, there is no direct testing for compulsive licking or hair-puling. Instead we have to rule in or out other causes of overgrooming before concluding it is due to compulsive behavior. Other reasons cats my over (or under) groom include: allergies, skin infections, endocrine disorders and pain. We see many cats at CCC that have “overgroomed” all their lives before coming to us, and now have full, luxurious fur…in all areas!
Being overweight can certainly affect a cat’s skin and coat due to the difficulty of grooming. However, there are other reasons cats may not groom themselves appropriately. Medical and skin problems as discussed earlier must be ruled how. However, we find many cats that suffer from back, hip, or limb degenerative bone disease (arthritis) which are simply too sore to get into position to groom themselves properly. At CCC, we screen all cats for arthritis and find many that have been undiagnosed. There is an array of safe supplements and also prescription medications that can dramatically improve your cat’s comfort and quality of life if they suffer from arthritis pain. In turn, the grooming is likely to improve when this is the case. Please don’t brush off (no pun intended!) lack of grooming to laziness in your feline friend!