Help our scabby cat!
November 30, 2012 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Kitty with long-term it self-harm or for an actual physical reason?

We've owned Kishiru (pictured in her younger and slimmer days) for almost 12 years and she's 12. Starting about age 4, we were noticing scabs on the back of her neck and assumed that our other cat was being bitey and mean. Other cat eventually met his end, and yet we were still seeing these scabs on the back of her neck. They'd heal, but then new ones would appear. We never see her doing anything major to that area, but she does scratch at it some with her back claws.

Fast-forward to this week. She apparently did something to her face, because now she has a pretty big gash on one "cheek." Mr. altopower noticed her scratching at it and she had already ripped the scab off and it was bleeding a bit.

She does not have fleas, she doesn't seem stressed. Everything else is normal with her.

So, I'm guessing we're going to have to traumatize her with a vet visit, but I thought I'd check with AskMe to see if anyone had dealt with this. Eight years of scabby scratchy cat is too much, especially if she's having issues we could do something about.
posted by altopower to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
i've seen this with kitties who have sensitive skin or even skin allergies. even one flea bite will result in itchiness and scabs. is Kishiru otherwise itchy? like if you scratch her at the base of her tail, does she go nuts in ecstasy?
posted by hollisimo at 2:42 PM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

What a pretty kitty.

My kitty Eartha gets pretty aggressive with scratching. I just assume that she's like me, winter makes her itchy. Sometimes she cuts herself. The last time she did it close to her eye and the vet said that it was just a boo-boo but to keep an eye on it.

Every now and then she begs to be 'scritchled' where I kind of scratch her all over, fast and slightly aggressively and she acts like it's a slice of heaven. I Furrminate her and while she complains about being held and brushed, she seems to like the end result of about a pound of loose fur being removed.

I'd take her in, but some kitties are just scritchy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:48 PM on November 30, 2012

My eldest used to do that all the time - it was gross - and it went away completely when I switched her to grain-free food. (The vet had said it was most likely an allergy, and after some trial and error a lot of her weirder problems went away with different food. She also used to lick all the fur off her belly, which seems to be partly stress and partly skin itchiness.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:49 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sounds like hot spots, which a former cat of mine endured off and on. There are commercially-available topical treatments that are mostly intended to keep your cat from irritating the area, but I'd check with a vet first to see if allergies are the cause.
posted by trunk muffins at 2:52 PM on November 30, 2012

I am seconding allergies and also restless nomad's advice of going grain free. If your pet store sells raw food, I would try that, both of our cat's skin problems disappeared after we switched them just partially over (they still eat a small amount of kibble). They also both love it, which wasn't the case with a lot of canned food we tried along the way.
posted by nanook at 3:01 PM on November 30, 2012

Earlier this year my cat went from pretty cat to scabby cat in the space of a few months. She also licked off all of the fur she could reach. All of it. She's only 6, but all of a sudden everyone assumed she was elderly and/or dying. The vet's first guess was depression, then a severe flea allergy but when she didn't respond to either treatment we switched her to a grain-free food. She had her full coat back in under a month and hasn't been even a little bit scabby since. She eats Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea and Salmon Formula. It's a bit pricey but absolutely worth it to have the softest cat ever back.
posted by I'myourMuppet at 3:11 PM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

My old cat had a similar experience to other cats mentioned here. Scratched herself to bits for awhile, then a vet suggested that cats can acquire food allergies if you feed them the same food day in day out, and that the best thing to do is feed better quality and, ideally, grain-free food. (Cat food allergies tend to manifest themselves as skin issues, q.e.d.)

I changed her food and she recovered and was fine afterwards.
posted by zadcat at 3:33 PM on November 30, 2012

Both of my cats had those neck bumps and excessive scratching behavior, and our vet suggested that it was food allergy related. They were already grain-free and on wet food at the time, but through experimentation we found that they were both allergic to poultry of all things! Our boys now eat Natural Balance venison and green pea canned food, and the only times their bumps/excessive scratching behavior come back is when they have been at the cat sitter (where undoubtedly they are sneaking food from other cats).
posted by joan_holloway at 3:36 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Interesting...I hadn't thought about the food. We upped the quality of her food about a year and a half ago, though it's not grain-free. She eats exclusively dry food, which I know isn't a great thing. We do give her wet food every so often (maybe once a month)...right now we have the Chicken Soup for the Soul canned food and she loooooooooves it.

Maybe we'll try switching the food on a trial basis and see what happens...if it doesn't clear up we'll try the vet.
posted by altopower at 3:39 PM on November 30, 2012

Ahh, poor kitty. One of my cats can get this as a seasonal thing where she was OK on her regular food until her immune system was stressed by a second allergy (ragweed was suspected in her case) and then her skin went bumpy/scabby. Nthing a change in her food. You might have to experiment a bit, it's helpful to keep a food diary: start with a grain free diet and be super careful not to feed her table scraps or treats and work through a process of elimination from there.

My dog also has this issue, turns out the big bonehead reacts poorly to beef.
posted by jamaro at 3:44 PM on November 30, 2012

One of my cats had the same problem. I had to try several different grain-free kibbles before we found one that he didn't react to. It was the most expensive one, of course. If he gets over to our other cats in the workshop and eats even a few kibbles of Whiskas, though, it all comes back.
posted by bluebelle at 8:40 PM on November 30, 2012

My vet says a lot of cats have allergies to fish, which astounds me greatly.
posted by Jacen at 9:16 PM on November 30, 2012

She is so sweet!

I'm nthing food allergy. My girl had the same problem. We switched to a hypo allergenic food from the vet and it was all good.
posted by it's a long way to south america at 9:46 AM on December 1, 2012

I finally got to the pet food store yesterday and had a long talk with one of the employees there. I ended up getting the Instinct Raw frozen food on the employee's advice. Shr said it might take a couple of weeks to notice a difference, but that it would be a huge change in her scratching and weight in the long run, while also increasing her hydration levels. Kishi had the first disk thing this morning and seemed to really like it. We'll still be giving her a little bit of the dry food per day as well.

I'm interested to see what happens.
posted by altopower at 6:38 AM on December 15, 2012

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