why do cats itch when they don't have fleas?
Cat Health and Wellness

Why Do Cats Itch (Without Fleas?)

When a cat is scratching, we naturally assume they have fleas. But this is not always the case. Skin irritation in cats has numerous medical explanations, many of which are unrelated to parasites.

The likeliest explanation for itchy skin in cats is an allergy. You should also check for mites, and learn the symptoms of bacterial infection. If there’s no physical trigger, your cat’s itchy skin is likely due to poor nutrition. Review your pet’s diet, and reduce your cat’s stress level.

If your cat is scratching itself raw, take action immediately. Felines can damage their delicate skin while attempting to ease irritation. Eliminating the cause and add supplements to your pet’s diet. Waiting for a cat’s itchy skin to clear itself isn’t an option as there’s always a reason for the itchiness.

My Cat Keeps Scratching but Doesn’t Have Fleas

If you find no signs of fleas on your cat, check they have not recently vacated. Some cats have itchy skin long after the parasites depart. As Derm Vets explain, this is known as fleabite hypersensitivity.

In many instances, fleas have nothing to do with a cat scratching. Itchy skin is also known as pruritus. Typical explanations of for pruritus in cats include:

  • Allergies. Cats can experience allergic reactions to almost anything. These sensitivities will often manifest as itchy skin.
  • Mites. Some consider mites and fleas interchangeable, but they’re different pests. Mites live in cats ears and toes, making their life a misery.
  • Bites from Other Insects. Just because your cat is devoid of fleas, it doesn’t mean they haven’t been bitten. Spiders, mosquitos, and ants may have bitten your pet.
  • Poor Diet. Many pet skin conditions stem from insufficient nutrients in their diet. It may be time to review your cat’s food of choice.
  • Bacterial Infection. Several different bacterial infections can impact upon a cat’s skin. Learn the symptoms of Ringworm, for example, will leave your pet scratching up a storm.
  • Medical Explanations. Has your cat recently started a new course of medications? Have they just been vaccinated? The itchiness may be a temporary side effect. Equally, if they’re healing a wound, it will itch.
  • Stress or Compulsion. Cats groom to self-soothe during a stressful time. This can escalate into scratching, and can, in turn, become a compulsion.

You’ll need to undergo a process of elimination at home to determine what’s wrong. In some instances, you may need professional assistance. If you can identify the catalyst for scratching, you can remove it from your cat’s environment.

cat itchy skin not fleas

Allergies That Cause Itchy Skin in Cats

Allergic reactions are by far the most common explanation for itchy skin in cats. Sensitivities in felines often manifest as rashes, hives, and constant itching. Some of the most common allergens for felines include:

  • Food. If your cat has recently started scratching, consider whether you have changed its food. Also, question if they may be eating elsewhere.
  • Plastic. More cats than you may realize have a sensitivity to plastic. This means their food bowl or toys may be harming them.
  • Grass or Plants. They may have an allergy to some of the greenery.
  • Environmental Elements. Your cat may be experiencing a reaction to your perfume, your clothing, or an air freshener. It could be anything.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to determine a cat allergy. Even if you seek professional help, it’s not a quick fix. No test will determine that a cat is allergic to something in particular.

Instead, you’re going to need to embark on a process of elimination. Start with food. If you have changed your cat’s diet, change it back. If not, consider the ingredients. They may have developed sensitivity to a type of meat or grain.

If your cat always itches after eating or playing, question whether plastic is causing the issue. Switch to a metal bowl, and cloth-based toys.

If they venture outside, look for a reaction. Let your cat wander. If they approach a particular plant then scratch, that’s the likely culprit. They may have a generic grass allergy, though. Try offering artificial grass indoors as a substitute.

Environmental allergens are harder to identify. Think to when your cat started scratching, and work out if you introduced anything new. It could be a fabric softener right through to a scented candle.

Insect Bites and Mites That Cause Itchy Skin in Cats

If they were not the bane of our life, we would almost feel sorry for fleas. They are blamed for every itch and scratch a cat experiences. In truth, there are plenty of other small pests.

Mites cause mange. This condition sees a cat scratches so much they lose fur in patches and clumps. This is because mites burrow into a cat’s ear and fur, feasting on their skin.

Mites come in many shapes and sizes, but they’re most common in the ear. They sometimes move onto a cat’s neck and back, though. In this instance, regular flea and tick treatment will kill them off.

Always use a professional treatment to kill mites. These tiny bugs can be stubborn, and make your cat’s life very difficult. Any pet store will stock appropriate medication. See a vet in the event of an extremely severe infestation.

how to stop a cat from scratching itself

Aside from mites, also be mindful of other bugs. If you live in an area populated by mosquitos, they may be feeding on your cat. Rubbing a wedge of lemon on your cat’s fur will protect them from these irritants.

Spiders and fire ants may also bite a cat. These bites are rarely venomous enough to cause severe damage. They will itch, especially if many bites are made.

Bacterial Infections That Cause Itchy Skin in Cats

There could be a medical reason for your cat’s itchiness, such as a bacterial infection. The most common example of this is ringworm.

Despite the name, ringworm is not an intestinal parasite akin to a tapeworm. Instead, it’s a result of fungi feeding on your cat’s skin. These create a ring-like pattern on the skin.

Ringworm will leave your cat with itchy skin that drives them crazy. It’ll also lose hair in clumps, and you’ll find its flesh thickening. It’s an unpleasant, and highly contagious, infection. It can also be passed to humans.

The good news is that ringworm in cats is comparatively easy to treat. Your cat will be prescribed a range of creams, ointments, and oral antibiotics. You’ll also need to clean your home to clear any lingering spores.

Dietary Deficiencies Cause Itchy Skin in Cats

Skincare is one of the reasons it’s so important to feed your cat an appropriate diet. If your pet doesn’t receive the critical nutrients they need from a meal, it’ll struggle.

As Animal Biome explains, cats need a diet that replicates their wild eating habits as closely as possible. That means the purest meat available, and fewer inflammatory carbs.

This is the difference between quality cat food, and inferior equivalents. The higher the percentage of protein in a portion of cat food, the better their skin will be. As obligate carnivores, cats process the meat content of their food easily.

Lower-quality cat foods sacrifice meat for filler ingredients. These are often carbohydrate-based, and cats struggle to process them. As a result, an uncomfortable process of inflammation begins. Itchy skin is a side effect of this.

Just because a cat eats cheap food without complaint, it doesn’t make it good for them. Watch your pet. If they become itchy after eating, it’s due to inflammation. The only way to resolve this is by changing its diet.

Find the best cat food that you can afford, and your pet enjoys. If possible, stick with wet food. It’s less cost-effective than kibble, but it’s typically more nutritious and higher in meat.

Side Effects of Medical Procedures Cause Itchy Skin in Cats

There are two main reasons why medication, or medical concerns, may cause itchy skin in a cat.

  • Side Effects. Your cat’s skin may be itchy due to side effects of medication, or a vaccine. If you suspect this, speak to the vet that administered the prescription. They may have to reconsider.
  • Wound Care. If your cat recently experienced a wound, it will need to heal. Sadly, this will itch – whether stitches were applied or not. You’ll need to prevent your cat from scratching and opening its wounds.

As a rule, medication side effects are not anything too serious. Watch your cat for around 24 hours, and seek advice. Switching the prescription to something else will usually resolve the problem.

The effect of a vaccine can be more concerning. If your cat appears to be itching for days, you should seek advice. Side effects of a vaccine should pass very quickly. Constant itching of the injection site merits investigation.

The healing of wounds can be irritating for cats. While their skin repairs itself, it will itch like crazy. Preventing scratching may seem cruel, but it’s for the cat’s own good in the longer term.

Soothe a cat wherever possible, but don’t let them re-open a wound. The more they do so, the harder it will be to heal fully.

Stress Causes Itchy Skin in Cats

There is the possibility that stress and anxiety are causing your cat to scratch constantly. Grooming is an integral part of a cat’s life, and scratching may be part of it. Like anything, though, there can be too much of a good thing.

Cats groom to soothe themselves if they’re feeling anxious. Despite their calm exterior, domesticated cats are easily stressed. Just some of the things that can spark anxiety include:

  • Changes to routine. People are coming and going from the house, or mealtimes are changing, will upset a cat. Felines live for a schedule.
  • Loud, sudden noises. Cats have excellent hearing. Unexpected noises freak them out.
  • Living in an unsanitary environment. An unclean litter box, for example, will cause your cat distress. Felines want to stay clean.
  • Physical discomfort. This may be serious, such as a health concern. Alternatively, the cat may be too hot and needs its fur trimmed.
  • Being left alone. Cats endure an unhelpful reputation as being aloof and uncaring. The truth is, they miss their human owners when alone.
  • Inappropriate or constant handling. Cats offer affection on their terms. If they fear being handled against their will, they’ll be constantly nervous.
  • Lack of stimulation. If a cat has nothing to do, they’ll grow stressed.

Any of these stress triggers can make your cat’s skin itch. From here, scratching can become a compulsion. Your cat will continue raking its claws on its skin, convinced it makes them feel better. This will have a long-term impact.

Make sure that your cat is happy, calm, and contented to keep scratching at bay. The easiest way to do this is to establish a routine. Ensure your cat knows you’ll spend around 20 minutes a day playing with and grooming them.

There are two reasons for this. Your cat will enjoy the structured interactive time, and stay calm knowing it’s coming. Also, you can check its skin while you play and groom. This will help you head any issues off at the pass.

my cat keeps scratching but doesn't have fleas

How to Stop a Cat from Scratching Itself

The easiest way to stop a cat scratching is to eliminate the reason. If your cat’s skin doesn’t itch, they won’t scratch. Learning what is triggering your cat’s itchy skin is the hard part.

In the meantime, take other action. Get your cat to the groomer and trim its nails. If a feline has sharp talons, they’ll injure themselves while scratching. Opening wounds invites infection, and numerous secondary health concerns.

You may also want to consider restricting your cat’s access to scratching. The easiest way to do this is through clothing. Many vets, or even retailers, will sell a onesie-style bodysuit.

These are primarily designed to prevent a cat from scratching or biting stitches following surgery. Even if your cat has not undertaken such a procedure, it won’t be able to scratch its skin. This may break the habit.

You could also consider a sweater or something similar, but tread carefully here. Many cats hate being clothed. If they become stressed, their itching will magnify and potentially lead to destructive behavior, such as clawing furniture.

You may also wish to discipline your cat or attempt training. This means making a loud noise when they scratch. This must be handled very carefully, though.

We all need to scratch every now and again. As long as it’s not excessive, it’s perfectly natural and healthy.

Sending a message to your cat that all scratching leads to correction is dangerous. Your cat will fear any scratching in the future, which will make them anxious.

How Can I Soothe My Cat’s Itchy Skin?

The best way to stop itchy skin is not to let it get a hold of your cat. Give your pet a once-over every day, while grooming. If you spot anything out of the ordinary, pay attention.

If your cat’s skin appears flakier than usual, think about the events of the day. Did they eat something new? Interact with a different toy or environment? Spend time somewhere else?

Answering these questions could pinpoint triggers and explanations for your cat’s itchy skin. You can then eliminate the cause before it gets any worse. Prevention is always better than cure, after all.

If it’s too late and your cat is itching up a storm, you can still take action. Oatmeal is a key ingredient, as Paw Culture explains. Grind some organic oatmeal as fine as you can, and bathe your cat. They may resist initially, but they’ll feel better.

Also, check your local pet store for supplements. How effective these depend on the root cause of your cat’s itchiness. Anything high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 will help your pet, though. Naturally, you also need to watch their diet.

Perhaps most importantly, keep your cat happy, calm, and contented. Stress can be a real trigger for itchy feline skin. To prevent your pet from falling victim, give them the best life possible.

A cat that can’t stop scratching is rarely – if ever – a happy feline. It’s also difficult for you to live with. Not only will you sympathize with your pet, but the noise will drive you crazy.

Remember, a little scratching is normal. We all have an itch from time to time. If a cat spends more time clawing at its skin than anything else, though, it’s a problem.

Soothe your cat’s itchy skin as quickly as you can. Learn the trigger, and eliminate it from its life. This way, you’ll all be much more comfortable and contented.