After a wound has been stitched, a cat may scratch the site of the incision because the shaved area becomes itchy as the hair grows back and the area heals. The cat may scratch its neck wound as a natural response to reduce irritation, but scratching can remove sutures and cause bleeding or infection.
Cats should wear an Elizabethan collar (e-collar) to stop them from scratching, biting, or licking their neck during the healing and recovery process. Making a loud noise whenever your cat attempts to scratch its neck can be a good temporary distraction.
If your cat scratches its neck too aggressively, this will likely lead to an open, raw neck wound. If this happens, check for signs of a bacterial infection, such as swelling, oozing, and redness.
Why Won’t My Cat Stop Scratching Its Neck Raw?
In most cases, cats scratch their necks constantly because the affected area starts to feel itchy.
Common reasons for itchy wounds include:
- Hair growing back (if the area was shaved)
- Formation of scabs
- Bacterial infection
- Fleas, mites, or ticks
- Allergies (food, dust, or environmental irritants)
- Throat discomfort
- Pain-related stress
While a cat may scratch the area to alleviate itching, constant scratching can stop the healing process. Also, it can introduce bacteria to an open wound, making it larger or removing sutures.
Neck Collar to Prevent Cat from Scratching
You can temporarily stop your cat by moving its head or using commands (such as “stop”). Obviously, this isn’t going to work when you’re not around, or you’re asleep.
So, VCA Animal Hospital recommends wearing a collar to stop a cat from scratching its neck raw. Your vet will find the right-fitting collar during your visit; the collar should fit snuggly around your cat’s neck so that it can’t access the wound.
There are two types of collars used:
- The Elizabethan collar (e-collar)
- A bandage
1/ Elizabethan Collar (E-Collar)
The e-collar resembles a cone, and it surrounds the head, preventing the cat from reaching the site of the wound, allowing a normal and healthy recovery to occur.
Because the collar is cone-shaped, it prevents the cat from scratching any neck and face wounds, so it won’t be able to scratch itself by rubbing its body or head against the ground or nearby objects.
E-collars will temporarily affect your cat’s peripheral vision and hearing, so cats should be kept indoors.
It can take days for a cat to adjust to wearing a collar, and some cats will become obsessed with removing the collar. So, a cat may rub itself against the floor, walls, furniture, scratching posts, and your legs.
Occasionally, cats refuse to eat because they feel too stressed.
How To Stop A Cat from Taking it’s E-Collar Off
The e-collar is the best way to stop a cat from biting at and chewing on a neck wound.
Here are some ways to keep the collar in place:
- Put a regular collar on the cat before tying the e-collar so that it’s harder to pull off.
- Tie a bandage through the loops of the cone and crossing down the chest, behind the front legs, and once more on its back. Connect to the cone loops and tie a bow on the back.
- Use calming pheromones, such as Feliway, if your cat is stressed.
2/ Soft And Flexible Collars
Soft collars are easy to put on cats and far more comfortable than e-collars.
Your cat can easily eat, drink, and sleep with a soft collar because it drapes downward from the area of attachment (a reverse cone). Also, a cat will find it more difficult to pull off a soft collar.
The only downside to a soft collar is that it offers less protection than an e-collar. However, some owners prefer them over a traditional cone. They’re more comfortable for the cat, making them less distressing and more acceptable to owners.
Browse through different varieties of soft collars, depending on the cat’s wound. Also, consider the challenges it faces with wearing a traditional Elizabethan collar.
3/ Neck Bandaging
Bandaging the neck can prevent your cat from causing any further harm to its existing injury when it tries to scratch itself.
You can bandage a cat’s neck wound using stretch gauze and some self-sticking gauze, but don’t tie it too tightly. A light bandage is an effective barrier against a cat’s paws, so tie it loosely.
You should be able to slide in two fingers under the bandage without them squeezing through. If it isn’t easy to pass two fingers through, the bandage is too tight and is unsafe to wear.
However, the presence of a bandage will cause your cat to scratch even more. Some cats don’t want anything on their skin and will continuously chew, scratch, and lick until the foreign item comes off.
You can use a sock as a bandage for your cat’s neck wound:
- Cut the ankle off the sock, making the hole the size of your cat’s neck.
- Slide the sock over your cat’s head. If the sock is tight, stretch it out to loosen it before putting it over your cat’s head.
Whether you’re applying a bandage or using a sock, keep the material dry/clean and change it daily.
4/ Baby Onesie or Small Dog Sweater
If you opt for a baby onesie, baby sizes 3-6 months or 6-9 months work well for cats, depending on how big or small they are.
Also, dog sweaters designed for chihuahuas or small dogs are an ideal fit for a cat. Some dog sweaters come in extra small and small sizes, so find out what works for your cat.
Small sweaters and onesies are good alternatives to cones, especially if a cone irritates a neck injury or a cat persistently tries to take the cone off. Although some cats may find clothing irritating initially, they quickly learn to tolerate them and stop noticing them after a while.
If a onesie or dog sweater seems too tight, stretch it out before putting it on your cat.
Keep your cat’s sweater or onesie clean and dry at all times.
Is There Another Reason for the Itchiness?
After surgery or an injury to the neck, some cats scratch themselves for short periods due to temporary discomfort or because they feel like there’s something on their fur.
However, if your cat scratches the same area compulsively, there could be a second issue that’s gone unnoticed. Causes of itchiness in cats include fleas and ticks, allergies, throat discomfort, and anxiety.
Fleas are the most common explanation, but there are other reasons why a cat can be itchy. You can only control your cat’s scratching by finding out the underlying cause and rectifying it.
A radioallergosorbent test (a blood test) can be used to check if a cat is allergic to certain antigens.
If your cat scratches its neck due to a food allergy, a vet will recommend an alternative diet.
If the cat has an environmental allergy, reducing a cat’s exposure to allergens (dust, mites, chemicals, and pollen) reduces the risk of scratching.
A vet may prescribe antihistamines to relieve any itchiness the cat’s experiencing.
Fleas gather around a cat’s head and neck, causing itchiness. You may notice black scabs forming as the cat scratches at these areas to remove the irritant.
Use an anti-flea treatment regularly, but you may wish to avoid flea collars as they contain chemicals that can lead to allergic reactions in some cats.
Stress And Anxiety
Some cats may scratch their fur compulsively because they feel anxious or stressed. To identify the cause, consider any recent changes in your cat’s lifestyle.
- Has your cat’s food been changed?
- Did your cat recently lose a close member of its family?
- Is its resting environment too loud or unclean?
- Have you changed the position of any furniture, food bowls, or litter trays?
Addressing the source of stress and anxiety will prevent your cat from scratching its neck constantly.
Your cat will scratch its neck, even if the source of the discomfort is inside the throat. It’s usually easy to detect a sore throat from your cat’s vocalizations.
Thin and raspy sounds, or sudden silence or passiveness, are common signs of throat pain. Also, a cat may exhibit some behavioral changes, such as a reluctance to eat its food.
It’s most likely that the cat’s neck is itchy due to the natural wound healing process. However, you should check for other health problems as a precautionary measure.
If a cat’s neck wound isn’t healing, schedule an appointment with a vet. An illness (such as diabetes) or an immune system problem may be allowing your cat’s wound to close or heal properly.