My 4 year old male cat has been losing fur in big clumps - he seems to be licking at it as it is wet when I pick it up. This has been going on for several weeks. Prior to that, he was vomiting for a week or so. He also is barely able to make sounds - it almost sounds like he has laringitis. Any ideas?
I think you have different issues going on here.
Let's discuss the skin first. Sounds like your cat is itching.
When cats itch it is caused by fleas 50% of the time, food 40% of the time, and all other allergies and problems ( inhalant allergy, mites, bacterial infection, etc) 10% of the time.
Fleas and food must be eliminated before thinking of tests for everything else.
Purchase a flea comb and comb ALL cats daily for 5 days looking for live fleas or the black flecks of flea dirt that looks like ground pepper. You cannot rule out fleas in cats by just looking under the hair. You must comb them. If you see any evidence of fleas on anybody....treat everyone.
Any of the prescription once-a -month products (Frontline, Advantage, Revolution) are effective. Remember though that they all work great for 3 weeks, well for four weeks, they do not work for 5 weeks. Treat all cats once every three weeks for at least 2 treatments. Do not waste your money on over the counter products, they do not work. Comb regularly after that and treat as indicated.
In the case of flea allergy, it is not the individual flea bite that they are scratching. When a flea allergic cat is bitten by a flea, they have a reaction that causes them to react everywhere.
To eliminate food as a possible source of the itching, the cat must go off all the things it now eats. All cat foods, canned and dry, all table foods, and all treats. Read all the ingredients on the labels. Anything that is in any of those foods the cat cannot have during the trial. If there is chicken or poultry meal, it cannot have chicken. If there is corn, it cannot have corn. If there is fish, it cannot have fish.
For the 3-4 weeks the cat is going to be on the food trial, it is often easiest to use cooked meats, lunch meat, or strained meat baby foods. You can use whatever meat is NOT in your cat's current diet. Feed that exclusively for 3-4 weeks. If all signs resolve, we will need to find a more balanced maintenance diet.
To be effective you must be religious about this so that food as a source of the allergy is eliminated.
You can search <food allergy in cats> for additional information.
While you're doing the above you can explore the house and environment for anything your cat could be breathing in that it could be allergic to: XXXXX XXXXX the litter, Potpourri, cleaners, carpet fresheners, plants in the house, fireplace smoke, etc, These should be eliminated also.
Now the laryngitis. You are probably right. Sounds like a viral flare up. The cats do not have to "catch" the virus, it's in their system.
The upper respiratory virus in cats is caused by a herpes virus (not contagious to humans). Every cat has been infected with the virus as a kitten. Most cats have been vaccinated for this virus with their routine vaccinations. The virus never goes away; it just goes dormant in the body. During periods when immunity goes down, the virus can flare up and show signs of infection somewhere in the body.
Spring and fall seems to be a common season for these viral flare ups, just like the human flu season. Stress events frequently lower immune resistance and can bring on a flare up of the virus. In mature, vaccinated cats the signs tend to be mild and self-limiting.
As long as your cat continues to eat and has no colored (yellow/green) discharges from its nose or eyes, the signs you are seeing should resolve in 5-7 days.
If your cat stops eating, develops more significant discharges, or if the signs worsen or persist, call your veterinarian for an examination.
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Board certified feline specialist. 22 years specializing in the medical needs of cats.