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Lynn, Veterinary Assistant
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 2175
Experience:  worked at a vet clinic for 18 yrs, BA in biology, experience with cats for 20+ years
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My cat is chewing himself on his back raw. Very compulsive.

Resolved Question:

My cat is chewing himself on his back raw. Very compulsive. I've tried changing his food (we give him wet and dry, expensive food), amitriptyline (makes him too sleepy), extra attention, but he just has this nervous habit that's not going away. Now he has what looks like bite marks on his back -- from himself. I have never seen a flea on him and I comb him in the morning and he is an indoor cat. Help!
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Lynn replied 5 years ago.

Has your vet done a skin scraping to check for mites?


What brands of food have you tried?




Customer: replied 5 years ago.
No. I have another cat who does not do this. Wouldn't she have mites/fleas as well?

Spot has done this before, years ago, then stopped, now is doing it again.

We use Natural Balance. Wet and dry.
Expert:  Lynn replied 5 years ago.



Your other cat wouldn't necessarily have a problem, depending on which type of mite it is. There are two, one is contagious, the other isn't. It isn't super likely, but would be worth ruling out in my opinion. Bacterial infection and fungal infection should be ruled out as well.


Natural Balance is a great food, but you might want to consider trying California Natural. It is a similar quality, but has a very limited ingredient list specifically intended for pets with allergy problems. It comes in two dry varieties (chicken or herring based) and many canned. I would recommend trying something that is a different protein than what he has been eating. Here is a link to their website:


If food is going to help it may take up to 6 weeks before you can tell.


If there are no underlying problems this may be a condition called psychogenic alopecia. Basically it is a behavior disorder where the cat overgrooms to the point of hurting itself. It is diagnosed by ruling everything else out. Sometimes anti-anxiety medications help, there are others than you could try besides amitryptyline. Here is a page about this condition:



We often use corticosteroids at the clinic where I work for skin conditions that have no apparent cause, and have good results with that. When used short term, there is not the big risk of side effects as there is with long term use.


If you have further questions let me know. If this answer is helpful please click accept. Thank you and best wishes.




Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Re the food to give him, I have been giving him wet food more than dry because in the past he's had stones/UTI problems. Yet just recently had to spend $700 on him to get 3 teeth removed. Dental woes. My vet says dry food is better, more nutritious, others say never give cats dry food. He does not drink water so I give him wet food. What do you think? Maybe the wet food is not satisfying. He seems to bite when he's hungry.
Expert:  Lynn replied 5 years ago.



I'm a strong believer that canned foods are much better for cats, especially one that doesn't drink much water. Dry food is not going to help keep his teeth clean, that is just a story that unfortunately a lot of people believe. Here is a link to a page (written by a vet) that has a lot of information about why canned is better:


You could try offering him cat grass to chew on. It may give him something to do, and keep his mind off of chewing on his back. Most larger pet stores sell this.


Good luck!


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