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Dr Scott Nimmo
Dr Scott Nimmo, Small Animal Veterinarian.
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 18913
Experience:  BVMS, MRCVS. { Glasgow UK }
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why does my cat bite off parts of her fur down to the skin?

Resolved Question:

why does my cat bite off parts of her fur down to the skin? It got to the point it bleeds a bit. It has become an obsession in the last 2 weeks.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr Scott Nimmo replied 4 years ago.
Thanks for the question.

While I cannot diagnose this via the internet I can tell you the following :

I have seen this type of thing on a number of occasions in my consulting room in the past as will have all vets who deal with cats, we generally call this fur plucking syndrome. If I was presented with such a case face to face I would be considering the following :

1. It could be some form of skin infection / dermatitis. Even a slight infection will cause irritation and itching, the cat will then lick the area and so irritate it more so a cycle of events sets in, the itch scratch cycle. The more it itches the more the cat bites and licks the area which makes it itch more and then .... well I am sure you can see where I am coming from.

2. It can often be an allergic dermatitis, skin allergies in the cat are quite common. they can be allergic to flea bites, specifically a small protein which the flea injects into your cat's blood stream while it is feeding. Inhalational allergies to house dust and pollen have been described and so have food allergies. But whatever the cause the itch scratch cycle soon plays a part. There could be dust mites or fleas in the carpets and flooring.

3. Compulsive disorders have been described in the cat such as feline psychogenic alopecia an boredom can play a part here. This is where the cat pulls at its fur for no particular reason like a nervous teenager biting their nails. And of course once it is established the itch scratch cycle takes effect.

4. External parasites such as fleas which I know you may have already treated your cat for. This is the most common form of feline skin disease but many other more minor causes are listed as well including hormonal problems

I am sure the above information is reasonably accurate, thats all fine and good but what can we do about it?

I am so sorry there is no home remedy I can recommend other than keeping your cat free of fleas at all times as well as the cats environment which will be your house. To really help your cat you then have to get your vet involved, perhaps one with a special interest in dermatology. Some treatment options would be:

A. Try and break the itch scratch cycle. This is one of the few occasions where I use long acting corticosteroid injections. These are anti-inflammatory drugs which will dramatically reduce itching and so the cat will leave itself alone for a while. This can sometimes cure the situation where the itch scratch cycle has been a large component of the disease.

B. Your vet will examine the skin in detail and try and find an underlying cause, this could include skin scrapes, sample to the laboratory, allergy testing, even biopsies. antibiotics are often used at this stage to control secondary infections.

C. Where stress may be a factor or a feline compulsive disorder is suspected your vet may prescribe very small doses of tranquilisers.

If I have not covered your question fully enough or you would like to ask more I will be online for the next hour or so and I will be at your disposal.

Scott Nimmo BVMS MRCVS
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