Diagnosing Pruritis: Itchy Cat Skin

Itchy cat skin can be signaling parasites, allergies, poor nutrition or internal diseases. Diagnosing itchy cat skin, known as pruritis, is important to start the treatment and relieve the itchiness. Itchiness causes continuous scratching, chewing, biting and licking of the skin, and the cat may cause infections, as the saliva or the paws and nails can contain harmful bacteria.


A wide range of airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, mold and chemicals can cause adverse reactions in cats. Food or the contact with certain materials such as metals, plastic or wool can also irritate the cat’s skin. Itchy skin is a primary symptom of allergies.

To diagnose allergies, you need to identify the allergen and test if the absence of the allergens will eliminate the itchy skin. A vet can also perform blood and skin tests to determine the allergens.


A cat that uses a shampoo for humans or an irritant shampoo can also have pruritis. Make sure to use a gentle cat shampoo. If the commercial shampoos cause irritation, opt for an all natural cat shampoo.

Imbalanced Diet

An imbalanced diet can lead to dry skin. Talk to your vet about a proper diet, possibly including some supplements that will improve the appearance of your cat’s skin.


Fleas, ticks or mites are common in cats. If you notice parasites on the surface of your cat’s skin, you need to get rid of them. Fleas will cause itchiness all over the cat’s body, while ear mites will make the cat scratch in the face and ear area. Get some flea medication, shampoo, sprays or powders. Remove all the parasites from your cat and home.

Thyroid Problems

Hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism can cause itchiness. Hyperthyroidism causes oily skin that can attract bacteria, and infections and can be itchy. Hypothyroidism causes dry skin as well. Blood tests are needed to identify improper thyroid function.

Bacterial or Fungal Infections

Bacteria and fungi can cause skin infections and itchiness. Yeast infection and ringworm fungi are common infections in cats.

Yeast infection is signaled by foul odor, hair loss and rashes. Ringworm fungi will cause ring-shaped bald patches on the cat’s skin, so these make the diagnosis easy. Your cat will receive antibiotics or topical ointments containing antibiotics, steroids or herbal extracts.


Anxiety can be a factor causing pruritis. Detecting the stress trigger is important; think back and identify what might be the cause of your cat’s anxiety.

Changes, the loss of a family member or companion may stress your cat. Anxiety is difficult to diagnose. The other causes of skin itchiness must be ruled out before looking for anxiety causes. Mild anxiety drugs may solve your cat’s problem.

Diagnosing pruritis may be done through blood tests, skin tests or food testing, or it may be a matter of guesswork. If left untreated, the itchiness can cause severe hair loss, skin injuries, stress or infections.