Skin problems in cats might be the last thing on your mind as a cat owner. They groom themselves constantly and are often considered among the ‘cleanest’ of pets.
It’s often until the condition sets in that you might notice something up! Here’s a quick guide into the three most common cat skin problems in Malaysia and everything you need to get your kitty back to its best health.
What are the signs to look out for in skin problems in cats?
It’s easy to camouflage a cat skin issue with that lush and furry coat. When petting your cat, be sure there are no lumps or bumps on its skin. Look out for redness and flaking as well. Scabs and hair loss are signs of a chronic skin condition.
Your cat might be extra jumpy and sensitive when petting her. Also, constantly licking a certain area should direct your attention to a rash.
What are the common skin problems in cats in Malaysia?
Due to the heat and humidity, fungal skin infections are fairly common in Malaysia. Both ringworm and yeast infections are common fungal infections that are easily transmissible among cats, other pets and even to humans. So, early identification and treatment are extremely important, especially if you have young children at home.
Ringworm appears as a raised, reddish patch on your cat’s skin. It often gets thickened and crusty. The affected area will become red and occasionally pale in the centre. It will become crusty and flaky if not treated early. Your cat will lick the rash to help relieve the itch.
After identifying such a rash, your first step is to contact your vet immediately to confirm the diagnosis and begin treatment. Your vet will prescribe antifungal treatment for your cat. If it has long hair, it's best to give it a trim as it is common for spores to linger on your cat’s thick coat.
Outdoor cats or cats with regular contact with other felines have a higher tendency to pick up injuries due to cat fights. Persistent scratching with their sharp claws will lead to open wounds that lead to abscesses after bacterial infection. Male cats are also increasingly prone to abscesses due to their aggressive nature.
Abscesses are pus-filled bumps on the surface of the skin. They may be warm and tender and fluctuate upon touch. Untreated, they could make your cat quite ill with a fever and go off their food. Consult your vet immediately as some abscesses have to be drained surgically, while others might only require oral antibiotics and topical ointments to apply on.
Speak to your vet about castration to reduce aggression if your cat develops abscesses frequently due to fights.
Mange is an inflammatory disease caused by mites. They live and burrow in your cat’s skin and fur. It leads to excessive itching and scratching. These mites breed extremely fast, and if not picked up early, it could lead to a full-blown infestation within weeks. This vicious cycle eventually leads to sore bumps on your cat’s skin with hair loss and raw areas with scabs.
Treatment with mite and flea medication is easily available after a quick visit to your vet to confirm the diagnosis. Ear mites, in particular, are quite common in kittens and adult cats too.
They’ll paw at their ears frequently and shake their heads to help reduce the itch. Ear mites can be extremely uncomfortable and lead to a bacterial infection if untreated.
If your kitty is diagnosed with mange, disinfect their bedding, collar and other personal items. Separate and prevent contact with other animals until they’re completely free of these parasites.
What are some other skin issues in cats that I should be aware of?
Skin issues in cats would often be the last thing on your mind, especially if you’re a first-time cat owner. ‘They clean and groom all day; why on earth would they develop skin issues?’ You might wonder.
Like in humans, environmental factors play a significant role in skin problems in cats. Allergies to dust, pollen, grass, food and certain chemicals can lead to dermatitis or the inflammation of your cat’s skin. It’s often precipitated by itching and scratching.
When a cat is allergic to its environment, it has the tendency to over-groom. Look out for patchy fur loss and raw areas on their skin as signs of dermatitis.
Regular visits to the vet are necessary to come up with a diagnosis of allergic dermatitis. Your vet will ask you a series of questions and run several tests to identify the causative allergen.
Once identified, the best way to prevent recurrent episodes of dermatitis is to avoid the allergen totally. This can be difficult if you’re dealing with pollen or grass but much easier if it's dust, food or a chemical agent used for cleaning, for instance.
Food allergies tend to cause itching around the head and neck in some cases. Carefully ruling out food types using a process of elimination will help you find the source of your kitty’s troubles.
Patchy hair loss in cats can often be due to stress. It’s often due to excessive grooming. And related to environmental allergens but can also be due to stress from lack of care, food or sleep. Abandoned kitties and those in shelters often have alopecia without any signs of infestation with ticks or fleas.
Alleviating the cause of stress is the only way to treat this unfortunate skin issue in cats. Speak to your vet about pheromone plug-ins to help with anxiety.
Food rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial for a cat’s balanced diet to maintain a healthy coat.
Can my cat with skin problems use the same creams that I use?
Unfortunately, no. While most of the active ingredients in common human skin creams (anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiviral etc.) are the same as those used in pets, their concentrations often vary. The skin creams used in humans might be too concentrated for your cat with a skin rash.
The same applies to antihistamines that help alleviate itching. Be sure to consult your vet if it's the first time you're dealing with a skin issue with your cat. Once a particular cream or medication is prescribed, feel free to purchase it over the counter if the condition recurs.
If you’re concerned about mounting costs for treatment and follow-ups at the vet, do the smart thing and get yourself pet insurance.
While cats are well known to be great self-groomers, check their fur and skin regularly for possible issues. Be wary of changes in smell, itching, and their grooming routine. Regular vet visits help, but nothing beats an attentive and caring cat owner.
As the condition of a cat’s coat and skin can often be an indicator of their overall health, your immediate attention to their discomfort will only lead to loads of affection and kisses from a grateful furry friend.