Understanding Pruritus in Cats and Its Treatment Options


Pruritus, commonly known as itching, is a common medical concern for cats and can have many different causes. Understanding the underlying cause of pruritus is essential to providing successful treatment. Below, will discuss the possible causes of pruritus in cats and the available treatment options. 

What is Pruritus? 

Pruritus is a sensation that triggers an urge to scratch, rub, or lick the affected area. Fleas and other parasites, allergies, skin infections, or underlying medical conditions can cause itching. The hallmark sign of pruritus in cats is excessive scratching or rubbing of their face and neck. 

What Causes Pruritus in Cats? 

The most common cause of pruritus in cats is flea infestations. Fleas are small or tiny insects that feed on the blood of their hosts and are found in most homes with pets. They can cause intense itching and irritation to cats when they bite them. Other parasites, such as mites or lice, can also cause pruritus in cats. 

Allergies are another common cause of pruritus in cats. Allergies can be caused by food, environmental factors such as pollen or dust mites, or contact allergens such as detergents or fabrics. Skin infections like ringworm and bacterial infections can cause itching and irritation in cats. Finally, certain medical conditions like kidney disease or thyroid disorders can also lead to pruritus in cats as a side effect. 

Diagnosis of Pruritus 

An accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause of pruritus is essential to provide successful treatment for your cat. Your veterinarian may recommend a physical examination and skin scraping to identify parasites on your cat’s skin. Allergy testing may also be recommended if an allergic reaction is suspected as the cause of your cat’s itching. Blood tests may also be used to identify any underlying medical conditions causing the itchiness, such as kidney disease or thyroid disorders.  

Treatment Options for Pruritus 

The treatment plan will vary depending on the underlying cause of your cat’s pruritus but may include the following: 

    • Flea Control: If fleas are identified as the culprit behind your cat’s itching, your veterinarian may recommend topical or oral flea preventatives such as Advantage Multi® or Comfortis®, which will kill existing fleas and prevent new infestations from occurring

    • Allergy Management: If allergies are identified as the trigger for your cat’s itching, then a pet owner should take avoidance measures to reduce exposure to potential allergens, such as changing bedding materials from synthetic fabrics to cotton materials or switching from dry food diets to wet food diets if food allergies are suspected

    • Medication: Your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids (e.g., prednisolone) in some cases, which will reduce inflammation caused by allergies, infection, or other inflammatory processes

    • Immunotherapy: If allergies are identified, then immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be recommended, which will help desensitize your cat from specific allergens over time

    • Dietary Change: In some cases, dietary change may help reduce itching caused by nutritional deficiencies

    • Shampoo Therapy: Your veterinarian may recommend medicated shampoos (e.g., oatmeal-based shampoos) which help soothe itchy skin while cleaning away debris and bacteria that can worsen itching

    • Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acid supplements (e.g., fish oil) have been shown to help reduce inflammation associated with itchy skin while helping maintain healthy skin and coat 


Pruritus in cats can have many different causes ranging from flea infestations to underlying medical conditions such as kidney disease or thyroid disorders, so accurate diagnosis is essential for successful treatment recommendations from your vet. Fortunately, there are many different treatment options available depending on the underlying cause of your cat’s itchiness, including topical/oral flea preventatives, allergy management strategies, medications including corticosteroids and immunotherapy injections, shampoo therapy, dietary changes, supplements including omega-3 fatty acids and more so speak with your vet about what would best suit your cat’s needs!


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