Cat Constantly Licking And Biting Skin

by Michael

I am living in Spain and I have a problem with my female tortoiseshell cat called Annie who is 4 years old & 3.4Kg.

I have had her from a kitten and she was sterilised as soon as it was possible. The operation was carried by an incision in her lower stomach.

After the operation she kept biting at the stitches and made herself raw. It seems since then she has continued the habit, she never stops licking and biting her fur/skin.

She has raw patches under her arm pits and lower stomach and her skin twitches, if I touch or stroke her she will immediately lick the area. The only way to stop her is to put a plastic collar on. When she has the collar on her behaviour changes instantly she is calmer and does not even try to lick or scratch.

I have taken her to several vets here who have been looking for an allergy but can not find anything, they have given her a steroid injection which does stop her behaviour for about a month but I do not want to keep her on these.

I have tried her on hypoallergenic cat food, changed her cat litter, dishes, water, other foods including cooking fish 2-3 times a week.

Because of the behavioural change when she has the collar on I am now wondering if it might be just a habit formed from when she had her operation.

I would be grateful for any thoughts or help you might be able to give.

Thank You


Reply from Liz (Editor): You have my sympathy with this cat behavior - I've had several cats that have had these problems and spent loads of time and money trying to get them sorted out.

I think it's definitely true that in some cases this behavior becomes a habit - it's a bit like nail biting in humans. It's often stress or boredom related, and unfortunately some cats get stressed / bored really easily - i.e. they have a lovely home and nothing to worry about, but they still get wound up and display this behavior as a result.

The things I'd suggest trying are:

1. Make sure she's regularly treated for cat fleas

Flea allergies are one of the most common causes of this behavior. In Spain, there will be cat fleas around all year round because of the warm climate. Even if you don't see any sign of fleas on her, she may still be getting the odd bite which could set this behavior off.

I'd suggest a spot-on treatment like Frontline - it's really easy to apply and lasts about a month.

2. Try a Feliway diffuser

This is a pheromone substitute which is odorless to humans but gives off a smell which can have a calming influence on some cats, and can help with stress-related cat behavior problems. It doesn't work on all cats but has an almost miraculous effect on some, so is definitely worth a try. It can be bought online.

3. Ask the vet about steroid tablets

My cat Priscilla was going to the vet, about once a month, for a steroid injection for exactly the same problem, at a cost of about £30 per time - ouch! I found out (not from the vet...) that the same steroid is available in tablet form. I now have a bottle of tablets - cost about £8 for 30 tablets - which I give her only when she needs them. Most of the time now she doesn't need them at all, but when she does, I give her one about twice a week for a couple of weeks, and that's usually enough to stop the scratching.

I think this is a much better method than going for injections all the time - not only is it far cheaper and less stressful for the cat, it also allows you to manage this cat behavior on a much lower dose of steroids, which is ultimately much better for the cat's health.

Best of luck with this and thank you for your question.

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