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Old 07-30-2009, 10:30 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Obsessive cat licking himself quite bald

I don't know what to do with this cat! Let me tell you about Casper. Casper is a 9 year old male house cat. We found him outside at a little under 1 month of age, but he never seems to have completely grown out of being wild. He is not a lap kitty, and I don't ever pick him up unless it's for something like putting him in the carrier. I wouldn't ever dare giving him a bath like the others, but that's fine because he does not ever need any extra cleaning. He's a VERY clean cat, and has always kept his fur perfectly smooth and shiny.

BUT. For Christmas this last year, he got a cheap toy mouse. He loved this stupid toy so much that he didn't stop playing with the pieces of it until I threw them away because he was starting to swallow them. Not knowing that I threw the toy away, he started stationing himself in front of the furniture under which the mouse would usually get stuck out of his reach. He did this for 2 weeks until I realized that he was searching for that toy! I figured he would get over it and ignored him, but after a few more weeks I noticed the bald spot.

He licked himself so much that a 2-inch bald spot started growing on his back, AND he started getting terrible hairballs on the carpet. I took him to the vet, wanting to make sure that there wasn't an underlying medical issue, but the vet gave him the ok- no mites or skin conditions. He gave him a steroid just to see if maybe he's just an itchy cat. I thought it was working for a few days, but it didn't.

So. I went and spent about $30 and bought this cat as many small mouse toys as I could find, and some catnip. The catnip was amazing at first, and the toys were an instant hit. I keep pulling them out from under the furniture (and from in my shoes) and I make sure there's always a few out. But the bald spot is still growing!

This thing is about six inches across now, and there's one starting on the other side of his back too. I wouldn't dare put something gross on his back to stop him from licking, I know him and he would absolutely disregard it.

He's just obsessive! He once chewed on his own injured leg because it was "bothering" him. I could put a cone on him, but this can't be a long term solution.

I need to find something else for him to be obsessed with. I'm starting to wonder if I shouldn't take him for walks outside since it would be something very new and exciting. What it reminds me of is the way herding dogs need a "job" to keep them happy. Do you think there is something I can do to give this cat a job besides licking himself bald?

I'm taking him back to the vet, maybe he can put him on some sort of anti-anxiety medication. I want to see my cat happy (and I'm tired of cleaning up hairballs) but I don't think medicating him is the best option.

Help, anyone?

Thanks,
"Pickles"
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Old 07-30-2009, 11:04 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Obsessive cat licking himself quite bald

Welcome to CF.
May I ask what you are feeding him? Some cats are allergic and will react by excessive grooming, pulling their fur out and licking one spot continuously. I've had two cats who would react that way to fleas. I never saw any fleas, but when I saw their fur thinning, I'd treat everyone and they'd stop the over-grooming and their fur would grow back. Some cats are allergic to ingredients in their foods; like grains or specific protien sources.

Can you buy a 'soft' collar cone? It really doesn't need to be a "cone", it just needs to be wide enough that when he sticks his head forward to lick, the fabric edge moves too, and prevents their muzzle from reaching the area they are annoying.

Here is the first fabric e-collar I made. It is worn "down" so it doesn't obstruct view or daily activities like eating, drinking, litterbox and playing. I made this to protect her spay incision. Every time she tried to reach her belly, the edge of the collar moved forward and always stayed just beyond her muzzle so she couldn't reach her incision site.


That one did not work well because I only used 4 tabs and it was too loose around her neck, so I made a better one with pretty scrap fabric and more tabs:
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Old 07-31-2009, 06:13 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Obsessive cat licking himself quite bald

You know what? I think I am going to try the soft collar! He really is the kind of cat that will do anything to get to something that is bothering him. Like I said, he chewed through his own leg injury, even through duct tape, but I have never seen a soft collar and I think it might work.

My kitties eat Science Diet, it came highly recommended by the vet. No one else has any problems so I don't think there's any mites or strange bugs going on, and I had a cat before that was allergic to flea bites, so I don't think this bald spot looks like the flea irritations. I'm taking Casper in to the vet tomorrow again to see what doctor says, maybe he will try the steroids again for allergies.

But really, a soft collar seems like something we could work with. I'm so glad I came here! I knew there would be cat lovers out there that would have a good idea. Thanks! :]

I'll let you know what happens!
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Old 07-31-2009, 06:38 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Obsessive cat licking himself quite bald

A couple of things.
It is completely normal for a cat to chew on a wound. So that doesn't show any strange compulsive behavior.
What you are describing does sound like it could be a classic case of allergies. No offense to your vet (most vets know very little about feline nutrition and what they do know was taught to them by Hill's aka Science Diet reps!) but, Science Diet is full of corn and other major allergy triggers. Some of the things that can cause issues in cats are: corn, wheat, glutens, soy, chicken and fish. If I were you, the first thing I would do is try to slowly switch him over to a better quality food, preferably a canned allergy formula like Natural Balance Duck and Pea. Wet food because dry, by nature, can trigger allergies as well. I would start giving him some digestive enzymes as well to help him absorb his food properly. And, if you are using scented litter, switch to one that isn't.
The weird thing about allergies is they do tend to pop up out of nowhere.
Now, it is possible that he is just OCD and meds might help, but because of his age and the food he's on, I think it's definitely worth treating it as an allergy and see how he does. At worst he'll be getting a much more nutritious food which will be better for his all around health and at best, he'll stop having itchy skin and licking/chewing himself bald!
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