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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-04-2008, 02:23 PM Thread Starter
 
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overgrooming/skin condition? Help! please.

Hi. I'm brand-new to this forum. This is, in fact, my very first post. I've popped over here after asking on another pet forum and someone mentioned this site.

My cat, Binx (aka Her Royal Majesty Binx, Queen of Darkness and All Things Evil), is over fourteen years old now. She came to us at 4 weeks, the runt of what we suspect was a barn-cat litter. (she came from a friend who agreed to accept the litter at her pet shop because the man said "either you take them or I'm dropping them in the river).
She's got quite a history, and a personality to fit her name, but I'll share all that in an introduction post.

Our problem- She seems determined to groom every last strand of fur off herself.

She's gone through this before- she'll get into a habit of over-grooming/scratching and create bald and even scabby spots on her back and tail, but this time seems different. I've given her a flea-bath (with cat-friendly shampoo, of course), but she's still over-grooming. In the past, she's done this after a jaunt outside, and the flea bath has always seemed to soothe the skin so that she stopped. This time, the bath is producing very little relief.

A trip to the vet last year didn't help. The vet said she doesn't have fleas, and that it was likely allergies. She told us to give her a dose of Benedryl. (ever try to force benedryl down a cat?!) Long story short, the benedryl was useless. After the usual flea-bath, she simply stopped over-grooming, until this summer when she went outside again. (she goes out for maybe a day, once in a great while will stay out overnight, before deciding the great outdoors isn't all it's cracked up to be and coming back in to the lap of luxury.) Silly girl.

We switched her food about 6 weeks ago, from supermarket kibble to Health Wise, a brand the gal at the feedstore recommends as much better than supermarket junk, while still reasonably affordable. It has no wheat in it, which I thought might help with the "allergy".
After reading here, I'm considering trying to switch her to canned food, but it may be a bit of a challenge as she's never been fond of canned, and at 14 she's rather set in her ways.

Has anyone ever seen this in their older cat? Any ideas what else I could be doing to help alleviate her discomfort? I hate to put topical "bad taste" on her, I really want to deal with whatever's causing the problem directly, rather than just discourage her from grooming.

We'll be going to the vet with her as soon as I can get the funds together. (I've had another ill pet this month, and my vet fund is depleted.) *sigh Don't pets know they should only be ill one at a time, so we can afford their veterinary care?
Kidding of course. It's just discouraging to see the vet and be told "allergies", without any real solutions. I'm trying a new vet with Binx as soon as I'm able- she's proven much more small-animal savy than my former vet, who primarily sees farm animals.

Thanks for any ideas. I'm quite fond of the old gal, and she's healthy otherwise. I hate to see her spend her last few years in discomfort, or have to put her down over something which seems as if it should be easily treatable, if we can just figure out why she's doing it.

Rejoicing in the day,
-Mary
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-04-2008, 02:33 PM
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Re: overgrooming/skin condition? Help! please.

How about having the vet do an allergy test? She may be allergic to chicken, not as common as wheat allergies but still rather common, as well as fish allergies. i think that would be your best bet, although I'm not sure how much those cost.
Food is often the root so I'm glad you switched, healthwise is much better than supermarket food, not the best but a big upgrade for sure. How long has she been doing this? Does she get a lot of mental stimulation? (games/playing would be the most common sources) boredom could cause her to over groom.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-04-2008, 03:10 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: overgrooming/skin condition? Help! please.

I'm not sure the food/allergies are causing this... it could be, but it seems the problem would be all the time then? It's seasonal. She seems to get worse in the fall. Could she be allergic to pollen or something outdoors, and the fleabath is washing it away?

If it is allergies, are there any effective treatments?

She's not much for play. She pretty much lives upstairs at this stage in her life. She's decided our bed is her royal throne. Sometimes she'll choose a different sleeping spot, like a hidden spot in the closet, or in a pile of (clean!) laundry, just for variety's sake, for a few days or even a couple weeks, but after a while she reverts to the bed.

As for stimulation, she does greet us every morning by rubbing over whoever's sitting on the side of the bed, meowing for attention, before flopping down for a belly-rub. And the kids come up after school and flop on the bed to watch tv, they'll pet her and love her up as long as she tolerates it.

As for actually playing... not so much. At 14 she's a stately old girl, not prone to dashing about chasing yarn balls. run
*smile*

Do you think a daily deliberate petting session would do her good? Maybe get her circulation flowing, and help stimulate hair growth?

Thanks for the suggestions, tho, I will ask my vet about allergy testing. I'm thinking I'll just have to take her in, money or no.

Rejoicing in the day,
-Mary
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-04-2008, 04:09 PM
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Re: overgrooming/skin condition? Help! please.

I think lots of affection would do her good, using a rubber bristled brush to brush her, if she'll tolerate it, is supposed to help the skin be healthy. Also if you have wand type toys simply getting her to WATCH them as they wiggle around her feet and head as she lays on the bed is enough to stimulate her mind.

If it is seasonal though then I'd say it does have to do with allergies or possibly, she has dry skin that is itching her, she can't itch those areas with her feet so she licks. I know in the fall/winter I get VERY dry skin, last year one of my cats did too, he just got dandruff though, he did not seem itchy. So if that is the case adding a fish oil capsule or two to her meals would work wonders.

I'm gonna guess it's either the environmental allergies or severe dry skin, do ask the vet about the tests and be sure to tell him you believe it's environmental so he tests for a lot of that stuff and not so much food stuff. You can try out the fish oil capsules and see if that helps, even if dry skin is not the problem they are good for her, they help the skin and coat.

I hope you can figure this out, it must be so saddening to see her like this and not know what's wrong with her
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-04-2008, 06:47 PM
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Re: overgrooming/skin condition? Help! please.

Hi and welcome to Cat Forum. Over grooming can be the result of many medical issues, but the most common are allergies, both food and environmental. She may have always had an environmental allergy that was relieved by the bath because it removed the allergen, but now is experiencing a food allergy (which do develop over the course of time). If you want to rule out food allergies, I would recommend switching to a hypoallergenic food like Natural Balance Venison & Green Pea or Duck & Green Pea. Stick with it for 8 weeks, with nothing else in her diet, not even a few treats. This food comes in both dry and wet. The vet may try to get you to use something like Hills I/D prescription diet, but the Natural Balance does the same job, is a much better quality food and is available over the counter.

Here is an article on alopecia and the potential reasons for it. If the food change doesn't seem to do it, then you might want to begin investigating some of these other areas, most will need blood tests or skin scrapings.

http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm ... icleid=195

In addition to medical reasons, over grooming can also be stress related. Have there been any significant changes in your living arrangements? Moved? New person or pet move in? Someone move out? Loss of another pet? All of these can be stressful for a cat and can cause over grooming.


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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-06-2008, 08:59 AM
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Re: overgrooming/skin condition? Help! please.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marysmuse
After the usual flea-bath, she simply stopped over-grooming, until this summer when she went outside again. (she goes out for maybe a day, once in a great while will stay out overnight, before deciding the great outdoors isn't all it's cracked up to be and coming back in to the lap of luxury.) Silly girl.

This indicates that she has an allergy to something outside. Despite the vet not finding any fleas, it could indeed be a relatively severe allergy to fleas, in that one flea might really irritate her skin.

It could also be other things outside, including pollen.

How does she respond to regular baths without flea-shampoo or treatment?

If it is a pollen allergy, or an allergy to something she rubs against when she goes out, regular baths may provide some relief to her.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-07-2008, 08:59 AM Thread Starter
 
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Re: overgrooming/skin condition? Help! please.

Thank you all for the replies.

I'm trying not to crack jokes, against my natural tendency, but when you ask things like "how does she do with regular baths", it's not easy.

Seriously, Binx is not a happy bather. I wash her when I have to, when this problem shows up, to make her comfortable, but no more than twice a year or so. She doesn't get non-flea baths in between.
I've not bled after bathing only in the past few baths, and then it's only because I'm using our upstairs bathroom sink- the smaller space makes her slightly easier to control, so she doesn't have quite as much swinging room for her scythes. She's a great cat, but very strong willed and opinionated, and not at all shy about making her feelings known with a well-placed slash.

I'm thinking my strategy until I can get to the vet will be to offer her the Merrick wet food I bought to put weight on Willow, our recent addition (I mentioned her in my intro thread- she was a preggo stray my mom took in, very under weight. The kittens found new, happy homes, and Willow, newly spayed and with all her shots, has come to her forever home.) I don't know how Binx will react to a change in diet. I'll be picking up more canned food tomorrow or the next day, so we'll see how that goes.

Speaking of changes... Someone mentioned change, and in reading other posts, it occurred to me that we recently changed to a scoopable cat litter, from plain, unscented clay. I wonder if that could be the change that's triggered this problem to worsen? Could she be sensitive to something in the litter? Perfume or the like? I'll also try switching back to the plain clay, and see if that improves things.

The only other change has been Willow coming to live with us. Binx is not tolerant of other animals in general, but she's been surprisingly mellow around Willow. There has been some hissing if they come face to face, but otherwise they ignore one another. Actually, Willow's very anti-other-cat, which is why Mom gave her to us- she didn't get along with Mom's cat, Cooper, and in fact harassed her until Cooper refused to come into the house. I thought it might have been because she was with kittens, but she doesn't seem to like Binx, either.

So far, it's a truce, though, because Willow has her territory downstairs, and Binx lives upstairs. Willow wanders up here to visit with us and to stare at my husband's cockatiel, but she stays off Binx's bed, and hasn't sought out any confrontation with Binx.

Thanks again for the help. I'll be taking Binx to the vet within the next couple weeks. It's been a rough month, financially, with my son's aging guinea pig- she had a problem with her teeth , and required surgery, depleting our funds.
I'll let you know what the vet says.
She has improved since I've made an effort to give her at least one good petting session a day. I wonder, with the hand-feeding I've had to do with the guinea pig, if she's felt a bit neglected, and if that's added to the issue. Poor babe.

Thanks!
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-Mary
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