There are three main reasons why your cat’s skin might be dry or itchy:
1. Skin Issues Caused by Food Allergy
Studies show that food allergies are the third most common type of allergy in cats. Signs that your cat may have a sensitivity to food include excessive scratching resulting in a loss of hair and noticeable skin lesions. Common allergens include corn, wheat, soy, dairy and eggs.
2. Allergens in the Environment
Your cat may be genetically predisposed to allergens in the environment such as fleas, dust mites, grass or ragweed, especially if she goes outside. Her skin could also be suffering from the winter doldrums, when the air is dry and can cause the skin to be flaky.
3. Bacterial, Fungal or Viral Infections
Skin disorders and allergies may also be caused by bacterial, fungal or viral infections. Your veterinarian may suggest taking a skin cytology or skin scraping (diagnostic tools) to determine if your cat has an infection that is causing her to scratch.
How to Care for Your Cat’s Dry Skin
If your vet suspects a food allergy, she may recommend an elimination diet to identify the source. Your vet may suggest avoiding foods that contain corn, wheat, soy, dairy or eggs, as those can cause allergic reactions in some cats. Alternatively, foods that contain omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, such as salmon, can help your cat maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat.
If your cat has fleas, they can be eliminated from your cat and her environment with flea control products. Avoiding the outdoors can also help with reactions to grass and ragweed. And in wintertime, using a cool mist humidifier can help with your kitty’s dry skin, just like it does for people. If your cat has an infection, your vet will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics or antifungal drugs.
You want your cat to be happy and healthy. If your cat has dry and itchy skin, the best thing to do is to consult with your veterinarian, who will help you determine the cause and find the best way to heal and maintain your cat’s skin and coat.