Helping a Cat with Sensitive Skin

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As any pet parent knows, one of life's simple pleasures is petting your cat. But if they have sensitive skin, that simple pleasure might not be so pleasant for either of you. If you notice something's up with your cat's skin or coat, make an appointment with your veterinarian to determine the cause and restore your cat's skin health.

In the meantime, here's what you should know about cat sensitive skin treatment, causes and signs and how to support your feline friend so they can feel better quickly.

What Cat Sensitive Skin Looks Like

Your cat's skin is an essential organ, serving as a protective barrier to the environment. However, allergic dermatitis (skin allergies) and other irritating factors, such as parasites, can compromise cat skin health. When your cat's skin barrier is damaged, it can cause discomfort and make them more vulnerable to infections and the outside world.

black and white cat taking a walk outside with blue vest

Signs of Skin Allergies and Diseases

Cats can be allergic to certain ingredients in food; environmental factors like pollen, dust or mold; or flea or mosquito bites. Signs of skin conditions can include:

  • Excessive chewing, licking or scratching (overgrooming), especially at the head and neck

  • Hair loss or bald patches

  • Thickened skin, scabs or crusty spots under the fur

  • Flaky, scaly patches under the fur

  • Redness, swelling or bumps

  • Strong odor

Other Signs of Skin Concerns

In some cases, your cat may not be allergic to anything at all. Their skin may just require a little extra care to look, feel and function at its best. Any skin that's not in peak condition can be considered sensitive. Here are some signs that something's amiss:

  • Greasy fur

  • Dandruff flakes

  • Dull, lifeless coat

Cat Sensitive Skin Treatment: What Can You Do?

Start With a Veterinarian Visit

If you notice any signs of trouble with your cat's skin or coat, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Some signs of sensitive or compromised skin can indicate an underlying disease, such as thyroid disease or diabetes. Regardless of the cause, getting a proper diagnosis from your vet is essential to effective treatment.

Check for (and Prevent) Pests

Thoroughly examine your cat's coat and skin for ticks, fleas, mites, lice or other parasites before your vet visit. Ask your veterinarian about preventive treatments to help keep pests at bay.

Ask About Allergies

Skin allergies cause inflammation that results in licking, scratching, hair loss and dry, flaky skin. Your vet will ask you about your cat's routine, food and home environment; perform a full-body exam; and recommend blood or skin tests if necessary to help determine the cause. Treatment may include oral and topical medications, from antihistamines to shampoos, depending on the cause of your cat's allergies.

Feed Your Cat Well

What your cat eats plays a large role in their skin health. Even if the cause of their skin condition isn't related to nutrition, start by feeding your cat a complete and balanced food for their life stage.

cat eating from orange bowl

How Nutrition Can Support Cat Sensitive Skin

Feeding your cat a complete and balanced food designed to support sensitive skin can help them look and feel their best. Your vet may suggest a food formulated for skin sensitivity or made without certain ingredients if an ingredient allergy is to blame for your cat's sensitive skin.

Here are some common features of foods that support skin health:

  • Antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene, to support immune system health and protect your cat from free radical cellular damage

  • High-quality protein and essential amino acids to provide key building blocks for skin

  • Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids (often found in fish oil) to support healthy skin and coat

Caring for Your Cat's Largest Organ

Supporting your cat's sensitive skin can be as simple as providing a quality, complete and balanced food. In other cases, getting your cat back to their best self may require medication, preventive treatment or changes in grooming. Your veterinarian can help you design an appropriate approach for your cat's needs. Together, you can watch your furry friend look and feel better, which is rewarding for everyone involved. Cat sensitive skin treatment doesn't have to be complicated. With a little support, the rewards are easy to see and feel!

Contributor Bio

Dr. Karen Louis

Dr. Karen Louis

Dr. Karen Louis was earning a PhD in Molecular Cell Biology and changed to a career in veterinary medicine. She graduated from the University of Illinois and has been in practice almost 20 years. She owns a small animal practice near St. Louis, MO, where she combines house calls with managing her unique low-stress clinic. A published author and award-winning nature photographer, she rescues senior dogs from local shelters and spoils them in their final years.