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Life’s An Itch

It’s time that I write a post (or two or three or…) about trying to solve a problem my cats are dealing with. So far, we don’t know what’s ailing them. We only know their symptoms and a few of the things that are not causing them (due to the process of elimination).

Cat with flea allergy dermatitis

It started about 7 months ago. I noticed Rumi and Andy itching more than usual and it looked like they had flea allergy dermatitis. So I treated them for fleas. After a month or so, Rumi started getting worse. He started aggressively licking his fur from his mid torso down so his coat was thinner in those areas. That’s when I began working with my vet, Dr. Kim Martin, to figure out what was going on.


At first we thought it was just a secondary infection. But treatment for it didn’t work.

Then we thought it was seasonal allergies. Treatment for pollen allergies didn’t make a difference either.

A couple months later, we realized that Andy had similar symptoms, but not as bad. We also realized that Emma had symptoms, but they were pretty different. She sneezed once or twice in the morning and that was it. Just those couple of sneezes.

So we started looking for potential environmental problems. All three cats were reacting to something, all three slept in my bed at night, and Emma’s most obvious symptom showed up in the mornings. So we started by looking at things in the bedroom that might be causing problems.

I looked for mold or mildew in and around the master bathroom, and found nothing.

I removed a rug that I had bought a couple months before the problems started, and that had only a tiny effect on Emma and no effect on the boys.

Dr. Martin then suggested that I have my furnace ducts cleaned and the furnace inspected for mold spores or other irritants and allergens. I did this, and am glad I did, but it didn’t solve the problem.

Meanwhile, Rumi kept getting worse. He got to the point where he licked most of his fur off from my midriff down. He kinda looks like he’s wearing no pants and a sweater (only one arm, mind you). We did a few rounds of steroid shots to relieve his itching. I don’t like using steroids on my FIV+ cats, but I was desperate to give him some relief. The last steroid shot we gave him had no affect on his itching and made him very aggressive. One of my friends joked that Rumi was just like one of those guys you see on the show “Cops” or on Jerry Springer: a one-armed guy wearing a sweater & no pants, raging mad & taking swings at the cops. Yup, that’s what he was like, poor fella.

A couple weeks ago, I worked with a woman who does muscle testing with animals. She came to the house & we tested all of their foods plus tons of things she brought with her: food ingredients, pollens, plants, household cleaners, detergents, etc. One thing all cats reacted to was skin fungus. (Gulp) She asked me to treat them with a fungicidal shampoo or lotion and she’ll return to treat them.

So… (drumroll)… I bathed all three cats and applied this lotion. Luckily my vet knows me and my cats well, so she gave me medicine that would sedate them a bit & (theoretically) would make it easier for me to do the deed. It was no picnic, but it DID relieve all of them of all symptoms for several days!

There is an oral medication for skin/fur fungus which would be easier for me to use to treat the cats. But before my vet will prescribe this very heavy medication, she wanted to do some more tests on them. So Rumi went in to have a few more tests.

As we wait for test results, we’re going ahead by treating them with a lime sulfur dip. Just before treating them to a party with this particularly icky dip, I asked a few people for advice. Luckily, I talked with Jo MacGugan from Feline Friends. She said she paid the vet to do this and suggested I see if my vet’s staff would do it for us. Sure enough, they will! Yippie.

So this week I will take all three to the vet in the morning, leave them there all day, and pick them up. They’ll come home smelling like rotten eggs but at least my house won’t smell and I won’t have battle scars.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you have ever dealt with something like this, let me know. I’d love to hear about your experiences tracking down the cause of symptoms like this.

Series: Lifes-an-itch


3 comments to Life’s An Itch

  • Thank you guys for your input! Nancy’s bathing tips help a LOT. (I recently got more I’ll post below.)

    Update on the lime sulfur dip: Andy & Emma seem to not be itching. Rumi is still itching just as bad as before. I talked to the vet yesterday and she said that in severe cases, it can take up to 6 (!) dips before things improve. Ohhhhh, poor Rumi!

    The drive home: Imagine the same scenario as I posted on Facebook last week with Rumi’s drive home. Only this time with a cone on his head & him smelling like rotten eggs.

    Update on Rumi’s itching: I also asked her about relieving Rumi’s itching. I explained that it’s so bad that I’m beginning to feel guilty for keeping him alive when he came to Feline Friends. I wonder if we should’ve just let the vet euthanize him. I guess the vet didn’t realize it was THAT bad. But she certainly understands now! So she prescribed another antihistamine to try. We tried it last night & it did help. It made him sleepy, too. (I’m ok with that as long as he’s out of misery!)

    Update on the root cause: Still no conclusive evidence about what’s causing this.

    More bathing tips: Jo (Feline Friends) MacGugan gave me an excellent pointer. She reminded me that cats need to hold on to something with their front legs as they stand on their hind legs. She doesn’t interpret this as solely an attempt to get out of the water (or whatever). She’s found that just giving them something to grab onto seems to relieve some anxiety. So when she bathes cats, she puts them in big buckets so they can hold onto the rim of the bucket. She says it works wonders.

    Nancy, I used to use one of those hose things too. I don’t know if they’re still made, but I had one that had an end that would fit over the top of any faucet. And like you, I found it easier to get in the tub with the cats than to try to stand outside the tub as I wash them.

  • Nancy

    I don’t have any experience like this (thank goodness) from which to give any words of wisdom. However, I do have what I find to be a respectable way to give the cats baths, when needed. I put on some heavy jeans and a swimsuit, and get right on into the tub with them. It affords for a much more easy time to hold them without losing them or leaning over something and wrenching the back as they struggle, and if I’ve done the job of clipping their claws the way I like to, we usually all end up undamaged. Can’t say I’d get in there with the sulfur dip, and I think your solution for that was great! But when it’s a simple flea bath, I’m not terribly averse to wetting them down and soaping them up while some gets on me too. Once rinsed off (and one of those hand-held old-fashioned thingys you stick onto the faucet – do they exist any more?? – is another great thing to have), I have a pile of towels nearby, usually on the toilet. If they get loose while still wet, at least the bathroom isn’t that hard to clean up when they shake themselves off! Have you gotten a good clear picture yet? Fortunately, I haven’t had to do it in a LONNNNNNGGGGGG time!

    Keep us posted and I sure hope your struggle ends soon!

  • Wow Kari, sounds like a nightmare! I don’t have any advice or insight, but just wanted to say I’m sorry you’ve had to go through all that. Your fur-kids are very lucky to have such a caring and thorough owner. Hope to hear that they are feeling better after their dip and can return to normalcy soon. Keep us updated.

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