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Don't Know What Else To Do

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
About two years ago, I adopted a cat through a local rescue organization, and added her to my now three-cat household. She is a black and white cat with the polydactyl mutation, and I named her Valentine.

I cannot now remember if she had any signs of her current symptoms when I adopted her, but I want to say she couldn't have had unless they were very mild, because I think I WOULD remember. It must have been shortly after I got her that the symptoms began. Valentine scratches herself, grooms obsessively and chews off her hair--mostly on her tail (but not tail base where many cats show flea allergy) and on her upper back legs. She also vomits frequently--I'd say at least twice a week. The vomit is always varying amounts of partially digested food, water, and hair. It's never strange colors.

She scratches her face quite a bit, to the point where her eyes get swollen from it (at least that's all I can figure out). The swelling generally is severe and only with one eye, but is totally gone by the next day.

I live in an area with a high amount of flea activity, so I've kept her nearly constantly on Advantage. Because the problem has not stopped, I am switching to Program. However, neither of my other two cats are scratching, and I have not found a flea on Valentine.

I have tried everything I can think of. I have switched foods carefully a few times to see if there is improvement, and have noticed none. I tried putting her in a child's t-shirt to see if that would stop some of the scratching, but she just scratched and chewed the hair off other places. Most recently, I tried putting her in an e-collar to at least protect her eyes and stop the hair ingestion. She still vomitted but perhaps not as often. She wore the collar a few weeks, but she tried so hard to get around it to chew hair off SOMETHING that she rubbed a raw place on her stomach with the edge of the collar. I took it off when I noticed this, and now the skin on her head is inflamed and scratched up. It's like as soon as the collar came off she scratched like she was making up for lost time.

When these problems first emerged, I was working at a veterinary clinic, so I was able to basically try every test under the sun to try to figure out what was wrong. She has had full bloodwork, including CBC, Internal Organ Function Panel, Differential and thyroid testing. All came back normal. We tried treating with both chlorpheniramine and steroids, to see if it was an allergy issue, but it didn't help. The vet I worked with concluded that the problem was behavioral, and I tried treating her with amitriptyline. It made no difference and she hated being pilled daily. She has other behavior related issues, such as gorging herself any time the food bowl had become empty and been refilled.

I also have reason to believe it may not be allergies, because I have tried food changes, tried flea control, and moved locations in the middle of all this and nothing has changed or helped. It's not seasonal, either, so it doesn't seem to be possible for it to be plant related allergy. I suppose it could be dust mites, or something found everywhere all year round. I have considered getting her a full allergy test screen at a pet dermatologist near my location, but the test is extremely expensive and it would take time for me to save the money to afford it. And I'm leery of spending that much money and then being told there's nothing wrong--again.

I don't know what to do. I feel like a bad pet owner because I can't figure out what's wrong. I am also a poor college student, and all I really know to do for her is to keep testing her in case something emerges ... but I can't afford constant blood tests, especially now that I am not working at the clinic (or at all, at the moment.) I also--while I can afford preventive care visits, and am prepared to handle emergencies--can't afford to be taking her to the vet constantly, especially when they can never find anything wrong. I'd pay just about anything for guaranteed resolution of these problems, but it's extremely discouraging and offputting to always get my hopes up and then be told there's NOTHING WRONG.

I have even considered trying to find her another home or returning her to the rescue to see if they can find her a home--not because I don't want her, it would break my heart to lose her--but because I feel like I can't afford to take care of her special needs--I feel like I shouldn't have her if I can't afford weekly vet visits and every strange and bizarre test under the sun to be repeated monthly til something changes. I am afraid to actually do this though, because I'm afraid that anyone I took her to would just put her to sleep rather than even try to deal with her problems.

She's making both of us miserable, me because I feel horrible that I can't seem to help her. I'm also finely tuned to the sound of a cat vomitting and wake up frequently during the night thinking I heard it, or actually hearing it and having to get up and clean up. My other two cats are totally fine. I don't know if they stress her out? Or if maybe my being in school during the day and not constantly home with her stresses her out? But it seems like it doesn't stop when I am around a lot during vacations.

I just don't know what to do, and any suggestions or similar experiences would help greatly.
post #2 of 23
Is your home carpeted? She may be allergic to the chemicals in the carpeting, or to plastics?

Have you tried Buspar or Prozac to see if one of those may help? Or even something as simple as Feliway and Rescue Remedy?

Just throwing out some thoughts...
post #3 of 23
You said you have tried different kinds of foods... such as?

I mean, if you are switching her between similar brands with the same ingredients its not going to make any difference. Have you tried a food with totally different ingredients? Like instead of chicken which is in most foods, the main meat ingredient would be venison or something non-poultry? Are you feeding high quality brands of food or just your basic lower grade brands like Purina and Science Diet and Iams?
post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 
The last place I lived was carpeted. The one I live in currently is not. The entire area she spends time on (other than my bed and couches of course) is tiled.

I looked into Buspar and Clonicalm when the amitriptyline didn't work, but the vet seemed to think that they weren't worth the cost with their track record? Then again, the cost may have come down, that particular conversation was a few years ago, and honestly, if it actually >WORKS< I'll do it.

I also looked into Feliway. This is going to sound silly, and I hope I don't offend anyone--but with all my training in school, as far as reading science journals and being scientifically critical--it was actually Feliway's website that put me off of trying it. It was very ... fluffy. I'm used to cold hard facts when it comes to medical treatments, and--while I certainly don't feel that nothing like Feliway could work--there's a sucker born every minute. I'm sure there are a lot of products out there that say they would help in my situation that actually are totally useless money-sinks.

But if you say Feliway actually works, I'm willing to try it. Like I said--willing to try anything, just wants some relief for her. I just can't AFFORD to try everything if I have to do it one at a time and it takes years. Most of it is my own frustrations I suppose ... I'll do it, it's just really hard to deal with the constant disappointment and the feeling that I'm throwing money away when things don't work. It would be totally worth any cost if it DID work, and I know I have to keep trying things til SOMETHING does.
post #5 of 23
Does she wear a collar? My Bonaparte was tearing and licking himself till he was raw until I took off his collar that had metal studs and buckle and a metal ID tag. He was on steroids too as the vet didn't know what was wrong. Then, no collar and bingo, it all cleared up. I only thought of it because my daughter has a metal allergy. Sorry I have no other suggestions.
post #6 of 23
I've read some medical evidence about Feliway. I too, like you, don't believe in marketing propoganda. It is supposed to provide calming support for roughly 75% of cats. The odds are with you that it will help, but realize that it isn't perfect.

My friend had a cat who over groomed himself. After over a year of tests, they found microscopic parasites in his skin, that for some reason, the other cats in the household did not have. They shaved him (long haired cat), treated his skin, and reapply treatment about once a year. It took a skin biopsy to find the problem.
post #7 of 23
Originally Posted by Wommers View Post
But if you say Feliway actually works, I'm willing to try it. Like I said--willing to try anything, just wants some relief for her. I just can't AFFORD to try everything if I have to do it one at a time and it takes years. Most of it is my own frustrations I suppose ... I'll do it, it's just really hard to deal with the constant disappointment and the feeling that I'm throwing money away when things don't work. It would be totally worth any cost if it DID work, and I know I have to keep trying things til SOMETHING does.
I can't state with certainty that Feliway will work for this particular issue. but it DOES work REALLY well with calming some cats down, easing tension and stress, so it MAY be helpful.

It has worked wonders for my former feral, in combination with a custom mix of flower essences, to ease his panic and trauma issues, allowing him to become a much less scared, much more trusting and loving boy.

Thing is, if you don't give things a try, you won't know if they may have worked. Believe me, I understand the feeling of throwing money away, but trial and error is the only way to find a solution/resolution.
post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 
Eesh, as for foods, I can't remember everything I've tried. I have switched within the same brand, as well as between brands. And the moment all three of my cats eat one of the Purina One hairball dry formulas. When the cat food scare started, it was the only one I could find that was in my price range and didn't have the contaminated product types in it.

I did have her on a novel protein diet for about four months. Green pea and rabbit Royal Canin ... it didn't help. If there are suggestions, however, for a higher quality dry food that isn't insanely expensive when feeding three cats ... I am more than willing to try them. I hate that money is an issue, and someday I'll reach a point where it won't be ... but for now it is.

She was wearing a collar, but it wore out and I removed it, and no improvement without it. Thanks for the suggestion, though.

Obviously nothing is 100% guaranteed (then, as a scientist, I REALLY wouldn't believe it ) But knowing that a product has worked from someone other than a blurb on a website attempting to make money off the product helps. I will try Feliway, and if I have no luck with it, I will take her back to the vet and see about getting a skin biopsy and/or trying buspar/prozac.

Thanks. I feel better just knowing that there are other viable options that I haven't tried.
post #9 of 23
Have you always used Advantage and Program? The reason I ask...one of my cats has an extreme flea allergy. I think she gets itchy just smelling them! If I use Advantage or Frontline....her scratching, hair pulling and raw spots don't improve. The only thing that gives her relief is Revolution. Maybe you could try it before doing any other tests? Just a thought...
post #10 of 23
You need to make sure your cat NEVER gets a single flea bite to completely rule out flea allergy. You need to treat your entire home, and use a multi-purpose flea treatment. I would try frontline plus or advantage multi.

Lastly, have you had a skin scrape done? Cats can get mange too.

Other than that, I would see a dermatologist if possible, I mean, you've already spent so much, why not make one more last effort before making the choice to give her up?
post #11 of 23
Some cats are very sensitive to fleas and one bite can cause a reaction. Or she's having an allergic reaction to the flea medication. I'd take her to the vet and hopefully they can figure out what she might be allergic too.

The symptoms you describe sound like an allergy to something.
post #12 of 23
Get a skin scraping done. You cannot really rule out allergies unless you see what's with the skin.

And maybe it's ringworm. Or scabies. Or mange.

Maybe it's a plastic allergy and it's reacting to a plastic food or water bowl or litterbox.

Heck, maybe it's the dust from the litter ... many cats react to the dust from their litters. Some can't use clay some can't use the artificial stuff.

Maybe it is the detergent that you use for your bedding and clothes.

All those things can cause an allergic reaction for many cats.
post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 
I'm not close to giving up on her yet, I just worry and want to do the right thing for her. When I was young my parents made the difficult decision to put my cat to sleep because she had a severe allergy that we could not diagnose despite trying everything available at the time, and she had scratched herself raw and was vomiting constantly.

The strange thing with Valentine is that she rarely has skin lesions associated. Now she has some red spots but it's almost like it's more because I stopped her from going at herself at all for a while with the e-collar, and she had to make up for it once it was off. other than the puffy eye and the occasional scratch on her head ... it doesn't seem she usually does any physical damage or has any inflammation, which makes the allergy thing seem less likely.

She has always been on either Advantage or Frontline, this is my first time with Program. If it doesn't work, I'll try Revolution instead. My cats are strictly indoors, but I also live in a high flea area, so that's no guarantee.

As for litter, I was using a high dust brand, and about two months ago I switched to Good Mews, thinking that might help. It hasn't, but I like the litter more so I'm sticking to that.

She does use a plastic dish, I hadn't thought of that. Maybe I will switch to ceramic or metal and see if that helps her at all.

I'm pretty sure it's not my detergent. I actually have a detergent allergy myself, so I have switched during the time I had her to deal with my own allergy and saw no improvement in her.

There is a really good allergy specialist nearby, and I've already made the decision to take her back to the vet next week, and if the vet thinks allergy testing is something to pursue, I'll just have to make the money somehow. Top Ramen is starting to look like my staple food for a few months.

EDIT: Forgot! She has had a skin scraping done. No mites. However, one of my main concerns these days is that with her loooong list of random symptoms--I can see how all of them could be psychologically based. She WAS a feral cat before being rescued, and she definitely has some food anxiety/seperation anxiety issues. But if they ARE all psychological, the difficulty remains ... how would I KNOW if something was ACTUALLY wrong with her eye or her skin, or if she was vomitting from being sick rather than from being stressed? I just want to make sure she's not miserable.
post #14 of 23
Have you tried Prozac? I kid you not, it's been used for cats and works for some. At this point, even if it is a physical problem, she could be so stressed from the physical symptoms that it might provide some relief. There are other anti-anxiety type things out there.
post #15 of 23
I don't know how to help - no idea if it's an allergy or stress. I can tell you that my 2 stressed cats did very well on Vit B complex and Flower Essences - so much so, like Gingersmom, my cats are no longer so stressed. Feliway didn't do a thing for me. Another thing that helps is Valerian and Chamomile. Perhaps it's time to see an holistic vet?
post #16 of 23
Awww, the poor thing! You must be at your wits end I hope you get it figured out
post #17 of 23
Please don't bother using the Program flea treatment. If your cat has actual flea allergies, it won't help at all. Program is an oral flea medicaton, which goes into the bloodstream of the treated animal. A flea must bite the animal, and injest the blood, for the Program to work to interrupt the flea cycle. If your cat is allergic to the flea 'saliva', she'll continue to have allergy symptoms, because the fleas are still biting her. There are other, topical flea treatments (Revolution, Frontline and Advantage) that work in a different way, to prevent flea infestation and bites, which don't require the flea to bite before dying.

Flea Infestations on Cats
Although other flea species may be found on cats, the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the predominant flea associated with infestations on cats in the United States. In addition to the common nuisance irritations associated with infestations, fleas can be responsible for medical problems in your pet such as miliary dermatitis, a skin reaction to flea bites. Also, fleas transmit other parasites, including tapeworms. Controlling flea infestations is important to your pet's health while also reducing the major and minor annoyances associated with these parasites.

Lufenuron, the active ingredient of PROGRAM Suspension does not kill adult fleas but effectively breaks the flea's life cycle by inhibiting egg development.
Fleas can be a problem because they reproduce so rapidly. A single female flea may produce up to 2,000 eggs over her lifetime. Eggs hatch and can develop into adults within only three weeks. Adult female fleas feed by ingesting blood from your cat and subsequently lay eggs which drop off your cat's coat. Within days, larvae hatch from the eggs and live undetected in your cat's surroundings such as the carpet, bedding, and other protected areas. Flea larvae spin a cocoon, and when appropriately stimulated, a young adult flea emerges and jumps onto your cat to continue the life cycle. After biting a PROGRAM-treated cat, the female flea ingests lufenuron which is deposited in her eggs. Lufenuron prevents these eggs from hatching or developing into mature adults. This safe and convenient approach to flea control effectively breaks the flea's life cycle and controls flea populations.

For what it's worth, all three of my cats are allergic to something in the Purina One, which gave them all open, weeping, purulent, chin acne. Antibiotics, creams and washes didn't cure it, or even help it. The only thing that made it go away, was to discontinue feeding it.

Food allergies can be difficult to diagnose and even harder to isolate. You have my sincerest sympathy. I will keep you and your sweet Valentine in my prayers.
post #18 of 23
You might want to have a look at the links below.

They come from a highly respected site dealing with CRF....WAIT, I'm NOT suggesting that any liver problem could be involved! Those links are part of a list of symptoms/treatments...some of which have nothing to do with CRF per se.

In the center of this page, click on HAIR LOSS:

Top of page, "Alopecia (pulling out hair)"
post #19 of 23
Thread Starter 
Wow, so many posts!

Thank you so much for all the suggestions.

That's good to know about Program. Like I said, I really don't think it's fleas since it's been over a year since I found one on her, and she has been on Advantage almost nonstop. However, I am aware that all it takes is ONE flea to cause the problem, so I don't want to rule it out.

I'll get some Valerian extract. The nice thing about where I live is that we Portlanders love both our pets AND holistic/natural treatments. I could easily find a holistic vet, a holistic pet store, and an herbalist. In fact, I think they're all within a few blocks of my home. Now, for the Valerian, is it oral? Or a scent thing? I know for PEOPLE it's an oral, I've taken it myself.

And thank you for the links, I'll go read them.
post #20 of 23
Just want to send vibes for you and Valentine. You must live near the Hawthorne district to be close to all of those Welcome!
post #21 of 23
When I was a teenager we had a rescue cat with a severe flea allergy. He was on a strict flea treatment regimen and steroids. Unfortunately he still went outside, but us kids had no control over that.

I have a detergent allergy too. I had a sample of something and made the mistake of washing my sheets in it. I had to rewash them the next day I got such a bad skin reaction from it. Normally I use Method Free + Clear, maybe you could try that for the kitty's bedding? I use it for my cats' bedding too. I used to use Tide Free, but I started having problems with that too.
post #22 of 23
Just a thought... you say you have mostly tile and the other 2 cats have no signs of fleas... if your cats are mostly indoor, why not try NO flea medication? It may not be a flea alergy, it maybe a med alergy that all popular flea products have in common?

I personally have 4 cats, 1 of whom goes outside. The outdoor kitty is on advantage, the others nothing. I dont have a flea problem even in the spring when all my neighbors do. Never know, and anything is worth trying!

Not really related but,... you asked about quality food that's cheap.. I use Authority from Petsmart. They have both chicken and lamb formulas, and thier main ingrediant is "lamb mutton" or "chicken breast" NOT biproducts. Me and my hunny arent rich by any means, and with 4 feline mouths to feed, this is what works for us. He recently moved in and changed his cats diet from meow mix to authority, and has visably noticed his cats fur become sleeker and healthier looking. They process the food better, so will eat less, and *waste* less, cutting down on litter costs as well. (yeah i know petsmart should hire me already :P)
post #23 of 23
Coco has Allergies and Asthma . One time her fur came out in Clumps because she was Allergic to something. it could be Allergies or something else with your cat.
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