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Excessive scratching/uknown cause

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Our cat, Muffin, is only a year old. She is a mix between a Himalayan and a Siamese cat. The Siamese cat was an outdoor stray and the Himalayan had somehow gotten outside and got herself pregnant. The owner then gave the kittens away for free. We ended up adopting two females.

Out of the two, Muffin always seemed like the runt. She's very thin in comparison to Brownie(her sister) and her hair is finer and longer.
In the beginning, I had them both mostly in my bedroom. Brownie and Muffin would quarrel but it never seemed like anything major until we noticed one day that Muffin had a wound on her face which she constantly scratched at. In order for it to heal, we had to stop the itching somehow. Of course we took her to the vet and they gave her a steroid injection at first. She also had a cone on and yet she still scratched. (it would get to the point where she would be bleeding all over her face, near her eyes, ears, around her neck, her mouth, etc.) (We also had to give her antibiotics to fight any infections she had in the facial area with a pill we gave to her for about 10 days.)
After that didn't work the vets suggested that she may have a food allergy. So, we fed her an allergen free food for the recommended one month time slot they wanted us to in order to see whether or not the itching subsided. It in fact didn't and the food also gave her diarrhea.
During this time we also kept Brownie away from her and eventually started keeping her in my sisters room downstairs so that they wouldn't have any chance to hurt one another.
After bringing her back to the vet and telling them that the food did not help, they gave her another steroid injection and also an antibiotic injection that would last about 10 days or so. (when she went to the vet for this, she was horribly bloodied up. We made the mistake of removing her cone before we put her in her cage to leave and she ended up ripping and scraping off all the scabs that had been built up and went in literally dripping in blood. She also was able to get under the cone before and scratch up her neck.)

After this, once we were at the vet, we thought of declawing her and the vet said that would just drive her insane taking into account the fact that she would be dying to scratch her face again. So we decided to have them take a skin graft. They removed two portions of the skin on her neck, gave stitches in that area, shaved the entire area, cleaned her face and all the scabs off and also thoroughly cleaned her ears claiming there was a lot of debris in them. (uh debris? We don't know why or how that was there but ok...)
She was sent home with a sort of creamy white ear drop that we had to administer daily and she also had a cone. We also believe she may have had another antibiotic injection in order to fight any infection that may have been going on before or after. She did scratch but did so daintily as if she knew she had just had something cut off of her. And then that scratching went away. After a few weeks of not seeing her itch herself near her head, we removed the cone. She didn't start up the scratching then either. We thought, hey, it's gone. We didn't know what caused it but it was gone all the same.
Until now.
A few weeks ago, she began scratching near her head again, near her ears, mouth, neck, everything. But it was general scratching, she didn't hurt herself or anything like that. But then, it took a turn for the worst. She scratched more, started bloodying herself up again and of course began building scabs on her face again. Her neck, under her eyes, her jaw, and the surrounding areas seem to be driving her insane. She'll literally sit there and scratch herself and then clean her paws off and do it again, all the while making a nice mess of scabs where she's sitting.

We have other cats and they show no signs of this condition she seems to be having. I also do not have any reactions from her, either.
We've noticed a trend though, when the itching does start up. Her eyes become swollen and inflamed and the color seems to get clouded. She also has problems with her rectum. It seems to be swollen and she licks herself often.

The skin grafts came back without any luck. They said that the next step would be to send her to a feline dermatologist. But the thing is, it's expensive and what if that's not what's really wrong with her?
Our vet has never seen a case like this and that makes me wonder if it's actually something more serious than we're actually taking it.
She won't stop the itching. We're going to have a cone put on her tomorrow to prevent anymore damage to her face and if possible will get her on some antibiotics.

I was wondering whether or not any of you have any familiarity with a case like this. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

(also, I'd like to add that when the kittens arrived one of them had a tick and it was promptly removed that very day. We also do not know for sure whether or not it was Brownie who caused her the wound on her face that she began scratching at. It was just assumed after seeing them fight and chase each other.)

post #2 of 9
Wow, your poor girl! That sounds awful, both for her and you.

I don't have experience with anything this severe, but if I were you, I would go the specialist route. Are you anywhere near a veterinary school (I guess the closest one would be Michigan State)? It could be expensive, for sure, but it might be a bit cheaper than a private practice - and I'm sure their hospital has a lot expertise to offer.

Anyway, good luck to you!
post #3 of 9
Have you tried a limited diet? Facial scratching with no obvious cause is often a sign of a food allergy. I noticed when I switched my cat from chicken to duck, the facial scratching completely stopped.
post #4 of 9
Originally Posted by SheWantsLight View Post
After that didn't work the vets suggested that she may have a food allergy. So, we fed her an allergen free food for the recommended one month time slot they wanted us to in order to see whether or not the itching subsided. It in fact didn't and the food also gave her diarrhea.
What was the allergen-free food you were feeding? As far as I know, there is no such thing as "allergen-free" because any food can become an allergen.

I went through this recently with Tofu. There were periods of time where he would scratch himself until he became wounded and started bleeding and others where he would be fine. It was all in his facial area, usually right above his eyes. He was coned for weeks at a time, on and off.

A month ago, I brought him to see our holistic vet and she told me that before we pursue any expensive allergy testing (we had done skin scrapings and fungal cultures, etc.), to switch his diet. She recommended a homemade diet without all the preservatives & additives in commercial food. She said she went to a recent dermatology seminar and the dermatologist was discussing about how a lot of pets aren't reacting to the proteins in commercial diets - the additives/preservatives play a big role.

Up until that point, I had already tried a novel protein and carb commercial diet for him, but it did not help.

The homemade finally did the trick. It's been a month and he's pretty much itch-free now. I would definitely tweak the diet first before spending money to see a specialist. My dog has seen one before and really, it wasn't that helpful, if at all - it was due to my own effort in the end that solved her problem, too.

I'm not saying don't see a dermatologist, but IMO, it is worth your while to really find out if this is food-related first or not.
post #5 of 9
One of my cats is so allergic to flea bites she makes scabs all over her neck and head. The vet said all it takes is one flea bite to cause all of this grief for her. I know I just had to get her a steroid shot a month or so ago to help her.
post #6 of 9
KatGoddess - Can you share the recipe you're using for the homemade diet? Thanks!
post #7 of 9
PM'ed you.
post #8 of 9
Oh dear...poor Muffin. We went through something very similar with our boy Zachary. It turned out to be a food allergy. Fish!!! Poor Zach had large holes of missing hair on the top of his head and neck from the constant scratching. He started scratching himself raw. In addition he also had bloody stools. It was horrible.

Please be aware that "hypo-allergenic" foods still contain foods/chemicals that some cats are highly allergic to. Even the limited ingredient Natural Balance Duck and Green Pea canned has FISH OIL in it. UGH. Now I read the labels very carefully and study the ingredients.

It took at least two months on new food for Zach to get better. His vet also gave us probiotics to add to his food to help his digestive track.

Best of luck with your girl. I know those allergy tests are extremely expensive - perhaps trying another novel protein (venison, rabbit, quail) for a few months before having the tests done to see if the itching starts to resolve on its own. Also, any quick change in food can lead to diarrhea.

Hope this helps
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so much for the responses!

That hypoallergenic food was recommended to us by the veterinarian. It's good to know now that she could be allergic to even that. We've been thinking of switching to a more natural diet for her and the other cats. The nutritional benefits are bound to be abundant as compared to Science Diet or any of the other commercial pet foods.

We feed our dogs a natural dog food called Wellness. It's a bit pricey but since my mom simply adores the Chow chows, she insists on getting them the best.
We've all been thinking about feeding the cats Wellness as well but we've been hesitant because A, it's, as I said, a bit pricey and B, my babies seem to like the Science Diet indoor cat food.

We've now decided to go ahead with the Wellness for the cats, Muffin especially.

I'm sincerely surprised that our vet didn't suggest another form of food. After a month on the hypoallergenic food, and after seeing no improvement, they suggested the skin graft. I compared the ingredients of the hypo- food (also by science diet...irony..) to the science diet and then to the wellness. The only difference between is that the commercial foods use chemical preservatives where the Wellness do not.

I really hope this will help her.

Thanks so much!

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