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Itching: food allergies? fleas? Confused?!

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
All of my 5 cats have been scratching themselves around their faces/ears primarily for a number of weeks. (This has not turned into any sort of excessive grooming.) During this period, their food was changed because of a weight problem that 2 of them have, and I personally came in contact with some sort of insect that left several bite marks on my legs. The bite marks occured the same day that I had been to a small tropical habitat exhibit in a NYC park, where the animals/birds/plants are in a damp humid room, pretty much loose, with the humans on walkways.

However, I've been bitten by fleas before, and at that time experienced unbelievable itching. The bites I got this time did not itch at all.I have had no re-occurence of bites on me.

I've examined the cats, and used a flea comb on them, then tapped it out onto white paper and don't see any flea dirt. I've ruffled the fur under their chins with white paper below them, and didn't dislodge black specks of any sort.

As a result, I was thinking that this was more likely to be a reaction to the food change, but someone pointed out to me on another board whether it was likely that that would occur for all five cats at the same time. (Two are siblings, so they may have similar reactions.)

I'm debating whether to change the food, or treat them with Advantage.I'm still puzzled though as to why there would be no flea dirt showing up by now, on at least one of them. I'm also wondering whether there could be some other pest that could be causing a similar itching reaction, primarily around the face/ears, but leave no 'trail'. Do ear mites migrate around the head?

These cats live 8 stories up in a NYC apartment and have not been anywhere else except to the vets, since they were brought home. I do realize that I could have brought something in on my person however.
Any thoughts (other than asking the vet)?
post #2 of 10
It never hurts to use Advantage to be safe. With a flea bite allergy, the reaction is severe and can last for ahwile. Also, the food could have something to do with it. It's not that uncommon for more than one cat to have a food allergy. With allergies, you have to eliminate each possible cause to figure it out. Food allergies also tend to give cats ear infections, which could also explain why they are itching thier heads. Check the inside of thier ears and see if there's any brown waxy stuff in there.
It's not very common for adult cats to contract mites. They would have had to come into contact with another cat with them.With your situation, I don't think mites are likely.
post #3 of 10
I was just thinking and may be wrong . Did the scratching started after your visit at the tropical vist on your cats ? If so , maybe you touched a plant they have a alergie from . Or a plant touched your shirt and the cats came in cotact with it ....
post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
No, I actually didn't touch any plants in the place..they are set back from the walkways. Actually, most of them do have some brown gunk in their ears, which except for one of them, is relatively new as well. That's why I was thinking of mites, but they are not doing the head-shaking business that they seem to do with that.

In an effort to address the weight gain of 2 of my cats (after the vet chastized me!) I unfortunately changed both their dry & wet food.
The components dont seem too different in the dry food, just the relative %'s of the ingredients. Two of them had some dry skin problems after the dry food change, but I'm now giving them some Omega3/6 fish oils, and that took care of the 'dandruff'. (They were scratching before the fish oils.)

Sigh..the more I think abt this, the itchier I become lolol!
post #5 of 10
It does sound like an allergy to the food. Although mites can look the same, they are sometimes mistaken for an ear infection. The omega 3/6 fatty acids are great for dry skin, and it also helps with allergies, but won't cure them. Did you switch brands of food? If so, maybe the food you were feeding has a light formula. Also, just cutting back on the wet food can help with the weight issue
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks Sandie. They actually eat very little wet food..one 6 oz. can among 5 cats in the AM, not always finished, and a 3 ounce can in the evening. most of which goes to Sasha, who tends to be thin and is the only one to eat more wet than dry food.

What I did was switch from Nutro Max, to Nutro Natural Complete Care for weight control dry food. The ingredients are very similar, but appear in a different order/proportion. I also started feeding them Nutro lite wet food. Before I was feeding them various flavors of Triumph wet food. The Nutro wet food has many more ingredients than Triumph's (at least listed) in part because it has more vegetables in it.
The only thing I noticed in the protein category, which I read was usually the culprit, was that the Nutro wet food specifically listed 'cod' fairly high up in the order, while Triumph does not seem to have fish in all of their flavors, and where they do, it's more generic (the 'ocean fish' etc) So, my cats are allergic to either Cod or Potatoes or Peas lol.
post #7 of 10
Then heck, I would put them back on the Triumph wet food and see if it helps
post #8 of 10
It could be fleas or mites but it seems low on the list since you're using Advantage (could still happen).

They could be allergic to something in the food - for example dyes, shicken, beef, or fish (usually the main culprits).

Try keeping them on one type of food without those items (it is very hard to find - a vets office usually has some) for at least 2-4 weeks then slowly itroduce one of the other types of food again (once again over a 2 week period and see if that helps.

I had to do that with Sphinx and Kuce. Sphinx is on IVD Green Peas and Rabbit and Hill's z/d dried and canned food without fish in it. Kuce is now on the same diet.

Good luck and keep in touch.
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
thanks, greycat..

I actually have not used Advantage on them as of yet. While I recognize that it is a safe product, I'd rather not use it if I don't need to do so.Other than the scratching around their heads, I'm not seeing any evidence of fleas. I live 8 floors up in an NYC apartment, so any initial flea would have to come in on me.

I think I'm going to try to switch the wetfood first, & continue on the current lite dry food, and see what happens. I have to go hunting for some new diet wet food; I'd already tried a few but they only were interested in the Max Lite.
post #10 of 10
Lucia - My vet had me change both the dried and canned at the same time (They didn't like it at first) to try to get their system cleaned out of any allergen in the foods. Plus it has to be the same kind of dried and canned, not just one.

But talking to your vet first about any changes is the best thing to do, plus they can check for fleas, ticks, and any other tests they may need to do to see if its a medical problem - for example skin problems. They may also have to get a cortisone treatment to help kickstart the way to recovery.
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