Cats scratch for many of the same reasons humans scratch, for relief of an itch and it is usually not a cause for concern. However, if a cat is scratching excessively, or exhibiting signs of extreme scratching, such as hair loss in the area where the scratching occurs, it is time to consider some of the possible causes.
One of the most common reasons that cats scratch is because they have fleas. Cats that go outdoors are most at risk for contracting fleas, but even strictly indoor cats can become a host to fleas in some situations. Fleas can jump and can hop onto a human and ride into the house, or in rental situations especially where there is carpet, fleas can be holdover tenants from the last renters. Fleas love to lay eggs and burrow down into the carpet, waiting for the next unsuspecting host. Once on a cat, they can multiply quickly, making the cat miserable quickly. There are several flea shampoos, flea combs and flea medications available to assist in getting rid of fleas.
Another possible cause for an itchy cat is mites. There are several types of mites, such as ear mites, which will be noticed by black specks in the ears, accompanied by constant scratching of the ears. Types of mange are also caused by mites, and are very contagious, so it is important to keep cats isolated if one is suspected to be contaminated with mites. They are very hard to see, but if cats are scratching excessively and especially if they are exhibiting hair loss and they definitely do not have fleas, it is important to have them checked out by a vet to ensure that they do not have mites or a skin disease.
Like humans, cats can also be allergic to various items and have food allergies which could be the source of their itching. Cat owners should be aware of a cats routine, and notice if the cat seems to be very itchy while eating a certain food, going near a certain plant or even lying on a certain blanket for instance. As always, if uncertain, it is always best to consult a vet if there is concern that there could be a serious problem associated with an itchy cat.
Cats can itch and scratch for a number of reasons, and the best way to make sure kitty is comfortable is to really be vigilant. Knowing a cats habits and checking them regularly for signs of fleas, (such as tiny black specks of flea droppings left throughout the fur) will go a long way to ensuring a cat remains comfortable and itch free.