Why does my cat scratch around his neck and ears?

by Hannah
(Warrington, UK)

I have a 3yr old foreign white boy named Lewis and a 14yr old blue point Siamese, my sister has 2 Havanas.

Lewis has a skin condition which causes him to scratch around his neck and ears until he's raw and I was wondering if anyone had any experience of this problem?

We've ruled out his food and fleas! We have him booked in the dermatologist this week but he has suffered with the condition for 2 yrs and seen several vets who just give him steroid injections and creams which don't always work!! Any advice appreciated!!

ps. Tito dances on my laptop as we speak 🙂


Hi Hannah.... In your title you mentioned "skin allergy". Your cat's skin is itching but the allergy, if it is an allergy, might be one of a number of different types of allergy caused by a variety of allergens so I changed the title to go back to the symptom. I have also moved your submission to the cat health problems page.

It does seem, though, that your vet has concluded that the itchy skin is caused by an allergen rather than a parasite because he has prescribed steroids; the last resort of the vet who has diagnosed an allergy but who has not successfully diagnosed the source, the particular allergen.

You also mention that you have discounted fleas and food allergens. I will leave these out.

As this is a very big and difficult subject I will focus on one or two things and link to some other relevant pages on PoC. First the links (these are just a selection, you can search for more on the cat health problems page by using "Ctrl + F".

Feline Miliary Dermatitis

Cat Mites

Cat Skin Problems

Feline Allergies

My almost immediate thought was a possible inherited autoimmune disease, however. But this is pure speculation and a rare condition. I do recall though a woman who shared her experiences on PoC and who bought Siamese cats from a poor breeder. Her cats died young. I am not saying that you breeder is poor by the way.

The foreign white is an Oriental Shorthair, basically a Modern Siamese in a white coat as I understand it.

The Modern Siamese cat, as I call it, is quite heavily selectively bred. The Siamese cat amongst all the purebred cats has the largest number of genetic diseases. Siamese cat health problems.

Now, I am not saying that this is a genetic disease or an autoimmune problem but it might be as your vet is struggling to figure what is causing the allergic reaction - the allergen concerned - and removing it from the environment. That is the best solution. Long term steroid use is not ideal and can cause side effects as I remember.

You have tested for the obvious possible causes and drawn a blank. The rarer conditions then need to be explored.

Here is another wild suggestion (I am compelled to make them as I doing this from a distance with little information); I note that your foreign white has a feather boa around his neck.

This is probably a one off event. But perfume may be an allergen to your boy. Inhalant allergies (allergens in the air) can cause the cat to itch around the head and neck. Just a wild thought.

One last thought! Fleas are quite noticeable when flea combed out. You can see them. There are some fleas that are very small indeed. They are hardly visible. I would at least double check this. Carefully flea comb around the neck and ears using a 32 teeth to the inch flea comb - very carefully and over and over again. Inspect the flea comb against a light source and watch it for a while to see if there is movement. If so you have caught a parasite, probably a small flea and fleas as you know can cause allergic skin reactions or just plain irritation.

Good luck. Sorry I have rambled a bit.

Michael Avatar

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Why does my cat scratch around his neck and ears?

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Feb 14, 2011
my thoughts
by: Kathy W

Cat Fancy magazine has an article this month or last on cat allergies. We have 2 cats that loose hair in spots around their rear ends and one on her side and she sometimes gets sores from scratching. The article said some cat allergies can be from dust mites. And it gave serveral ways to keep them down in your house such as vacuming more often and using a filter on it. Since the allergy is where they sit, we have assumed this could be the problem. My sons cat has the same problem exactly as our 2 cats. He has 2 cats and only one has the allergy. We have 5 and 2 have the allergy. He took his cat to the vet and they gave him a steroid shot and he said all the poor cat did was act doped up for 2 weeks. So he refuses to give the cat the steroids and we have both ruled out food allergies. He has tried lots of different foods and the problem hasnt stopped. We too have tried different foods and we feed high quality dry food to our cats. We do however feed some purina which Im sure has corn and who knows what else but the 2 cats affected dont seem to eat too much of the Purina. We use Purina one kitten food because one of our cats is still a kitten and Purina Pro Plan for 11+ because one is about 14. I did find a cream that works really well on the one that has the sores but I dont have the name of it with me. I suggest reading the article in Cat Fancy magazine, it might be helpful.

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Michael is retired! He retired at age 57 and at Aug 2018 is approaching 70. He worked in many jobs. The last job he did was as a solicitor practicing general law. He loves animals and is passionate about animal welfare. He also loves photography and nature. He hates animal abuse. He has owned and managed this site since 2007. There are around 13k pages so please use the custom search facility!

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