It is not unusual for cats to have sensitive skin, and there are a number of conditions that could cause skin reactions. Adjusting the cat’s diet, however, can help alleviate discomfort and lessen the need for medications or stronger measures to keep your feline friend happy and healthy.
Signs and Causes of Skin Sensitivity
There are many symptoms that could indicate a cat has skin sensitivity. While different cats will have different levels of sensitivity and may manifest symptoms in different ways, typical skin irritations show as:
- Dry, flaky, or scaly skin patches
- Unusual redness or hot skin
- Bumps or lumps on the skin
- Excessive shedding or bare fur patches
- Obsessive scratching, nibbling, or licking
- Twitchy skin or touch sensitivity
Allergies are one of the most common causes of skin problems, including reactions to food, pollen, mold, perfumes, detergents, or other inflammatory agents. Pest and parasite infestations, such as fleas, ticks, lice, or mites can also irritate sensitive skin. Cats may also have skin flare-ups if they are overly anxious or stressed, or hormonal imbalances can create skin reactions.
Because there are so many potential causes of skin reactions that could show similar symptoms, it is important to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis before beginning any treatment. The diagnosis will help determine the cause and degree of the skin sensitivity, as well as how to most effectively alleviate the cat’s discomfort while minimizing potential side effects or other complications.
Best Diet for Feline Skin Sensitivity
Changing a cat’s diet is often part of the treatment plan for skin sensitivity. A balanced, nutritious diet will support strong and healthy skin and fur, helping the cat fight off reactions naturally. While there are many cat food brands and blends that claim to be specially formulated for sensitive skin, a veterinarian’s recommendation will be very helpful to choose the best diet for an individual cat. It is also important to check ingredients of each food to ensure it will not cause any other difficulties with the cat’s health and nutritional needs.
The best feline diet for cats with sensitive skin will include…
Good Quality Protein – Cats are carnivores and require a high protein diet. The best proteins for sensitive skin include duck and venison, but other options may be appropriate for individual cats. The protein source should be one of the first ingredients listed in the cat food, and should not be labeled as “meal” or “by-products” for the healthiest protein source.
Fatty Acids – These essential ingredients help support a cat’s immune health and fight off infections and reactions. Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids should be part of a high quality cat food to reduce skin sensitivity.
Antioxidants – These complex nutrients also support immune health and overall wellness. Sources of appropriate antioxidants can vary in different cat foods, but include grapeseed, bioflavonoids, and glutathione. At least one of these should be listed in the ingredients.
Anti-Inflammatories – To minimize reactions from overly-sensitive skin, anti-inflammatory ingredients are a good component of cat food. Burdock, dandelion, and licorice are common anti-inflammatory choices to help cats.
- Probiotics – While not an essential part of a sensitive skin diet, probiotics help support overall gut health. This can help a cat better absorb vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from its food, ensuring balanced nutrition to minimize skin sensitivity.
In general, choosing a cat food with limited ingredients and fewer fillers will be healthier for any feline family member, including cats with sensitive skin. It is also important to consider all parts of a cat’s diet, and ensure that no treats or other tidbits might have ingredients or allergens that can trigger skin reactions.
Other Steps to Help Your Cat’s Skin
While changing a cat’s diet can have a great impact on minimizing skin reactions, there are other steps that can also be helpful. Frequent bathing can help soothe the cat’s skin and eliminate external allergens, and appropriate pest treatments can remove fleas, ticks, or other parasites that might be triggering sensitivity. More frequent cleaning, including washing any bedding the cat uses, can further remove allergens that might irritate the cat.
Reducing stress can also help cats that might have psychological connections to their skin conditions. Providing the cat with comfortable safe spaces, such as hiding places where the animal will not be disturbed, can be useful, and removing loud noises can help a cat from getting startled. If a new pet, move to a new home, new baby, or other recent introduction may be triggering a cat’s stress reactions, gradual introductions and comfortable desensitization can help minimize physical discomfort and skin irritation.
While skin sensitivity isn’t often able to be completely eliminated, careful management and monitoring of the cat’s condition can help minimize uncomfortable flare-ups and keep the cat healthy and happy every day.