Dear Dr. Donna, I rescued a neutered shorthair male cat about 1 1/2 years ago – he had been shot with a shotgun and had an abscess on his back – which our vet took care of. I named him “Bozo.” Although Bozo loved to roam the neighborhood, I put up special screening on the fences in my yard, to keep cats from jumping out of the yard. Bozo is the ONLY cat who is able to jump and climb the screening and get out! (I should have named him, “Houdini”!). Sadly, a few months ago, neighbors found him in terrible condition – possibly having run into a car with bad facial injuries – including a broken jaw and a torn tongue. After extensive surgery and recovery at home, he seemed fine. However, Bozo has a new “habit,” of incessant licking himself – all over, with lots of fur coming off. I saw a couple of fleas and treated him with “Advantage,” but he kept licking! He is missing a lot of fur, now, and looks semi-bald/not good. He has some small pimples on his skin - especially where he licks a lot around his hind quarters/rear end. I’m wondering if the pimples could be an allergy to flea bites? My vet thinks this may be an “emotional problem,” due to us rarely letting him outside now or from the fleas. I have treated him for the fleas and I let him out sometimes, but he keeps licking away. If you have any ideas or suggestions to help poor Bozo – who has lived through so much trauma – he only has seven lives left out of nine, I’d truly appreciate it!
Dear Bozo’s mom: thanks for writing in. You and your vet could both be correct. I would aggressively treat for the possibility of flea allergy dermatitis—treating him, but also your home, other premises (his resting spaces, outdoor areas, etc). Remember it only takes one flea bite to aggravate a flea allergic cat.
I think your vet is also probably “spot on”. Bringing previously outdoor / feral cats indoors (even though for their own good) can be a huge stress for them. This type of stress often manifests itself with physical signs….excess grooming and inappropriate urination being the most common problems. I would like to refer you to a helpful site (called the Indoor Pet Initiative) that helps identify feline stress and ideas of how to change the environment to be more appealing to them. It will give you a few options to try for Bozo. Click this link for ideas on helping ease stress in a previously outdoor cat:
Take a look around the site…has some good stuff. Good luck and hope this helps. Dr. Donna.