My Cat’s Fleas Are Gone, But She’s Still Itchy. Help!

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My cat has some fleas but is getting better. The ones that are left are biting her on the lower back. Now she bites out a little fur and the skin under fur is wet and pink and continues to itch it. I don’t know what to do or how to treat it. Any recommendations would be appreciated! Thanks!

Cat scratching an itch, CC-BY-ND Janet 59 via Flickr

Fleas can cause an allergic reaction that continues long after the pests are gone. Photo CC-BY-ND Janet 59

~ Cassie

Siouxsie: Fleas are nasty little things, Cassie, and a lot of cats have reactions like your kitty is going through. I’m getting itchy just thinking about it! *grumble*

Thomas: What your cat is experiencing sounds like what vets refer to as flea allergy dermatitis.

Bella: You see, fleas have lots of proteins in their saliva that can cause a severe itching reaction. Some kitties are more sensitive than others to these proteins, and it sounds like your cat is one of those especially sensitive ones.

Siouxsie: The only way to treat flea allergy dermatitis is to get rid of every single flea in your house, because even one bite can cause the itching and chewing and skin pain.

Thomas: First, you have to make sure every pet in your home is on good flea control, and the best method so far is those liquids that you put on the back of your kitty’s neck.

Bella: But you can’t just use any old thing you find at the grocery store. We know the good brands of flea goop aren’t cheap (Mama uses Vectra on us, by the way), but the good goop is really the only way to kill fleas and keep them from reproducing.

Siouxsie: The other thing you have to do is clean the heck out of your house. Flea eggs can live in pets’ bedding, in your furniture, and in carpets and throw rugs. If you have hardwood floors with cracks between planks, eggs can even get in there.

Thomas: We wrote about how to get rid of a flea invasion a couple of years back. You’ll find some good tips in this column.

Bella: Ridding your home of fleas is a very labor-intensive process, but it’s worth the effort. Mama’s had to do it before, and she hopes she never has to do it again!

Siouxsie: Sometimes all this itching and biting leads to secondary bacterial or yeast infections, so we definitely recommend that you bring your cat to the vet. If your kitty does have an infection, your vet can prescribe medication to treat it.

Thomas: One more thing: Some cats are so hypersensitive to flea saliva that vets may even prescribe an antihistamine or prednisone to treat the discomfort caused by the allergy.

Bella: Now, we’re not big on pills and potions for every single thing, but flea allergy dermatitis is very painful and uncomfortable — and if it continues long enough, a cat may even start neurotically chewing and biting on the affected area even though the allergy or infection is no longer there.

Siouxsie: The only way to prevent future episodes of allergic reactions is to be consistent in using flea control and nip any infestations in the bud.

Thomas: If your cat goes outside, it’s pretty much impossible to keep fleas under control, so if she is an indoor-outdoor cat, you might want to think about turning her into an indoor-only cat.

Bella: It can be done, and we’ve got some advice on how to help your kitty live a happy indoor-only life.

Siouxsie: Do you other readers have some tips on how to help Cassie control fleas in her home?

Thomas: Do you have experience with flea allergies in your cats? What did you do to help your kitty feel better?

Bella: What about bringing an outdoor cat indoors? Have you done it? What’s worked for you? Share your stories in the comments, and together we can all help Cassie help her cat!

  • Mikey

    Fleas are just evil! I had a boy years ago that had a severe allergy to the bites. So much so that he would spend months with little to no fur from his ‘waist’ to about halfway down his tail.

    We always have good results using Advantage – and that’s what the vet gave him when he was on dialysis, so I figured it has a lower toxicity to the skin than others.

    Anyway, we went through several approaches as the years passed for him. A cortisone shot at the vet (once, he had ONE flea, just one!); dips, anti-itch shampoos; bitter no-bite spray.

    You can get hydrocortisone spray (I got some from the site), but the stuff in the people pharmacy is okay to use. Also, for the individual spots,you can use an OTC wound care product like neosporin. But watch carefully: neomycin allergies are pretty common in people, your cat may have a sensitivity to it too. There are other ointments you can get without the neomycin – bacitracin is a good one, as allergies to it are very rare; a dual antibiotic like bacitracin and polymixin will work as well.

    Covering the spots is going to be really rough, so be prepared for some major drooling – that’s because it will taste icky. If you need to, you can dust over the spots with cornstarch – just use the food-grade stuff from the grocery store. It helps with irritation too. Good Luck!

  • AnitaB

    I help take care of a feral/friendly colony and many years ago one of our sweet little tabbys (Abigail) was missing big chunks of fur. It was the dead of winter so I didn’t think it was fleas but I took her to my vet anyway. tTey examined her skin, gave her a vial of Revolution (I love this stuff) on the back of her neck and gave her a shot of liquid prednisone. They said she had a flea allergy and would need the shot, along with flea med every once in a while. As time went on she only got the flea med and the shot less and less. As she was a recurring visitor to this vet they would only charge me for the prednisone shot when she went. It sure saved her fur and her skin.


    I read about “Diatomaceous Earth” for ants and other crawling insects, and have not had ants in my house since! While I was reading the reviews I read that a lot of people brush it on their cats and dogs to keep off fleas. They said it is completely harmless for cats and dogs, etc. The only warning was to not inhale it accidentally, as it is very fine dust. You can get it at hardware stores in the garden department. Good luck!

  • Catherine Murdoch

    I use Advantage to keep my cats’ fleas under control and it works very well. It also helps control ear mites and worms, with the exception of tapeworm. Which reminds me, if I remember correctly, cats can get tapeworm from fleas so it might be a good idea to get your kitty treated for that as well. To get rid of the fleas in your house may need a Pest Control expert but it will be worth it to get rid of them. I expect you don’t want fleas biting you either.

  • Maggie B

    My Wegie, Purrscilla, is one of the hyper-sensitive kitties. Our vet prescribed us Revolution, which works well. She and Noah are strictly indoor kitties, but fleas will hitch a ride in from outside.

    To rid our house of fleas, in addition to washing everything, we treat our floors with Diatomacious Earth. The food grade shell flour (NOT pool grade) is totally nontoxic to pets and humans. (I drink a tablespoonful in juice every day to promote bone/joint health, lower my cholesterol and keep my innards working properly.)

    DE IS messy, but it kills fleas, roaches, palmetto bugs, bedbugs . . . pretty much any kind of crawly nasty. Sprinkle the powder into carpets/ floors and around the edges of bathroom floors, kitchen floors and counters. It kills physically, not chemically, so bugs will never become immune to it. The tiny diatoms work their way into the bug in chinks in it’s chitin. Then it basically cuts up their insides and dries them out. Viola! Bye, bye buggies!! And if kitty eats a dying/dead bug, she wont get sick. We had a bad infestation a couple years ago and even dusted it into the fur of the Purr Patrol. Look on the web for FOOD GRADE DE. It is not overly expensive, and works wonders.

  • Julie Richards

    I also have the same problem with my cat. His fleas are all gone yet he’s still itchy. I just realized that he has allergies with the shampoo I’ve been using and also in shrimp. Nevertheless, excellent content here. Thumbs up!

  • Kat Mobasher

    My cat had a similar problem. Two things:
    Easier (try first): slice a fresh lemon, pour boiling water over and allow to steep for at least 8 hours. Remove lemons and use as a rinse (leave in, don’t rinse out) on the cat (you can shampoo first, but not necessary). You may want to warm slightly before using; DO NOT dilute! (This is a great rinse for human hair too.)

    Harder: Make an herbal infusion with pennyroyal, slippery elm, comfrey. Bring spring water to a boil, lower heat to a simmer. Throw in 1/4 cup each of herbs, allow to simmer gently for 15 min. Cool and strain, use a full strength rinse on cat, DO NOT dilute or rinse out! (NOTE: If any infected sores, you can add 1 tsp goldenseal root powder AFTER removing from the heat; allow to steep off the heat for 15-20 min in that case.)

    WIth these, my cat was much improved in less than a week with NO drugs.