Q: A feral tabby female adopted me, but she is a very fussy eater. She is fidgety and scratches herself a lot. Could this be a food allergy?
A: Firstly, I am very glad that you took the responsibility on you. Remember that she must be treated for worms on a three-monthly basis with a veterinary approved product. Treating her for external parasites like ticks and fleas is just as important. Remember that because cats groom themselves, you sometimes do not see fleas. It does not mean they do not have them, and in some cats even one flea bite can cause an allergic reaction.
Your vet will be able to perform a good clinical examination and perform skin scrapes to find out whether the reason for the itching can be parasite related.
With regards to the food, changing a cat’s diet can be extremely challenging. They are creatures of habit and therefore don’t except any sudden changes in their environment, and this includes their food.
Should she perhaps have a skin-related problem, your vet can advise a skin diet to support a healthier skin and relieve allergies.
Gradual introduction to food over a period of two to three weeks will not only help her to adjust to the new diet easier, and prevent stomach problems due to the change in diet, but will also encourage her to start experimenting with the new food without forcing her to adjust too fast.
Skin irritations can sometimes be due to environmental allergies, like disinfectants or sprays that are used in the house. Some cats can also start scratching or over-grooming due to stress, for instance when a roaming cat is suddenly kept indoors, or other animals enters her territory.
It is also necessary to evaluate her mouth for possible discomfort causing her eating habits to change. Your vet will be able to assist you in this regard as well.
Dr Letitia Swartz, veterinarian