Allergies & Mange need Medical Attention

Question:
We got our cat, LuLu, from a shelter 10 months ago when she was 8 months old. She has always liked to have her head rubbed pretty hard and she rubs her cheeks against hard areas like walls or bed posts to the point she has rubbed off her left whiskers. The right ones are showing wear and tear, too. She drinks by dipping her paw in the water and licking it off. She is active, eats well and seems perfectly healthy. She is also a totally indoor cat. We have a male she was adopted with and they get along great. Should I be concerned about the rubbing?

Dr. Nichol:
Cats normally rub their faces on vertical surfaces to communicate with their homies. The facial pheromones Lulu leaves behind are social messages. It’s the feline version of kumbaya. Members of a feline colony may also be fond of grooming each other’s heads. Some like it a little rough but no cat should pay for the pleasure with her whiskers. Lulu’s missing anatomy indicates a skin problem.

I consult with specialists often. Dr. Rebecca Mount, board certified in veterinary dermatology, cares for pets with skin disorders at the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Centers. The good doctor weighed in with the following. “Excessive rubbing leading to self-trauma or loss of hair/whiskers is likely due to an underlying allergy causing LuLu to be itchy. Cats and dogs suffer from three main types of allergies-parasites, food hypersensitivities, and environmental allergies. Rubbing, scratching, excessive grooming or hair plucking are usually not a behavioral issue and are often a sign that a cat is actually itchy. Since dogs and cats tend to progress or ‘grow into’ their allergies it is important to get a jump start on controlling them. Since this kitty was adopted from the shelter, it would be important to rule out mites like demodex and scabies as well as dermatophytosis (ringworm). I recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian to start the allergy work up.”

Lulu is not the first kitty I’ve encountered who spoons water with a paw. My residency training is in behavior medicine. You would think I’d know why Lulu does this. Sorry. Your guess is as good as mine.