Feline scabies is an uncommon skin ailment caused by the head
mite Notoedres cati. The first sign is intense itching about the head and neck,
along with hair loss and the
appearance of bald spots. Due to the incessant scratching, the skin becomes
red, raw, and excoriated. Typically, you will see thick gray to yellow crusts
around the face, neck, and edge of the ears. The condition also may involve the
skin of the paws and genitalia.
In severe or untreated cases the skin forms scabs, crusts, and thickened
wrinkled skin on the head that gives the cat an aged look. With
intense scratching, the wounds become infected.
Free-ranging and feral cats lead complex and busy lives. They maintain large territories that often contain a variety of habitats (forest, farmland, urban gardens, etc.). They explore, they hunt, they scavenge for food, and they might interact with other cats. In contrast, household cats, especially those who live exclusively indoors, have little to do and boredom may set in.
Even if you don’t think that your cat seems bored, there are a number of good reasons to provide enrichment opportunities...
Severe itching is caused by female mites tunneling a few millimeters under
the skin to lay their eggs. Mite eggs hatch in 5 to 10 days. The immature mites
develop into adults and begin to lay eggs of their own. The whole cycle takes
three to four weeks. The diagnosis is confirmed by skin scrapings, or, in
difficult cases, by skin biopsy.
Head mange is highly contagious. It is transmitted primarily by direct
animal-to-animal contact. Dogs and even people can be infested, but only for
short periods. Infestation in people produces an itchy skin
condition that resolves spontaneously in two to six weeks, if all mites have
been eliminated from the cat.
The Notoedres mite will reproduce only on cats. It is highly susceptible to
drying and cannot live more than a few days off the host.
Treatment: Clip scabies-affected areas on longhaired cats and bathe the
entire animal in warm water and soap to loosen crusts. Kittens may be dipped or
shampooed but must be dried quickly to prevent chilling. Kill the head mites by
dipping the cat in a 2.5 percent lime sulfur dip weekly. Continue for two weeks
beyond apparent cure. Lime sulfur dips are safe for use on pregnant queens and
kittens over 6 weeks of age. Other cats on the premises should be dipped once a
week for three to four weeks, since they may harbor the mite and act as a
reservoir for reinfestation.
An alternative to dips is selamectin (Revolution), with doses given a month
apart. Ivermectin is also used by some veterinarians.