Irish mouser jumps ship. Do I need to worry? The lumps of matted fur seem to be bothering him lately
Dear Dr. Baum —
I adopted a cat that was left ashore about two years ago. I reckon he was one of those cats they have on the ships for the rats maybe, I don’t know. But anyway, he was always well groomed and washed himself daily until recently. Now he has lumps of matted fur in and around the lower of his back. It didn’t seem to bother him until a few days ago when he wouldn’t let me rub him. I tried to cut it off but he won’t let me. Can you give me any idea what could be the cause? I hope it’s not serious.
Thanking you for your time,
County Cork. Eire
Dear Marlene —
Happily, your problem should be a simple one to resolve. The most common reason for matting and irritation of the skin at the base of the tail and the lower back is an allergy to flea bites. In susceptible animals, the saliva from a biting flea that is injected anywhere on the body during a bite will produce the classic signs of chewing and scratching on the lower back. Take your friend into your veterinarian and he or she will probably give a cortisone injection that will temporarily relieve the itching. If the hair is difficult or painful to comb out, it can be shaved off with an appropriate clipper.
For long term control, it is imperative that any flea problem be addressed because the problem will recur again and again if the kitty is exposed to fleas. Thankfully, there are products like Advantage or Frontline that do an excellent job as long as they are reapplied monthly. All animals in the environment should be treated with these products to eliminate any safe harbors for the fleas.