A cat that is constantly licking and biting itself is obviously irritated by something on its skin. The idea of mites or fleas crawling around on your cat's fur, and possibly on your carpet or furniture, is unnerving. Determining the cause of licking and biting is essential to stop it.
Licking and Biting Due to Ear Mites
Cats do not usually lick and bite because of ear mites. If the infestation is severe, however, some of the mites may move to another location, such as paws or the base of the tail. In that case, a cat may excessively lick and bite to relieve the itching caused by the mites. A cat with an extreme ear mite infestation who is licking and scratching other areas should have his entire body treated for the pesky little critters.
Ear Mite Symptoms
Common symptoms of ear mites for your cat include scratching at his head, face and ears, head shaking, rubbing the side of his face on the ground, hair loss on and around the ears, and a build-up of dark, waxy dirt that looks similar to coffee grounds.
Other Causes of Excessive Licking and Biting
If ear mites are not the cause of licking and biting, there's a good chance that another pest could be to blame. Fleas and the type of mites that cause mange are common culprits behind excessive licking and biting. Allergic reactions to chemicals, shampoos, fabrics, plants or other allergens can cause scratching as well as licking and biting. Stress, anxiety and changes in environment can also cause psychological licking and biting. In this case, cats tend to lick the same spot constantly until it become irritated, red and raw.
Ear mites are usually treated by cleaning the ear frequently and applying a medication that contains an insecticide to kill the mites. Your veterinarian may also prescribe antibiotics if the mites have caused an infection. Fleas and ear mites on other parts of the body and mange are treated by bathing the cat in a special shampoo or solution that kills fleas and mites. If allergies are causing excessive licking and biting, frequent grooming, antihistamines and removal of the allergen from the environment are used together to combat the symptoms. Licking and biting due to stress or other psychological reasons may be stopped by providing distractions, making it difficult for the cat to lick the chosen spot, and reducing stress or anxiety. A veterinarian may also prescribe anti-depressants or sedatives to combat intense licking behavior.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.