Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.
Thank you, Debbie.
Now if you are seeing Molly scratch herself, then this isn’t likely to be a stress based overgrooming nor is the male cat likely the culprit. Instead, the most common reason for scabbing in these areas in a scratching cat is skin self-trauma. In regards ***** ***** we’d have to consider allergies to things like flea saliva, but also dietary proteins, pollens, dust/storage mites, and literally anything they come in contact with.
Now I do want to make note of your mention of Frontline, especially as I am sorry to say that the pattern of scabs is what we often see with flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). While I am very glad that you are keeping up on her flea treatment, I must warn you that we are seeing flea resistance to Frontline. So much so that we are actually seeing it fail to protect flea sensitive cats from being bitten. And therefore, if Molly is sensitive to fleas it is possible that she could have bitten (even if she isn’t covered in fleas) and now suffering with an allergic skin reaction to the flea’s saliva (the basis for flea allergy dermatitis). Therefore, if you have applied this over a fortnight ago, you may want to consider retreating her now with a newer product that doesn’t have resistance issues (ie Activyl, Advantage II, Advocate, etc).
Further to that since this is likely an allergy triggered itch, it’d be worth considering a trial with an anti-histamine. Anti-histamines can settle allergic skin reactions in early stages or mild cases since the skin irritation is an allergic response. Typically in these cases, we will use Piriton for these wee ones (ie 1-2mg or 1/4 – 1/2 tablet of a 4mg Piriton tablet up to twice daily). Do note that while anti-histamines will break that itchiness cycle and give her skin the chance it needs to settle, it can make kitties drowsy. Therefore, we always keep the dose low and if she were to be drowsy on this, then we'd reduce the dose to once daily for her. And of course, this medication shouldn't be used if your kitty has any pre-existing conditions or are on any other medication without speaking to your vet. That all said, if you treat her with this and she doesn't settle or her irritation is very severe (which doesn’t sound the case), then she may require a long acting injection of a steroids to allay the allergic skin response and associated itchiness. But if we have mild signs of allergic overgrooming (be it fleas, pollen, dietary, etc), this can help settle the drive to scratch and give her skin the peace it needs to settle.
Otherwise, based on your description of their interactions, it does sound like he is challenging Molly. If she is a nervous skittish cat anyway, he is likely pressing his luck trying to see if he can be top cat in the house/territory. This is natural (though frustrating for us) in cat interactions as they are not naturally inclined to live in groups. Therefore, if she is feeling off at all perhaps with her constant itchiness, he may think this is the time to see if he can bully her into submission.
Therefore, in this case, you do want to make sure she does have a safe retreat from him. This includes those high spots but we also want to make sure she can access food/water/litterbox without him being able to disturb her. So, you will need to monitor them or consider giving her a small safe haven in a spare room (or bathroom) where she can get away from him. Furthermore, if you see these door way blocking situations (where he is essentially refusing to move because he is challenging her as boss and then attacking her when she doesn't force him to move on), it is worth stepping in and helping avoid them escalating. It won't stop his doing this all the time but would break up the challenge moments you are seeing.
Further to this, it is advisable to consider OTC de-stressing treatments to reduce the tension growing between them. One option that would be ideal here would be Feliway (also known as Comfort Zone in the pet stores). This is a synthetic cat pheromone that helps to relieve stress, promote relaxation, remove the anxiety and tension. As well or alternatively, you could consider a nutritional supplement that can be mixed into food like Kalmaid (LINK) or Zylkene. Both of these are very good at soothing anxious cats and reducing the overall tension between them. As well, there are treats like Composure (which pet stores and even Amazon carry) and even a Bach Flower Remedy (LINK) for cats (though not as well tolerated as the other agents and isn’t as feline specific as the other de-stress agents are). And as these are not drugs per say, they can be used in combination as need be.These can all reduce her stress, diffuse the tension between them and hopefully if coupled with tackling her skin issue can help settle this challenge and overall get everything settled in the household.
Overall, the pattern of her scabs and your seeing her itch are not suggestive of stress induced overgrooming despite this being a very reasonable reason for Molly to be stressed. Therefore, we would want to take steps to address FAD first but also address stress and step in when he is challenging her to help restore the balance in the household and settle both her skin but also the kitty tension that is building here.
I hope this information is helpful.
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All the best,
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