Ripley reclining in his hammock

The health disaster that are my two cats continues. There's not a month that goes by that I don't have to bring one of them to the vet for some complaint. Last month it was Mocha, yesterday it was Ripley.

What Problem This Time?

I'd noticed some scabs under Ripley's fur, on the left side of his neck on Friday. They felt like scratches, so I assumed they were the result of some cat squabble out in the garden. Over the weekend I thought his fur felt a little thin in that area but didn't pay it much attention.

Yesterday morning when I was stroking his neck, my fingers met bare, scabby skin. A lot of it. When I examined the area I found a huge, irregular hole in his fur. While red scabs weren't very evident, the skin did feel like it was covered with hard deposits.

My gut feeling was that, rather than being the result of an injury, the bald patch was self-inflicted. The edges were too well defined for the fur to have been pulled out by him catching it on a bush or fence.

So another vet visit was called for. He scarpered as soon as he saw the cat carrier. No good memories or associations for him with that. I had to hunt him down and extract him from behind some furniture and then all claws came out in a desperate bid to prevent me him putting him in the carrier (he didn't get aggressive with me, just tried everthing to avoid going in the carrier).

The Vet Visit

The vet assessed him and it's another idiopathic condition; i.e. no root cause can be identified. A good candidate is an initial cat-fight where Ripley did get scratched. That scratch either became infected or was otherwise intensely itchy so that he was furiously scratching at it. I never saw him doing this but I'm not with him 24/7.

The skin lesion on Ripley's neck
The skin lesion on Ripley's neck

If the initial irritation wasn't infected, the repeated scratching certainly did infect the area which was oozing plasma and some blood. That, and the infected areas, had resulted in a patchwork of dried and hardened secretions on the skin.

So Ripley's treatment was two injections - one an antibiotic to fight the infection and the other, a steroid injection, to reduce the itchiness and give the area time to heal. Ripley will also be on a course of antibiotic tablets and steroid tablets for 7 days, after which I've to bring him back to the vet for assessment.

The Prognosis

I've been advised that this condition could take 4-6 weeks to abate. A cat's neck seems to be a more difficult area to have heal, primarily because it's an area a cat can easily scratch. Other areas of the body can only be reached by the tongue while grooming and while a cat's tongue is raspy, it won't tear and scratch skin the way claws can do.

Ointments aren't effective either; the cat can lick them off and they also just end up matting the fur into a sticky mess.

The nerves in the skin seem to get hypersensitive so it doesn't take much to make the area intensely itchy again. Over the next few weeks, it's hoped that that hyper-sensitivity will decrease back to normal levels.

So more vet visits and medications will be required in the coming weeks. 🙁

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