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C2007-47

Dear Christopher Cat

When I pet my cat, Max, the skin on his back quivers like he’s having a spasm. Is he in pain?

Christopher Responds

Possibly, or Max might simply be itchy.

I have arthritis of the spine, and before I started pain medication, I sometimes flinched when Mom petted me.

I also shiver during petting when flea bites make my skin itchy.

To determine whether Max has fleas, comb him with a fine-toothed flea comb to remove fleas and what’s seen even more frequently: flea dirt.

The black specks commonly called flea dirt are actually flea feces – or digested blood.

You can make the diagnosis yourself by placing the black specks on a wet paper towel and smearing them. If they form a red-brown streak, you’re looking at digested blood in flea dirt.

If Max has fleas, treat him with a flea product made for cats. Never use dog flea medication, because it can be lethal to us cats.

If Max doesn’t have fleas, ask your veterinarian to examine him to determine why his skin reacts to your touch as it does. If pain is the problem, medication is available.

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