Like humans, cats develop allergies too.
Your cat could have a flea allergy, environmental allergies (known as atopic dermatitis), or possibly a food allergy.
Flea allergy and environmental allergies are the most common. However, cats often have multiple allergies.
When a cat has allergies their immune systems become sensitive to substances present in their surroundings.
Though these allergens are usually common in most environments and usually harmless to most animals, a cat with allergies will have an extreme reaction to them.
She may show a variety of symptoms as her body tries to rid itself of these substances. Here are some signs to look for in your cat and what to do if she has allergies.
General Symptoms of Allergies in Cats
Cats with bad allergies are often very itchy and have skin problems associated with allergic dermatitis. They also might exhibit some of the following symptoms:
- Itchy Skin
- Excessive Chewing on Skin
- Excessive Chewing on Paws
- Loud Snoring
- Runny Eyes
The cause of these symptoms are due to a number of allergens, such as:
Allergies are more common in outdoor cats because they are in contact with a larger range of possible allergens.
What Are Cats Allergic To?
Nobody is exactly sure why allergies in their pets are on the rise. It may be because they don’t have to battle parasites and germs constantly. This leaves our cats immune systems open to potential allergens.
We know there is a similar process happening in humans. It is safe to say that feline allergies are a big problem for the pets and owners who are affected by them.
There are many common types of allergies in cats.
Flea Allergies in Cats
It is common for cats to have allergies to fleas. They can become incredibly itchy after being bitten just once or twice.
You may not be able to find any evidence of fleas on your cat. This is because cats with flea allergies often clean themselves aggressively regularly.
Biting, nibbling, or scratching specifically around the neck, thighs, belly, and base of the tail are signs of a flea allergy in cats.
Long-term use of a flea control medication containing an adulticide that kills adult fleas, and insect growth regulators (IGR) that keep immature fleas from growing up and reproducing, is the best way to manage flea allergies.
The use of canine flea medications on cats is not recommended since they can make cats very sick. Your veterinarian can recommend a specific product based on your cat’s particular needs.
Pollen Allergies in Cats
Allergies to tree, weed and grass pollen are very common in outdoor cats. Affected felines lick, chew and scratch anywhere on their bodies, and in the most severe cases, may cause significant skin damage.
These allergies often start out as being seasonal (happening only when the attacking allergen is being produced) but eventually can become more of a constant issue since allergic cats tend to react to more triggers as they age.
The best way to determine what your cat might be allergic to is to schedule a skin or blood test for allergies with your veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist.
Keeping cats indoors with the windows closed and using an air conditioner and/or air filter may reduce your cat’s contact with pollen.
Bathing regularly or at least wiping your cat with a damp cloth helps remove pollen that is in the fur.
Household Allergies in Cats
Cats can be allergic to indoor allergens such as mold, dust, household mites, etc. Indoor allergies are identical to outdoor allergies. The only difference is licking, biting and scratching that is usually year-round.
Your veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist can determine if your cat has indoor allergies using an skin or blood test.
To lower your cat’s constant to indoor allergens. Take care of any mold problems in your home, clean frequently and thoroughly. The use of air filters, and regularly bathing and/or wiping your cat’s coat with a damp cloth is recommended.
Food Allergies in Cats
Allergies to particular ingredients in food are a different type of feline allergy. Cats with food allergies typically have itchy skin and may also develop recurrent skin or ear infections. Gastrointestinal signs like vomiting, diarrhea and/or increased gassiness are also common.
It is common for cats to have allergies to new foods. In some cases your cat may develop allergies to foods it has eaten for years.
To diagnose a food allergy, your cat must be fed either a specific diet (e.g., duck and potato) or a hydrolyzed food (and nothing else but water) for six to eight weeks. If the symptoms alleviate during that time, your cat likely has a food allergy.
To treat your cat’s food allergy, you can either keep feeding your cat the food used in the diet trial. Reintroducing standard ingredients one at a time to determine exactly what they are allergic to is also a suitable treatment.
Whilst some food allergic cats can eat hypoallergenic diets that are available over-the-counter, other cats have to eat the more strictly regulated foods. These are only available through veterinarians.
Take note that many cats diagnosed with a food allergy will require home-cooked meals. This must be concurrent with your veterinarian because it requires a special protein and food balancing.
Try a New Food/Water Dish
Human allergies to plastic have been documented in scientific literature. Similar studies have not been done in cats, but anecdotal reports seem to link eating and drinking from plastic bowls with a condition called feline chin acne.
This condition may be allergy related. Cats with chin acne have solid or pus-filled bumps around their chins.
If you think your cat might be allergic to plastic, try switching to ceramic or glass plates or bowls.
If you do make this change, make sure you clean them regularly since the bacteria-laden slime that can form on the bottom is another possible trigger for chin acne.
Causes of Food Allergies in Cats
Cats usually become allergic to food because their immune system can mistake a food-borne protein as bad and attacks it. Common sources of protein in cat food are in meats such as fish, beef, or dairy products.
Proteins that are present in grains and vegetables are present in cat food, allergies can be triggered by any of these.
Your cat can have a bad reaction to a number of other allergens in food.
- Artificial Food Coloring: Artificial food coloring is found in cat food products on the cheaper side. The purpose of this is to increase shelf appeal for human customers. Chemicals in food coloring can cause allergic reactions.
- Corn Products: It is common to find cornmeal used in cat food due to how cheap it is. You may notice itchy or flaky skin if your cats eats corn filled food, this is because most cats are allergic to corn.
- Dairy Products: Contrary to popular belief, most cats do not have lactose enzymes, leading to them being lactose intolerant. This means they can’t digest large amounts of dairy products correctly. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea.
- Meat Byproducts: Meat byproducts are found in cheap cat foods. These byproducts contain fats, tissues, and excess organs from cows, pigs, and chickens that humans won’t eat. There are proteins in byproducts that your cat isn’t used to and they suffer from poor quality control.
It is advised to stop feeding your cat tuna and fish, because seafood is becoming a more common allergy for cats.
Fish are full of histamines. Histamines are compounds released by white blood cells to fight off inflammation, which is good. But they’re also responsible for some really bad allergy symptoms.
Different cats will have different reactions to histamines, so eating histamine rich fish can lead to your can having a severe allergic reaction.
With that being said, seafood can be a healthy part of your cat’s diet. It is important to only give them fish in moderation.
A lot of canned cat foods come in “fish” flavors, but they usually contain a mixture of fish and fish by-products like bones and scales. If you’re going to feed your cat canned fish, use single ingredient servings.
It is also important to not feed fish to your cat everyday because of the increased likeliness they take on an allergy.
As stated before, feed it to them in moderation. In my opinion the maximum you should give your cat a fish dinner is once every two weeks.
Allergies in Cats vs Asthma in Cats
Sensitivity to environmental pollutants, pollen, and stress can cause asthma attacks in cats.
For short-term relief, your veterinarian may prescribe medications that will open up breathing passages. For long-term treatment, though, corticosteroids may be used. It is crucial to keep your cat way from smoke, particularly cigarette smoke at all times. Especially if the cat has asthma.
What to do if Your Cat Has Allergies
Pay your veterinarian a visit. They will take a complete history and perform a physical examination of your cat. This will help determine the source of your cat’s allergic reaction. A skin or blood test may be necessary if no source is found.
Diagnosing Allergies in Cats
If something seems to be making your cat unhappy, the best thing to do is pay your veterinarian a visit. The veterinarian will initially do a complete history and physical exam for your cat to determine the source of the allergies.
The veterinarian will want to perform blood tests if they suspect allergies are present.
If a skin allergy is discovered, your veterinarian will likely refer you to someone that specializes in dermatology.
The most effective way to treat allergies is to remove the allergens from the cat’s environment.
One outdoor pet can bring fleas inside your household, exposing all of your indoor pets. To combat this, start a flea control system before the season starts.
Speak with you veterinarian for a reference to the best flea control products. It is important to get flea control products for your pets and their environment.
If dust is the cause of your cats allergies, clean their bedding on a weekly basis. It is also advised to vacuum your house at least twice a week.
In addition to vacuuming the house, you should clean any curtains and rugs due to the dust that they capture.
Keeping a clean house is not only important for cats, but for it’s owners too. Cleaning regularly will remove dander and prevent allergens that cats carry from attacking humans.
It is common for cats to have an allergic reaction to chemicals that are in their litter. If you think this is a possibility, try using an unscented, dust-free litter for your cat.
Cleaning Your Cat
Bathing your cat once or twice per week may relieve itching and remove environmental allergens from their skin. Speak with your veterinarian for a shampoo recommendation.
Due to frequent bathing, please note that your cat’s skin can dry out.
Allergy Medications for Cats
If some allergens can’t be removed from your cat’s environment certain medications can be prescribed.
If airborne pollen is present, your veterinarian may prescribe cortisone or steroids to help control the allergy. These medications can be effective but the best way to deal with airborne allergies is with allergy injections. These injections actually treat the allergy rather than just masking the itch.
A good medicine to give your cat before allergy season is Benadryl.
Fatty acid supplements can relieve your cat’s itchy skin. There are many shampoos that help prevent skin infection, which occurs commonly in cats with allergies. Sprays containing oatmeal, aloe and other natural products are also available.
Never give your cat medication unless prescribed by a veterinarian.
What if I think I’m Allergic to My Cat?
Allergies caused by cats are some of the most common among humans. To be exact, 12 percent of Americans are allergic or have shown allergy symptoms due to cats. These symptoms include:
- Asthma Attack
- Stuffy Nose
- Runny Nose
- Irritated Eyes
- Dry Eyes
- Itchy Skin
- Bodily Rashes
In rare cases, a person with a cat allergy may develop an allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can make it difficult for a person to breathe, cause blood pressure drops to severe levels. This reaction can even cause the body to go into shock.
Anaphylaxis is a life threatening reaction. If you experience any of the symptoms related to anaphylaxis seek medical care as soon as possible.
Treatment for Humans with Cat Allergies
A doctor can help reduce the severity of the allergies. They may prescribe an Inhalers because they can reduce the risk of an asthma attack. Some nasal sprays also help. Some find that antihistamines reduce symptoms.
Allergy shots can be the most effective way to deal with allergic reactions to cats because they make your immune system less sensitive to particular allergens caused by cats.
There are also many home remedies you can try to reduce your allergies to cats.
Dealing with allergies is no fun for neither you nor your cat. At times it will seem impossible to help your furry friend. But it is important to never stop trying.
They need you. They can’t help themselves when it comes to their allergies.