When we say “cat allergies,” you probably assume we mean humans allergic to cats. What you may not realize is that cats can get allergies too!
An allergic reaction in a cat can be triggered by any number of things, as his immune system goes into overdrive trying to combat things it deems to be dangerous. One cat can have more than one allergy, and they can manifest themselves in a wide range of different symptoms.
Knowing the symptoms is the first step towards helping your cat!
Common cat allergy symptoms
If your cat has allergies, he will probably display some signs of distress. Be on the lookout for these symptoms:
- Sneezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing
- Red, itchy spots on the skin (usually combined with fur loss)
- Itchy, overly moist eyes
- Vomiting or upset stomach
- Snoring (this can be a sign that a cat’s throat is inflamed)
- Swollen paws or chewing on paws
The symptoms are as varied as the causes, so it can be hard to pinpoint what the problem is. Any of these signs are a good reason to visit the vet - it could be allergies, or it could be something else. It never hurts to make sure.
Cats can have allergic reactions in three broad categories, each of which has its own course of treatment:
Cats allergic to flea bites can have intense reactions to just one bite for hours or even days. The itchy spot will usually be contained at the base of the tail, and you will notice your cat biting at that area, or even see thinning of the fur. Some very sensitive cats develop itchy or bald spots all over their bodies.
The best way to save your cat hours of agony and itching is by preventing the flea bites in the first place. Give your cat frequent baths and keep him away from spots fleas love like tall grass (especially during peak flea season in the summer and fall). Use preventative sprays or collars, shampoos, and yard treatments that will eliminate fleas from your cat’s environment.
Keep in mind that some flea preventatives can have negative side-effects in some cats too, so talk over all the options with your vet.
A huge range of environmental factors can set off allergic reactions to cats. Potential allergens include:
- Mold and mildew
- Cleaning products
- Certain materials like rubber or plastic
- Certain kinds of kitty litter
And this is by no means a complete list!
Removing the allergen from your home is the best way to treat your cat’s allergies. If your cat only started showing symptoms recently, think of recent changes or additions. Try taking away different things and noting any changes in your cat. In case the problem is dust or pollen, thoroughly clean your home and bathe your cat often.
There are some treatment options for your cat if his allergies are severe or if you can’t remove the problem. Your vet may prescribe antihistamines as a preventative measure. If airborne pollen is the culprit, your cat may need cortisone, steroids, or allergy injections.
Some of the most common food allergies in cats are beef, lamb, seafood, corn, soy, dairy products, and wheat gluten. As with environmental allergies, food allergies can be treated by simply eliminating the offending food, which is not as easy when you consider most of those are common ingredients in cat food!
Guided by your vet, you will experiment to find the source of the problem by removing foods from your cat’s diet, then reintroducing them one by one and watching for a reaction. This can be done with specialty cat foods, or home-cooked meals, and can take some time and patience. Once you find the problem food though, all you have to do is avoid the food in the future!
Please remember that everything above is meant to give you a basic idea of what to look out for and the treatment options for various allergies. If you notice your cat displaying any of the symptoms below, or are concerned that he might have allergies, have him checked by his vet! Only a veterinarian can help you figure out the right course of action to take to make your kitty’s life much more pleasant and allergy-free.
Healthy cats are happy cats. If allergies are making your cat miserable, you can do something about it!
- by Yuliya