Just like humans, our cats may display allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes. However, along with these annoying symptoms they face, other areas which may be affected by allergies are their skin or intestinal area. And, like humans, most allergens are harmless, but cats can have allergies to a variety of foods, plants, medications, and of course, the environment.
Common Allergy Symptoms for Cats
Since most allergies in cats are typically from the environment or food-related, the following are common symptoms you may notice with your cat, if they are affected with allergies:
- Excessive licking/grooming
- Chewing at fur and paws
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Red, flaky or dry skin
- Hair loss
- Intense itching
- Coughing or labored breathing
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Ear infections
Causes of Cat Allergies
There are 3 main types of allergies in cats – food, environmental and fleas. Each of these allergies may pose the same symptoms or contain a combination of several different symptoms.
Food Allergies – Cats can be allergic to a variety of different foods. As in humans, it may be difficult to determine which food is causing the allergic reaction, but once it has been determined and eliminated from the cat’s diet, the cat will feel much better. Utilizing a dietary elimination trial is the main diagnostic method used for determining food allergies. Diet trials may take several months before it is determined what the food allergy is, and due to the time it takes to conduct the trials, as well as the diet limitations, it can be very frustrating for the cat’s owner, but well worth it when the allergy can finally be eliminated from the cat’s diet. Typically, food allergies will cause itchiness of the cat’s skin and possibly vomiting and diarrhea.
Environmental Allergies – Since environmental allergies (pollen, grass, mold and dust) cannot be avoided, there are a few steps you can take to help your cat be more comfortable. Using a dust-free cat litter and washing your cat’s bedding may help to eliminate some of the excess dust in the air. Also, vacuuming 2-3 times per week may be helpful in eliminating some of the dust particles in the air. Your veterinarian can prescribe an antihistamine or steroid, however, these medications have side effects which need to be discussed and taken into consideration. Environmental allergies will often include symptoms such as inflamed, itchy skin, hair loss and excessive grooming of the cat.
Keep in mind, besides grass/mold/dust/pollen, your cat can be allergic to other environmental allergies as well, such as cigarette smoke, cleaning products or perfume. When possible, try to avoid any of these products if they seem to irritate your cat.
Flea Allergies – A flea allergy can make your cat incredibly sensitive after just a few flea bites. The saliva from the flea bite can affect your cat’s entire body, and not just where the cat was bitten. To prevent your cat being bitten in the first place, cat owners should use a flea prevention product year-round. Your veterinarian can recommend which product is best for protecting your cat.
Management of Allergies in Cats
With time, and a close relationship with your veterinarian, cat allergies can be managed. Of course, your cat will need a loving relationship with you as well, however, this will ensure your cat has a good quality of life. Since allergies cannot be cured, close monitoring and early intervention can allow your cat to quickly return to normal. Lastly, since some allergies in cats become more chronic as your cat ages, it’s critical to work with your veterinarian to determine the best treatments to manage your cat’s allergies.