Does Your Cat Have Allergies?

Humans aren’t the only ones affected by allergies. Like you, your adult cat can suffer from allergic reactions to any number of things—in the air, on her skin, and in her food. Allergies must be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian, but first, you must know what to look for.

The most common signs and symptoms of allergies are:

  • Persistent scratching, licking, and skin chewing
  • Face and ear rubbing
  • Inflamed skin patches, hair loss, and foul odor
  • Coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose
  • Frequent vomiting or diarrhea

The most common allergy symptoms in cats are skin reactions, regardless of the cause, and they can crop up at any age. Just because your cat didn’t have allergies as a kitten doesn’t mean she won’t have them as an adult. Four of the most common types of allergies that might affect your cat are inhalant, food, contact, and flea allergies.

Inhalant allergies in cats are caused by the same common allergens that affect you—dust, grass, trees, mold, pollen, ragweed, etc. They can be seasonal or persistent and, while some breeds may experience the same sniffly, sneezy symptoms you might suffer, skin reactions are most common. Inhalant allergies can often be treated with the same medications you take, but please don’t treat your cat’s allergies without veterinary supervision.

Food allergies can be the most difficult to diagnose and manage. Treatment involves a hit-and-miss approach involving a restricted diet and the gradual reintroduction of possible allergens to determine the culprit. Skin reactions to food allergies are common in cats, but frequent vomiting or diarrhea also can be a sign. Keep in mind that if there is a change in your cat’s diet (or she just ate something she wasn’t supposed to), she may experience an episode of vomiting or diarrhea—this doesn’t necessarily mean your cat has an allergy. Watch and see if it becomes a persistent problem before scheduling a costly trip to the vet.

Contact and flea allergies generally cause skin irritation and are treated topically. You might be surprised to learn that most cats are only vaguely bothered by fleas. But those that are allergic can suffer—and so can their owners. Cats with contact and flea allergies often chew their skin raw, leading to hair loss, odor, and infection, so fastidious flea control is a must.

Allergies can vary from cat to cat, so it is important that you work with your vet to make sure your cat gets the best possible treatment. You’ll both be happier as a result.