My cat has some sort of allergy and I can’t figure out what it is. Consequently, I’m researching cat allergies to see if I can learn remedies that might help my cat. Perhaps I can find out what is bothering Kitty. Then I’ll pass this information on to you, in case your are trying to solve a similar problem. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:
Cats are no different from people, as we, too, can have allergies. They happen when our immune system becomes sensitive to substances present in our surroundings. These are known as allergens, and the cat can show symptoms that some kind of allergen is bothering him.
Cat allergies can be divided into three main categories:
- Flea allergy
- Environmental allergies
- Food allergies
At times a fourth type of allergen, contact allergy, can be the cause, but it is the least common type. They can, however, result in a local skin reaction. Contact allergies include such things as reactions to flea collars, or types of bedding, such as wool.
Though this type of allergy is easily resolved — simply remove the contact irritant — it may require some detective work to identify.
Sometimes a cat can have more than one allergy. Then your problem of discovering the source is compounded. It may become necessary to take the cat to the vet for a thorough exam.
Here are some allergy symptoms:
- Itchy skin
- Sneezing, coughing and wheezing, nose may be itchy and eyes may be runny Check for asthma, as it can also cause these symptoms.
- Ear infection
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Snoring (if caused by an inflamed throat)
- Paw chewing; swollen, sensitive paws
- Itchy back or at base of tail, most common with fleas
A cat with allergies can typically show signs of hair loss, or scabs and open sores. Other common symptoms include discharge in the ears or excessive scratching.
So, what can cause these symptoms? Unfortunately, it is not easy to narrow down the reason. However, it may be included in the following list of allergens:
- Pollen, grass, plants, mold, mildew, or perhaps some other organic substance.
- Perfume or cologne
- Fleas or flea-control products. Now that is helpful — what if you use some product to control Kitty’s fleas, and it turns out she is allergic to that? Not good.
- Household cleaning products
- Prescription drugs
- Some cat litters
Problems with digestion, such as gas, vomiting, and diarrhea, can be caused by a food allergy. If you discover your cat is allergic to a certain food, by all means don’t feed it to him any more.
Sometimes older cats are more apt to develop an allergy, as they become exposed to a wider range of potential allergens. This is especially true if the cat spends a lot of time outdoors around plants and organic material.
Prevention is often the best treatment. Remove allergens from the environment. If the cat has allergens caused by fleas, use your vet’s recommended preventative to try to eliminate the cause.
If your litter is scented and not dust-free, change the litter. As to pollen, fungus, mold, or dust, a kitty bath once a week could be helpful. Get an appropriate shampoo that won’t dry out his skin.
If it is his food, you may need to put the cat on a prescription diet, or perhaps home-cook his meals and add dietary supplements to ensure he gets all the nutrients needed.
There is one more thing that I will try. Though in Southeast Alaska, we have a very damp climate, our homes are sealed thoroughly to keep out dampness. Then our heat dries out the house even more. I’ve ordered a humidifier to keep the house air a little moister. I believe at least part of my cat’s problem comes from dry skin.
Medication can include several things:
- Cortisone, steroids or allergy injections. These are helpful for airborne pollens
- Antihistamines. These are sometimes used as a preventative. (DON’T use human antihistamines, but find the right type from your vet that is safe for the cat)
- Flea prevention remedies
If your cat has asthma and is allergic to environmental factors, these may make the asthma worse. You may receive a prescription from your vet for a medication that will open the cat’s airway, short-term. As a long-term solution, Kitty may be given corticosteroids.
If you smoke, the cigarette smoke is bad for the cat, especially if he has asthma.
In the spring when the pollen count is high, a cat may develop excessive sneezing. Keep the cat inside during high pollen days.
You can reduce the amount of pollen tracked into your house by removing shoes at the door and by adding a thick welcome mat.
If your cat has extreme allergy symptoms, your vet may prescribe a more aggressive path. First, to determine the root cause the vet might use a blood test or an intradermal skin test.
This latter is administered by injecting potential allergen such as mold or pollen under the cat’s skin. The test involves sedation and lasts a few hours. Once the allergen is discovered, the vet can prescribe a treatment plan.
There are a couple of drugs that can be used. One is an oral medication called Atopica. This medication works by suppressing helper T-cells, thus reducing inflammation. It has been shown clinically to be safe and effective.
Another drug, cyclosporine, has few side effects, and while effective, it has a high price tag. This one should be used as a last resort.
Exposure to flea saliva has proved to be the primary cause for allergic reactions among cats. Be on guard if signs of fleas during spring or summer, the prime biting time.
Combing your kitty regularly can be helpful.
There are some natural flea products that can be helpful. You might try Natural Chemistry’s DeFlea products. Or, you can try essential oils or diatomaceous earth, a mineral-based pesticide derived from fossilized water plants.
Something I’m trying that was suggested by my vet and by one of the articles I read is Omega-3 salmon oil. Put a little (start with two or three drops) to make sure it doesn’t cause diarrhea.) Omega-3 fatty acid supplements keep the normal immune barrier of the skin healthy. It will reduce secondary infections.
Often desensitization with the appropriate injections or shots is the ideal way to treat allergies. However, it has its drawbacks:
- It can be quite expensive
- As the cat ages, new allergies may develop, and he will have to be retested
- Success rate: 50% excellent response; 25% partial to good response; 25% little or no response.
Fortunately, I can eliminate some of the severe problems a cat may have from my own cat. He has no fleas; I believe we can rule out food allergies.
I don’t think it’s pollen, as we had a really bad pollen season this spring, and he didn’t seem to react unfavorably. The vet says his heart and lungs are fine, so I can rule out asthma.
Perhaps it’s just dry skin. I’ve been giving him salmon oil for a few days, and he seems to be scratching less. I’m hopeful that dry skin is his major problem.
Whatever it is, a cat allergy can be a frustrating problem, as you have to eliminate so many things to
get to the source. If the cause is obvious, you are fortunate, and can work to eliminate this cause.
If it’s a bit harder to uncover, hopefully you can get closer to the heart of the matter and solve the problem. If not, it may take some teamwork between you and your vet.
We want to make sure our fur babies are happy and healthy, and if we can eliminate the discomfort caused to them by an allergy, we are helping both the cat and ourselves. The cat will be more comfortable and we will be less stressed, because we have resolved the problem.
References I used for this post are as follows: