Allergies that affect cats are definitely on the rise! This is primarily due to an increase in chemicals, airborne pollutants, and parasites. Cats, like humans, can be susceptible to these factors and many more.
Recognizing the symptoms of cat allergies is crucial. It can assist with a timely diagnosis and correct treatment. The longer you have had your cat, the more easily that you will be in to identify any physical and behavioral changes that occur.
Although many allergies are directly connected to seasonal changes, some of the reasons will be due to your home environment. Air fresheners, new fabrics, and dietary adjustments are all known to be triggers. The list of factors is almost endless.
In this guide, we aim to help you recognize the signs of an allergic reaction while also establishing the likely cause. We will also explore the steps that must be taken to achieve faster healing and long-term prevention.
What Are the Symptoms of Allergies in Cats?
While each cat will display unique symptoms, often based on personality traits, there are commonalities. Watch for these signs and monitor the situation carefully if your cat looks unwell. Having an understanding of what to look for will be highly beneficial.
Some of the most common signs include…
- Coughing, sneezing and wheezing
- Increased scratching or a chronic desire to scratch
- A runny nose and watery eyes
- Scratching and chewing of the lower back area or base of the tail
- Meowing with a harsh (rough) tone
- Inflamed paws caused by chewing
While many stand-alone symptoms are not a cause for alarm. If several apply, they should be taken seriously. Allergies rarely take the form of a single symptom, so it is crucial to watch out for all of the possible warning signs.
What are the Most Common Allergic Reactions in Cats?
Most allergies can be quickly diagnosed by cause. Similar to humans, it is rare that an allergy occurs without an identifiable source.
The majority of allergies can be ‘corrected’ through the subtlest of changes. Something as simple as a new food bowl or a change of air freshener can resolve the issue. Creating the right indoor environment for your cat can definitely help to eliminate common problems.
Let’s look at the most common allergic reactions that cats can experience.
Fleas (Ctenocephalides Felis)
Aggressive licking, biting, and scratching is often indicative of a flea allergy. An adverse reaction can occur after just one or two bites.
Through the use of long-term medication and flea repellant, you can manage your cat’s allergic condition. Medications can kill adult fleas while also preventing flea growth and reproduction.
- Never use medication that is formulated for a dog. This can make your cat sick or seriously ill.
Listed below are several signs of a flea allergy…
- Aggressive grooming of the neck, belly, thighs, and base of the back and tail.
- Chronic scratching that leads to bleeding
- An inability to relax properly
Scratching and chewing the fur is perfectly natural for a cat. Only when these behaviors become aggressive and chronic should action be taken. If your cat scratches its neck periodically, then that alone is rarely a cause for concern!
Dust, mold, mites, and a plethora of other in-home allergens can spark indoor allergies. Similar in nature to outdoor allergies, the only core difference is that they are constant and do not depend on seasonal changes.
Hallmarked by biting, licking, and aggressive grooming, your vet will be able to diagnose the issue by taking a skin sample or conducting a blood test.
An effective way to resolve this issue is by undertaking a detailed cleaning of your home. Air pollutants will not only affect your cat, but also your entire family. The use of air filters can significantly improve the situation for everyone.
- Vacuum your home at least once per week.
- Wipe your cat with a clean and damp cloth on a routine basis.
- Treat your cat with vet-prescribed meds. These aids will help your cat to manage any of its current symptoms.
Ingredients in food (or a change of food) can prompt an allergy. Cats that experience food allergies often have itchy and dry skin as well as chronic skin and ear infections. Issues, such as diarrhea and vomiting, are also commonplace.
It is rare that a cat, especially an older cat, will develop an allergic reaction to food that it has been enjoying for years. Unless your cat is a kitten or young adult, the food allergy is likely to be due to a new dietary entry rather than an old favorite.
If you believe that your cat’s issue is connected to a recent a dietary change, you should remove those foods immediately. Note any ingredients that are not tolerated by your pet. Some cats will go on a hypoallergenic diet or consume specialty foods supplied by a vet.
There is a school of thought that plastic food and water bowls can spark an allergic reaction in cats. Highlighted by acne around the face and chin, this is mostly believed to be the result of daily contact with a plastic serving bowl.
If you have reason to believe that your cat’s acne is an allergic reaction to plastic, you should switch to a bowl that’s made of a different material. Ceramic bowls have become popular, and they are often easier to clean than plastic.
Although cats can conceivably fall victim to allergies caused by the human use of cologne and perfume, it is fragrances that are found in cleaning products, air sprays, carpet fresheners, and cat litter that are the worst offenders.
Symptoms of a chemical fragrance allergy can include sneezing and itchy or watery eyes. If you see your cat exhibiting these symptoms after coming into direct contact with these products, the issue could well be allergy-related.
Changing from fragranced to unscented products can resolve the problem almost instantly if they are the culprit.
- Some cat litter can produce a dust-like residue. The digging of the litter with the paws can cause a small cloud to form.
- Just because the room smells pleasant to you does not mean it is optimal for your cat. Fresh does not have to carry a smell.
- Go easy on cologne and perfume. If you are holding your cat regularly, the scent of your own body and clothing could eventually cause an issue. If you wear cologne to work, school, etc., be sure to wash it off before spending hours with your cat.
In the same way that a person can experience an allergic reaction to medication, the same can hold true for cats. Although rare, cats can display symptoms such as fever, vomiting, itching, hives, etc. If the medication is a topical solution, hair loss can be a symptom.
In severe cases, an allergic reaction to medication can be life-threatening. Difficulty breathing and physical collapse can occur. Some medications designed to treat allergies may prompt an allergic reaction.
Contact your vet ASAP if you notice changes in your cat or if they become unwell not long after receiving a new medication.
Although pollen is a seasonal allergy, some cats are more susceptible. Certain cats have a faster response time to irritants than other cats.
Common symptoms include…
- Aggressive licking
- Chewing of fur and skin
- Attempting to scratch uncommon areas
- Skin damage, such as the formation of black scabs under the fur.
If you are concerned that your cat’s symptoms are a pollen allergy, your vet can conduct a detailed skin and blood examination. Once a proper diagnosis is made, your cat will receive the necessary treatment(s) to lessen the uncomfortable symptoms.
The introduction of supplements and anti-histamines can provide some much-needed relief.
Ways to remedy the problem include…
- Keep your cats indoors at least 90% of the time when the pollen count is high.
- Having clean and filtered air flowing through your home will reduce your cat’s exposure to pollen and keep them out of the elements.
- Bathing your cat with a clean damp cloth several times per week will eliminate any trapped pollen. This is vital for long-haired cats.
Inhaling cigarette smoke can lead to asthma, cancer, nicotine poisoning as well as other respiratory issues.
Let’s explore each concern…
- Asthma: Hallmarked by shortness of breath and wheezing, a cat’s lips can turn blue or white if oxygen is lacking. In some cases, your cat may cough up mucus.
- Cancer: Lung cancer from breathing toxic air and smoke lingering on fur can lead to the direct consumption of chemicals. Removing chemicals with the tongue (via grooming) can potentially lead to mouth cancer (Gingiva Squamous Cell Carcinoma).
- Nicotine Poisoning: Concerns about your cat chewing or eating a cigarette are real. Such an occurrence can cause your cat to become very sick. Consumption of tobacco can also result in death.
- Miscellaneous Respiratory Concerns: In addition to asthma, cigarette smoke can lead to COPD, pneumonia, and emphysema. Cats that reside in smoke-filled environments take longer to recover from respiratory illness due to their oxygen being compromised.
What is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening condition that is due to repeated exposure to a known allergen. Quite difficult to shield against, any prior substance that once caused an allergic reaction can result in this condition.
Common symptoms include…
- Difficulty breathing
- Uncontrolled urination and bowel movement
These symptoms can be immediate thus making the reaction harsh and virtually impossible to predict or prepare for in advance.
Anaphylaxis should be viewed as a medical emergency, so swift action must be taken!
What is Atopy?
Atopy (atopic dermatitis) is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin that is linked to allergies. Grass, mites, mold, and various environmental allergens are often the culprits. This condition can worsen with time and seasonal changes.
Affected areas include…
- Paws (Between toes)
The symptoms of atopic dermatitis involve licking, scratching, and aggressive grooming around the face and paws.
A physical examination will be performed by your vet to identify the causes of the allergy. Treatment and management can begin once an accurate diagnosis has been made.
How are Feline Allergies Diagnosed and Treated?
Cats are diagnosed and treated through a professional health examination.
Your vet (or vet dermatologist) can perform an allergy test to check your cat’s skin. The diagnosis of a food allergy involves placing your cat on a special diet (provided by your vet) and slowly reintroducing foods that may have caused an issue.
Through a slow process, the food or ingredient causing the allergy can be identified.
Common allergy treatments…
- Removing the allergen(s) from your cat’s environment
- Flea treatment programs
- Unscented litter
- Weekly vacuuming of your home and cat’s bedding
- Regular bathing of your cat to remove loose hair and allergens that have collected on fur
OTC and Prescription Allergy Medications
Not every allergen can be removed from your cat’s environment. Medication can be beneficial when that is the case. Cortisone and steroids can be administered as a means to control a diagnosed allergy. This is the case with pollen and other outdoor allergy concerns.
Drugs such as Benadryl can be used as a preventative medication. This can work quite well if your cat suffers from a seasonal allergy and advanced protection is necessary.
Various meds and shampoos can be used to soothe itchy skin and provide relief.
When Should You Consult Your Vet?
You should never attempt to self-diagnose your cat’s health problems. Take them to the vet at the first signs of unusual behavior. Self-inflicted physical trauma (due to aggressive scratching) is a symptom that should never be ignored. Being proactive is critical. The longer you wait, the more time your cat will struggle with the allergen.
- Kittens and senior cats are often the most at risk for serious reactions to allergens. Due to the lack of immune health development and the deterioration of immune health, both life stages require special treatment.
Is There a Link between Asthma and Allergies?
If your cat has been diagnosed with asthma, it is likely they will have a more difficult time handling environmental changes.
Obstacles such as pollen, air sprays, cigarette smoke, etc., can affect an asthmatic cat more severely.
Your vet can prescribe medications to expand the breathing passages of your cat while also providing remedies to manage the problem.
- Help starts at home. If your cat has asthma, you should take proactive steps to provide the cleanest environment possible. Air filters and oxygen (free of scents) will help your cat tremendously.
Many times, allergic reactions and the presence of allergens are connected to where you live rather than how you live. Residing in an apartment complex in the city or living in a big house in the country will pose different types of health concerns for cats.