Can Cats Have Allergies & What To Do About It

By Michael Tarran

December 30, 2020

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Can cats have allergies just like humans?

Itching, scratching, sneezing, flaky skin, and runny eyes; allergies in cats can be every bit as severe and uncomfortable as they are to you.

And left untreated, they can potentially be fatal – as scary as that sounds to pet owners.

So, today's all about helping you figure out if your cat has allergies and recognize the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction in time. 

can cats have allergies

I’ll share some tips on managing cat allergies and discuss precautions we can all take as pet owners to keep our feline friends happy and healthy. 

Last Updated: April 12th 2021

Allergic Reactions & Your Cat’s Immune System 

The immune system – yours and your feline friend’s alike – plays a crucial defensive role in the body. It attacks harmful microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi that might invade the body, protecting it against infections.

But despite the best intentions, it can make a mistake and misidentify non-harmful substances as a threat, triggering a defensive response and attacking the allergen.

The inflammation that results from the body's overreaction is known as an allergic reaction in cats.

What Causes Cat Allergies?

A visit to the vet – or an at-home intolerance test kit, like the one offered by 5Strands – will help you narrow things down.

But generally speaking, there are three common types of allergies cats may suffer from, including:

  • Food allergies
  • Flea allergies
  • Environmental allergies

Food allergies typically cause gastrointestinal symptoms and itchy skin; a more severe food allergy could lead to your cat losing patches of fur around the head and neck.

cats allergies from food

Dairy products, animal proteins found in cat food, and eggs are all common allergens.

Environmental allergies in cats can have many different triggers, such as pollens, dust, cleaning products, scents and perfumes, mold, and specific plants. Cats are likely to experience coughing, ear infections, sneezing, itchy skin, and swollen paws.

Flea allergies in cats might come from the actual flea bites or, in some cases, the products used for flea treatment. Excessive itching, accompanied by chewing on the fur, especially right above the tail, typically points to a flea allergy.

Here's a quick overview of substances commonly found in and around the home that cats may be allergic to:

  • Cat food or treats
  • Flea bites or flea-control products
  • Plants, pollens, mold and mildew, and dust
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfumes and colognes
  • Household cleaning products
  • Various surfaces, such as fabrics, latex, and rubber

Can A Cat Have Seasonal Allergies?

Yes, cats can be susceptible to inhalant allergies or atopy – often referred to as "seasonal allergies" – triggered by things such as pollen, grass, mold, and dust.

You'd typically experience respiratory issues, but seasonal allergies in cats manifest as severe generalized itching. Sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose might occur, too, but you're more likely to notice excessive scratching, chewing, licking, and biting the skin. 

Watch Out For These Common Signs & Symptoms Of Allergies In Cats

symptoms in allergies in cats

If you notice one or more of the following signs of allergy symptoms in your cat, there's a pretty good chance your feline friend has allergies:

  • Excessive grooming and scratching
  • Chewing at paws or tail
  • Itchy or runny eyes
  • Sneezing, coughing, and wheezing
  • Snoring
  • Ear infections
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dry, itchy, or flaky skin
  • Hair loss
  • Swollen, sensitive paws

Cats with allergies won't be able to keep it a secret for long. After all, the symptoms of allergies in cats aren't that different from what humans may experience.

How To Diagnose Allergies In Cats (At Home) 

food allergies in cats

Finding the exact causes of allergies in cats can be challenging without extensive testing and a veterinarian visit.

Your cat might not be too thrilled about an appointment with a veterinary dermatologist, though.

I mean, who likes going to the doctor, anyway?

So, before you jump straight into skin tests and blood tests, there are pet-friendly at-home tests you could try if you suspect your pet may be allergic to something.

Since environmental allergens are often the hardest to detect, the 5Strands Pet Environmental Intolerance Test might be your best shot. This easy-to-use test kit covers fabrics, cleaning products, mold, dust mites, grasses, trees, and other potential "triggers" found around the home.

What if you're suspecting that food allergy is the culprit behind the symptoms?

Again, 5Strands has you covered with Pet Food Intolerance Test. The at-home test covers proteins, grains, fruits and vegetables, fats, seafood, and substances such as additives and preservatives, commonly found in cat food.

The alternative to diagnosing food allergies would be feeding your pet a specifically formulated hydrolyzed protein diet for the next 12 weeks – or until the symptoms go away. From there, you would reintroduce regular food to see what's causing the food allergy.

It'll be less stressful for your cat than a trip to the veterinarian – and easier on your wallet, too. 

How Do You Treat A Cat With Allergies? 

allergic reaction on cats skin

The good news is that allergies in cats – whether it's food allergies, flea allergy, one caused by environmental allergens, or seasonal allergies – are generally very treatable.

Sometimes, it's as simple as identifying the causes and making sure to keep your cat in an environment that's free of allergens.

Prevention is often the best way to keep your cat's allergies under control:

  • Keep your home clean and dust-free
  • Use unscented cat litter
  • Limit exposure to cigarette smoke by not smoking in the house
  • Use long-term flea prevention products
  • Don't use excessive perfumes or deodorizers
  • Use ceramic or metal food and water dishes
  • Add Omega-3 fatty acid supplements to your cat's diet
  • Bathe your cat regularly with an appropriate vet-approved shampoo

Depending on the type of allergy and the severity of symptoms, this may not always be enough. Your veterinarian will prescribe a more suitable treatment, which may include allergy injections, topical solutions, and long-term prescription drugs.

Allergies In Cats: A Quick Summary

You came here wondering can cats have allergies – and the answer is yes, they can.

From food allergies caused by animal-based proteins to seasonal pollen-induced sniffles, your cat is susceptible to allergies the same way you are. And if you have allergies yourself, then you must know how your cat must feel.

You can't make the problem go away, but you can search for the cause – heads up, it can be a long process without allergy tests – and keep it under control.

With a little help from your veterinarian, diligent care, and limited exposure to allergens, your cat can still lead a purr-perfectly happy – and, most importantly, healthy – life!

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Michael Tarran

About Me

I'm a devoted pet parent to two lovely creatures – Charlie the Cat and Jimmy the Dog – a full-time assistant pet store manager, and an animal shelter volunteer. I've gathered knowledge about pets for almost a decade, and it all started in a small store called Jack's Pets.

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