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What Are Cats Allergic To?

Find Out What’s Causing Your Cat’s Allergic Reaction

By Meredith Alling. January 05, 2014 | See Comments

  • expert or vet photo
    vet verified

    Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM

    Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

    Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

A Kitten Outside In The Grass

In order to treat your cat's allergies, you must first figure out what's causing them. This list of things your cat may be allergic to will get you started.

If you’ve ever suffered from allergies, you know how bad it can be. Cats who suffer from allergies know too. Allergies cause a number of symptoms that are not only uncomfortable for your cat, but are also difficult to relieve without a pet parent’s help.

In order to help a cat who is suffering from allergies, you must first find out what is causing your cat to have a reaction. Below are the most common culprits that cats are allergic to.

Common Cat Allergens

  • Food: Allergies to ingredients such as fish, chicken, beef, pork, soy, and wheat are not overly common in cats, but they do sometimes occur. Food allergies can cause itching — especially around the head and neck — as well as gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea. To treat food allergies, you will first need to work with your veterinarian to identify the allergen. Once the allergen has been identified, your cat will have to avoid it, and this may mean a special food recommended by your vet or a homemade diet.

  • Fleas: Having fleas is never a pleasant experience, but some cats are more sensitive to flea bites than others, resulting in an allergic reaction to the flea’s saliva. Cats with flea allergies will exhibit a great deal of itching as well as irritated skin. To treat flea allergies you must first remove the fleas from your cat and your home. Then, start your cat on an oral or topical flea preventative or flea collar to avoid future infestations.

  • Inhalant Allergens: Sometimes referred to as atopic allergens, inhalant allergens must come in contact with the patient’s body and be absorbed — usually through inhalation from the environment. These types of allergens are found in your cat’s living environment, either inside or outside of the home.

    Some inhalant allergens — like grass pollens, tree pollens, weeds, and flowers — may show up seasonally. Others — such as mold, dust, mildew, cigarette smoke, or perfumes — can affect your cat year-round. Inhalant allergies typically cause extreme itching and in turn, damage to the skin. You may also see other symptoms like sneezing and red, watery eyes.

    To treat inhalant allergies, you will first need to figure out the cause of the allergy. This is often accomplished through allergy testing with your veterinarian. Once the allergen has been identified, the appropriate treatment can be determined. Common treatments include removing the allergen, allergy injections, medications, and baths.

  • Contact Allergens: Contact allergens are those that cause an allergic reaction as a result of physical contact. While relatively rare, some cats do suffer from contact allergies, and common irritants include fabrics, rubber, plastic, flea medications, shampoos, and cleaning products like detergents. As with inhalant allergies, you will need to work with your veterinarian to determine the cause of the allergy. Then, the item or substance causing your cat to have an allergic reaction will have to be removed from their environment.
More on Cat Health

The Importance of Taking Your Cat to the Vet
How to Choose the Right Cat Doctor
All About Cat Examinations - What to Expect at a Vet Visit

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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Cat Allergies at a glance

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  • 1Cats can suffer from allergies in the same way that humans do
  • 2Cats are commonly allergic to foods, fleas, inhalant (atopic) allergens, and contact allergens
  • 3Your veterinarian will help to diagnose your cat’s allergy
  • 4Treatment will depend on the cause of your cat’s allergies