Cats can be allergic to many of the same things as humans. However, unlike humans, who usually show respiratory signs of an allergic reaction, cats are more likely to have problems with their skin. Allergies that affect the skin are grouped together under the broad term allergic dermatitis.
Symptoms of cat skin allergies include excessive scratching, biting, or licking to try to soothe the itching and inflammation associated with the allergic response. In many cases, this results in hair loss, swelling, skin lesions, and oozing hot spots.
Sound unpleasant? It is. And cats can’t help themselves when they are suffering from allergies -- it is up to the pet parent to take note of symptoms and seek out help. In order to help your cat, your veterinarian will work with you to determine the cause of your cat’s allergic reaction. Here we will look at the 4 most common causes of cat skin allergies.
1. Flea Bites
Fleas are terrible pests, and in many cases, they are responsible for a cat’s skin allergy. The allergic reaction is caused by an immune response to the flea’s saliva, which causes extreme itching and irritation at the site of the bite. Before long, a small bite can turn into a large patch of swollen, irritated skin, often accompanied by hair loss and bacterial infection. To treat flea allergies, get rid of the fleas on your cat and in your home and start your cat on a flea preventative.
2. Inhalant Allergens
Inhalant allergens, or atopic allergens, are those absorbed into the cat’s body through inhalation into the lungs. Inhalant allergens are found in your cat’s environment, and while some may be seasonal, others can affect your cat year-round. Common inhalant allergens include flowers, weeds, grass pollens, tree pollens, dust, mildew, mold, perfume, and cigarette smoke.
These allergens can cause itching over various parts of the body, leading to painful lesions and hair loss. Once your veterinarian has identified the source of the allergy, the allergen should be removed from the cat’s environment to prevent future inhalation. In some cases, treatment may include antihistamines and steroids to alleviate symptoms, and oatmeal baths or hypoallergenic shampoos can be used to soothe irritated skin.
3. Contact Allergens
Contact allergens cause an allergic reaction following physical contact. Contact allergens are not overly prevalent in cats, but they do occasionally occur. Common irritants include flea medications, shampoos, certain fabrics, rubber, plastic, and cleaning products. Once it has been identified, the item causing your cat to have an allergic reaction should be removed from their environment, and the allergic reaction will most likely subside.
Food allergies -- while relatively uncommon in cats -- can cause gastrointestinal problems as well as skin problems caused by itching. When food allergies do occur in cats, ingredients such as chicken, beef, pork, fish, soy, and wheat are usually to blame. Your veterinarian will work with you to identify and treat the food allergy. In many cases, a cat with a food allergy will need to be on a homemade diet or a food recommended by your veterinarian.
All You Need To Know About Cat Dander Allergies
There's no doubt that you love cats. Your feline friend is perhaps the best companion you can have. It's docile, sleek, and friendly like no one else. But it can also get you sneezing, sniffing, and itching at times. If you experience these symptoms when your feline cat is around you, then there may be some bad news- you may be suffering from a cat dander allergy.
What is cat dander allergy?
Cat dander allergy is an allergic reaction caused when cat's dander combines with its urine and saliva. There is a misconception that allergic reactions are caused by your cat's fur. But in reality, it is their dander that is causing you to sneeze and itch. The underlying cause of cat dander allergies is explained by Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM of Animal Acupuncture, who attributes the condition to Fel D1, a protein found in the saliva of cats. When this protein combines with the dander from anal and sebaceous glands in cats, you are likely to counter cat dander allergy. Cat dander allergies are twice as common as dog allergies, and it affects more than 10% of the US population. Cats, especially male cats that are not neutered, produce Fel D1 in large quantities. The question is, how do these tiny protein substances cause such weakening allergic reactions in the body? Actually, people with allergies have a hypersensitive immune system, which causes their bodies to mistake harmless cat dander for hazardous viruses and bacteria. This triggers allergic reactions as a counterattack on the allergen.
Symptoms of cat dander allergies
If you see the following systems when your cat is around you, then you may be suffering from a cat dander allergy:
- Wheezing and coughing
- Rashes and hives on the face and chest
- Itchy and red eyes
- Runny nose
- Excessive sneezing
- Unusual redness in the area of the skin that came in contact with the cat.
How to treat cat allergies?
The aforementioned symptoms do not always imply that your cat has allergies. However, if you are experiencing them, you need to see a professional. Doctors usually recommend the following drugs to treat cat allergies:
- Antihistamines, which are easily available in chemists in the form of a nasal spray.
- Decongestants to reduce nasal congestion.
- Nasal steroid sprays, which treat asthma or allergy symptoms in many ways.
- Allergy shots
Preventing cat allergies
Unfortunately, allergies cannot be prevented if you are allergic to cats. However, you can follow a few steps to reduce the chances of incidences of cat allergies:
- Limit your exposure to the cat
- Restrict the cat to only certain areas of the house
- Keep the cat outdoors
- Clean your cat regularly
- Clean your house rigorously to prevent cat dander from spreading everywhere.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most common skin allergies in cats?
Flea Allergy Dermatitis is the most common skin allergy in cats. The allergy is caused by the saliva of fleas, which triggers an allergic reaction in the cat's skin. Some cats may be allergic to certain ingredients in their food, such as beef, chicken, or fish. Food allergies can cause itching, redness, and other skin problems. Atopy is a type of allergic reaction that is caused by environmental allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, or mold. Cats with atopy may have itchy, red skin and may lick or scratch themselves excessively. Contact Dermatitis is caused by direct contact with an irritant, such as a chemical or plant. Contact dermatitis can cause redness, itching, and other skin problems. Some cats may develop an allergic reaction to medications or topical treatments, which can cause skin irritation or other symptoms.
How do I fix my cat's skin allergies?
If you suspect that your cat has skin allergies, it is important to take them to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. The first step is to identify what your cat is allergic to. Common allergens for cats include flea bites, pollen, dust mites, and certain foods. Your vet may conduct allergy tests or recommend a food trial to determine the allergen. If your cat is allergic to flea bites, it is important to keep them on a regular flea prevention program. This can involve topical or oral medication prescribed by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may prescribe medication to help manage your cat's skin allergies, including antihistamines, corticosteroids, or immunotherapy. Regular bathing with a mild, hypoallergenic shampoo can help soothe your cat's skin and reduce itching. In some cases, a change in diet may be recommended to eliminate any food allergens that may be contributing to your cat's skin issues.
Can kitty litter cause skin allergies in cats?
Kitty litter can potentially cause skin allergies in cats, especially if the litter contains certain ingredients that your cat may be allergic to. Some cats may develop a reaction to the fragrance or dust in the litter, while others may have an allergy to the clay or silica used in some litters. If you suspect that your cat may have a skin allergy related to their litter, you can try switching to a different type of litter to see if the issue resolves. There are many different types of litter available, including unscented, dust-free, and natural options such as pine, corn, or wheat. It's important to choose a litter that is safe for your cat and meets its individual needs.
What does allergic dermatitis look like in cats?
Allergic dermatitis in cats can present in several different ways, depending on the cause of the allergy and the severity of the reaction. Cats with allergic dermatitis often experience intense itching and will scratch or lick the affected area excessively. Allergic reactions can cause inflammation and redness in the skin, especially around the ears, face, neck, and paws. If a cat is constantly scratching or licking at the same spot, it can cause hair loss, and the skin may become scaly or thickened. In severe cases, allergic dermatitis can cause open sores or scabs on the skin, which can become infected if left untreated.
How do you determine what my cat is allergic to?
Determining what your cat is allergic to can be a complex process, and it may require the help of a veterinarian. Skin testing involves injecting small amounts of common allergens under the skin and observing the reaction to see if there is a response. A blood test can be performed to check for specific antibodies to certain allergens. An elimination diet involves feeding your cat a limited-ingredient diet for a period of time to see if symptoms improve. If symptoms do improve, specific ingredients can be slowly added back in to determine which ones are causing the allergy. Intradermal testing is a more invasive method of testing where small amounts of allergens are injected into the skin and observed for a reaction. Your veterinarian can help determine which testing method is appropriate for your cat based on its symptoms and medical history. Once the allergen is identified, the best course of treatment can be determined. It may involve avoiding the allergen altogether, using medication to manage symptoms, or in some cases, desensitization therapy.
More on Cat Allergies
What Causes Cat Allergies?
What Are Cats Allergic To?
Food Allergies In Dogs And Cats