Cats are not immune to food allergies, and while allergic reactions may not be as prevalent in cats as they are in dogs, they still occur quite frequently across numerous breeds. Food allergies usually cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, or gastrointestinal distress. However, one of the most tell-tale signs of a food allergy is the development of skin-related issues.
These skin-related problems can cause itching, dry skin, red skin, and irritated skin in your cat. If you notice your cat suffering from these types of problems, there’s a very good chance that they could be related to a food allergy (or multiple food allergies). However, before you jump to the conclusion that your cat has a food allergy, you should first rule out other possibilities (such as particle allergies, seasonal allergies, etc.).
Feline food allergies typically develop between ages two to six, and they often develop with foods that cats are frequently exposed to. This doesn’t mean that the development of food allergies is the fault of the owner. Rather, these allergies have been shown to naturally develop in cats.
Whether you’re looking for ways to naturally manage your cat’s allergy-related health problems, or you simply want to arm yourself with proper treatment protocols (in case your cat does develop allergies), keep on reading. Below we cover exactly how you can manage food allergies in cats, as well as provide an overview of some of the most common allergens found in cat food.
What Exactly Are Food Allergies?
Food allergies in cats are caused by certain ingredients that cats consume. In regards to domesticated cats, food allergies are almost always caused by certain ingredients found in cat food purchased from a store. However, it should be noted that only specific ingredients are known to cause allergies. So, if you’re looking to avoid allergy-related problems, you would be wise to avoid these ingredients (which are listed in the following section).
Remember, food allergies are not the same thing as sensitivities. Your cat can have a wide range of food sensitivities, and most of these aren’t usually serious enough to warrant any drastic lifestyle changes (i.e. a change in diet and/or prescription medication usage). The primary difference between the two, is that food allergies have the potential to develop into serious health problems, whereas sensitivities really only cause mild discomfort.
Cats have the potential to develop allergies to foods that they’ve been exposed to over the course of their entire lives. This means that you should never place the blame on yourself for your cat’s food allergy issues. Some of the main types of ingredients that have the potential to develop into allergies include the following:
Cats that suffer from food allergies perform their best on what’s called a “limited ingredient” diet. Using a product such as Instinct Limited Ingredient Turkey cat food is a popular choice among owners, because of the fact that it contains a limited number of ingredients (along with no known allergens).
Treating Food Allergies and Managing Diets
One of the only fool-proof ways of determining whether or not your cat actually has a food allergy is by taking them to the vet. Your vet may conduct certain tests, or they may refer you to a specialist who can provide further help. If your cat does indeed have an allergy, the doctor will most likely recommend making specific changes to your cat’s diet.
Luckily, there are many great cat food brands that have entire product lines devoted to allergy-related issues. Starting with a “grain-free” or gluten-free product might be a good start, but not all cats are allergic to these ingredients. Whatever your doctor recommends is generally what you should do. So, if your cat is allergic to a list of certain ingredients, it might make the most sense to go with a “limited ingredient” product (such as the brand mentioned above).
Making the switch from one food to another might be a bit more complicated than it initially seems. The easiest way to pull this off is by doing it a little at a time, so that your cat is slowly introduced to the new food (rather than making a dramatic 100% switch right from the start). Always avoid using treats and food for humans with your cat, because this type of food often includes allergens that can upset your cat and cause them to develop allergy-related symptoms.