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Allergies in Cats

It's not something we always think about, but just like us, cats can have allergies and sensitivities, too.

Keep in mind that there is a differences between an allergy and a sensitivity, so it’s important to make sure you see your veterinarian in order to get the correct diagnosis and treatment plan in place.

 Allergies or Sensitivities: Could your cat be suffering from either of these conditions?

We may not always think about it, but cats can have allergies and sensitivities just like we people do. There is, however, a difference between an allergy and a sensitivity, so it’s important to make sure you see your veterinarian in order to get the correct diagnosis and treatment plan in place.  If your cat has some of the conditions listed below, it’s likely that your cat has either an allergy or sensitivity going on that you should look into, as these conditions can be quite uncomfortable for your cat and, if it’s an allergy, can put your cats health at risk.

Common Symptoms of Allergies and Sensitivities in Cats

Sneezing, coughing, wheezing

Breathing difficulties/congestion  

Runny nose

runny itchy eyes

Itchy ears

Skin itchiness, scratching

Vomiting (Upset stomach), diarrhea

Excessive grooming or licking

Hair loss

Hot spots

Paw chewing,

sensitive or swollen paws

Swollen areas


Let’s take a look at the difference between an allergy and a sensitivity. Because they’re similar and have some of the same symptoms, many people might tend to use the terms interchangeable, but this is a mistake, as they are very different.  An allergy is the immune systems reaction to a substance or particle called an allergen, that can affect the skin, eyes, nose and/or numerous organs within the body.  Allergies in cats can be quite serious if not diagnosed and managed properly and are usually lifelong conditions in cats. Allergies are conditions that need to be carefully managed through treatment and avoidance of the allergen. An intolerance, on the other hand, does not involve the immune system, but rather is the body’s negative reaction when exposed to certain items.  As with an allergy, an intolerance can be to a type of food, flea’s or something environmental such as a particular kind of grass, pollen, medications or fabric to name a few.


Allergies and Sensitivities are quite uncomfortable for cats and can be very hard on the owner of the cat, too.  It’s heartbreaking for us as pet owners to see our cat(s) in such an uncomfortable situation that makes them so miserable.  But don’t lose hope!  There are things you can do to help your furry feline friend feel better!  Once you’ve visited your vet and determined whether your cat has allergies or sensitivities (possibly both), you and your vet can better assess what needs to be done to help alleviate your cats symptoms and help her live the happy and comfortable life she deserves! 




When it comes to allergies, you’ll definitely want to work with your vet to treat the symptoms and the allergy. In cats, allergies are actually quite rare, but you do want to be able to at least rule it out, if nothing else. First, you’ll need to find out what the allergen is that’s causing the problem, which can sometimes be a tricky process.  You’ll want to do this with your vet who will most likely do some testing (there are some blood and skin tests out there that your vet might order) and possibly use an elimination diet and/or exclusion trials with different items to try and determine what your cat is allergic to.  Once the allergen or allergens have been identified, your vet will be able to put a treatment plan together for your cat to help improve his quality of life and make him much more comfortable!  Treatments vary widely depending on the type of allergy your cat has but will most likely consist of several methods. If at all possible, eliminating the allergen from your cat’s diet and/or environment is the first step and may be combined with medications or allergy therapies, depending on the severity of your cat’s allergy.


While there’s no way to prevent an allergy, you can help to minimize your cat’s exposure to possible allergens by keeping a clean house, clean litter box, use natural based non-toxic cleaners, minimize or eliminate any scents you have within the house and avoiding scented cat litter.  Use unscented, dust free cat litter formulas when at all possible in order to keep things out of the air that might make him prone to an allergy flare up.   Using ceramic or stainless steel food and watering dishes, limiting heavily scented perfumes and deodorizers as well as essential oils that are toxic to cats (many of them are) along with keeping your cat away from smokers are all good ways to help your cat if he has an allergy. It’s also a good idea to feed your cat the foods with the least amount of ingredients as possible and those with good quality proteins in them, and as always, it’s always safer to keep your cat indoors!




Now let’s take a look at sensitivities.  Just like allergies, the first step is to figure out what it is that your cat is sensitive too.  This can be done several ways, or using a combination of testing methods to determine the source of the sensitivities.  The quickest and easiest way to go about discovering what sensitivities your cat has is by testing. Most veterinarians can do this, or there are some good at home test you can order online, test at home and then send in to get the results. The one we’ve tried and were extremely pleased with is 5Strands Affordable Testing.   There are other tests out there that you can purchase online, as well, and we have a small reference list below for you if you’d like to consider the online in-home method of testing for sensitivities. 


Earlier this year, we had a sensitivity issue with our kitten that was quite bad.  After consulting with our vet to rule out an allergy, we had our vet do the initial sensitivity test.  It came back that our poor little girl had sensitivities to so many things that we decided to do an online search for sensitivity product’s and re-test her.  We went online to do some research and compare sensitivity test products.  After some searching, we decided on and ordered up the 5Strands test kit. This test was much easier than the vet test we had done, as it used hair instead of saliva. We found saliva to be pretty tough to get from a cat, or at least from our kitten!  It didn’t take too long to get the results after sending it in to 5Strands and the results were a match to the test the vet had done.  Needless to say, we had our work cut out for us!


The point is, it’s important to get your vet involved so that you can figure out whether your dealing with an allergy or a sensitivity, although true allergies are rare in cats, it’s best to get the diagnosis from a trusted veterinarian so you know what road to start down.


After the initial does of a steroid given to us by our vet to get the severe itching and scratching under control, we adjusted her diet to eliminate the severe sensitivities and minimize the other foods that showed up as being triggers, we managed to get her condition under control. Her skin cleared up and she is now in a much better place where she isn’t so itchy and is no longer scratching herself raw!  We plan to have her tested again in the next 6 months to see if she has outgrown her sensitivities, but in the meantime she’ll be on a restricted diet. 


In conclusion, sensitivities are manageable, and allergies need to be identified by your vet in order to get a diagnosis and treatment plan in place to help your cat live a comfortable life without irritation!  If you have any questions about a possible allergy or sensitivity in your cat, be sure to reach out to your vet as soon as possible!

Additional Resources:

The Ultimate Pet Nutrition Guide


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