Sneezing, scratching and diarrhea are signs of feline allergies. Food, trees, grass, mold, dust and fleas are some of the culprits. Eliminating the allergen, if you can determine what it is, is a possible solution; but sometimes medication is the only remedy to relieve symptoms and protect your feline friend.
Cats with food allergies experience skin irritations or gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea. Commercial dry and wet cat foods are possible causes. According to Jean Hofe, DWM, the top allergens in cat food are chicken, fish, meat byproducts, wheat and dairy ingredients. After your veterinarian examines your kitty, she may prescribe a diet that is free of the allergy-causing ingredients. Keep your kitty on the diet for 12 weeks, then gradually reintroduce old foods. Watch for a reaction. Once it is determined what is causing the allergies, a cat food that is free of those ingredients may work. If not, your veterinarian may prescribe a steroid you can inject into your cat or give orally in the form of tablets.
Airborne pollens include trees, grass, weeds and dust pollen. As with food, sometimes removing the allergen is enough to remove the symptoms. If your kitty is allergic to dust, use a dust-free litter, clean her bedding weekly and vacuuming your home twice a week. Bathing your cat twice a week with hypoallergenic shampoo relieves itching and removes the allergens on her skin. Cortisone and steroids help with the itching, but allergy injections work on the allergy. The ingredients in the shot depend on the allergen. Your vet will do an intradermal skin test to determine the allergen. She will inject small amounts of the allergen into the skin. If welting or redness occurs, your kitty is allergic to the allergen.
A single bite from a flea can trigger intense itching if the cat is allergic to fleas. Your kitty may break her skin trying to stop the itching. Open sores and scabs can develop. Strict flea control is essential. Wash the kitty's bedding and yours. Vacuum rugs, furniture and drapes. Sprays are available for your home, but discuss their use with your vet before purchasing. Your kitty may be allergic to them. The best preventative is monthly flea treatment for your cat. Fatty acid supplements relieve itchy skin. Talk to your vet before using over-the-counter products.
Carpets, bedding and detergents can trigger allergic reactions if your cat is sensitive to something in them, such as wool or chemicals. Skin irritations typically occur at the point of contact. Eliminating the culprit should eliminate the skin irritation. If not, your vet may give injections weekly over several months until your cat is less sensitive to the allergens. The injections are formulated based on the results of skin testing.
Asthma attacks can occur because of environmental pollutants such as cigarette smoke, pollen and even stress. Your vet may prescribe corticosteroids and advise you to keep your kitty away from cigarette smoke.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.