Allergies In Cats - The Basics

June 5, 2022

Mountaineer News | The Editors

PAWndering Pets | Fur Babies

It is possible that your cat may be allergic to the exact same allergens that you are. Tree pollen, grass and weed pollen, along with the rest of the particles we humans fear;
Mold, mildew, dust mites and dust itself can all trigger allergic reactions in both cats and the humans they have trained to tend them.

BUCKHANNON, WV - It's strange that we always worry about humans being allergic to cats, but we seldom hear about what cats are allergic to. In this way, cats aren't that much different from humans. Some foreign substance, commonly referred to as an allergen or antigen, triggers a situation in which the cat's immune system goes into hyper drive and produces symptoms of an allergic condition.


When a cat is allergic to something, common indications will be itchy skin, coughing and/or sneezing (respiratory issue), or vomiting or diarrhea (digestive allergy).


Allergies in cats are usually caused by fleas, food, particle inhalation or something they have come in direct contact with.


Contact allergies generally result in a fairly localized reaction on the skin. The cat may scratch a lot and/or there may be an indication of irritation at the place of contact. Most common causes of contact allergies in cats would obviously be items with which they come in close contact such as flea collars, bedding, toys, etc. The simplest cure is to remove the ability to make contact with the irritant. For example, take the collar off or change the bedding. If the irritation persists or if you still need effective flea control, consult your veterinarian.


Some cats may also experience allergic reactions to certain plastics and/or metals. If you suspect this in your cat, you may wish to change to a ceramic or glass feeding/watering bowl.


Another issue may mimic a contact allergy by failing to simply rinse your cat carefully and completely after its bath. Residual shampoo or soap on the skin can cause dermatitis, which can be mistaken for an allergic reaction.


Contact allergies in cats are the least common type.


Flea allergies, on the other hand, are very common in cats. Any normal cat will commonly experience irritation from flea bites, but a cat with a genuine flea allergy will have a more severe itching reaction to the flea's saliva.


A normal cat may simply bite or scratch for a while and then go on to other things, but a cat with a flea allergy may scratch, chew and worry at the spot until large amounts of fur are lost. This constant attempt to relieve the maddening itch or irritation may result in open sores which can add the risk of infection to the allergy's list of evils.


In most cats, the most common area to be affected is going to be on the back at the tail connection. The cat may also create spots of sores or scabs on the neck and head. Inhalant types of allergies (atopy) are even more common than flea and contact allergies. In fact, it's the most common allergic issue with cats in general.


It is possible that your cat may be allergic to the exact same allergens that you are. Tree pollen, grass and weed pollen, along with the rest of the particles we humans fear; Mold, mildew, dust mites and dust itself can all trigger allergic reactions in both cats and the humans they have trained to tend them.


A big difference between humans and cats, however is that while humans will most commonly react to inhaled allergens by sneezing or coughing, a cat will more commonly react by scratching an itch caused by those same allergens.


Unlike a contact allergy, the cat's reaction to inhaled allergens will be a general itching of the skin as opposed to a severe reaction at a specific spot. If your cat seems to be scratching a lot and it doesn't appear to be local, as in reaction to a flea collar for example, there is a good chance that he or she is experiencing a reaction to some inhaled substance.


As in humans, true food allergies in cats can be extremely difficult to pinpoint. One reason is that they commonly demonstrate many of the symptoms of distress seen in the other groups. True food allergies in cats can cause itching and/or respiratory problems.


Additionally, true food allergies can cause digestive difficulties as can other illnesses or toxic substances. In cats, food allergies are usually not present from birth, but are developed after long exposure to foods that have been eaten for long periods. Most food allergies will center around the type of protein common in the cat's diet, such as beef, pork, poultry or lamb. Simply eliminating that type of protein by changing to another type of food will usually take care of the problem.


A flea infestation may cause flea bites which will itch and cause the cat will scratch. This is normal. You would scratch too if fleas were munching on you.


If your cat is allergic to the flea's saliva, they will actually inflict damage on themselves in an attempt to relieve the intensified itching. However, the itch could be (as pointed out) the result of a food allergy, a contact allergy or some undiagnosed medical condition such as a fungal infection (perhaps caused by ringworm, etc.), mange or some other type of skin infection which might have been caused by bacteria.


Always consult your veterinarian if you suspect allergy issues with your feline babies. If you're not sure, always consult a licensed professional.



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