Cat skin allergies aren’t always obvious, but they are more common than you think. While a cat can be allergic to anything, four common triggers are seen more frequently than others.
We’ve put together this guide to help any cat owner better identify the causes and symptoms of cat skin allergies so that you can keep your cat’s health and happiness at optimal levels.
What Are Common Cat Skin Allergies?
When a cat with an allergy comes into contact with that allergen for the first time (either by inhaling it, ingesting it, or having it touch the skin), the body reacts by producing antibodies to help identify it in the future. The next time they interact with their allergen, your cat’s body quickly tells the immune system that there is an intruder.
Histamine is then released, creating inflammation in an attempt to push the allergen out of the system — where most of the “traditional” allergy symptoms come from.
Although the only way to know what your cat is allergic to is to pursue allergy testing through your veterinarian, four common allergens are most likely to cause problems. We’ll discuss each in detail.
Flea bites already make your cat itchy, but cats with flea allergies will take that itching to another level. This is known as flea allergy dermatitis, a condition where cats have an allergic reaction to the flea saliva left behind from a bite.
Even a single flea bite can trigger this reaction, which is most frequently seen around the base of the tail. Flea allergy dermatitis can happen all year round (especially in warmer areas of the country) but is most likely to be seen in the late summer when the flea population is at its highest.
Flea prevention medications can help reduce the risk. You can also regularly check your pet for any signs of fleas (like black flea “dirt”). Don’t be fooled into thinking that your cat isn’t susceptible to fleas just because they don’t go outside. Fleas can just as easily come in on your dog or even on your shoes, especially during the height of flea season.
Food can also trigger cat skin allergies, although they are less frequently diagnosed. Many of the symptoms of food allergies are similar to environmental allergies, with the main difference being they don’t ebb and flow on a seasonal basis. Most cats will develop food allergies before they turn two.
Most commonly, cats will have an allergy to the beef, chicken, dairy, and fish protein by-products found in their food. An elimination diet may help pinpoint the specific trigger, but because most of those ingredients are prevalent in most commercial cat foods, many cats may need to be put on a prescription diet.
Prescription low-allergen pet foods usually include novel proteins your cat hasn’t encountered before, like duck, rabbit, or venison.
Like us, our cats are susceptible to allergic reactions to triggers found in their environment. These allergens can be year-round or just occur on a seasonal basis, so paying attention to when their symptoms happen can help more accurately pinpoint a cause. This reaction is known specifically as atopic dermatitis.
The environmental allergens that cause atopic dermatitis are a large, diverse category, including dander, dust mites, mold, pollens, and household chemicals and detergents. Most of them will trigger a respiratory response, like sneezing. Immunotherapy via allergy shots administered through your cat’s veterinarian can help manage those symptoms.