It turns out you may not be the only member of the household to suffer with seasonal allergies. Your cat can also be affected by many irritating allergic reactions.
Some feline allergies are seasonal, (similar to hay-fever in humans, which is mainly only seen in spring and summer months), whereas others could affect your cat all year round.
It is often very difficult to distinguish between the different causes of allergic reactions in cats.
The most common presenting symptoms in cats with any allergy (or atopy as it is sometimes referred to) are usually skin lesions and/or hair loss but sometimes cats may show other disorders (such as digestive upset and respiratory issues) as well.
Your vet may have to do a myriad of tests to rule potential causes of allergy out one by one, before they can determine the most likely reason for the allergy.
Ultimately, what all of this means, is that if you have a cat showing allergic symptoms, you will more often than not need to be very patient whilst your vet tries to reach a diagnosis, which can sometimes take several months.
Causes of cat allergies
1 – Flea allergy
In the UK, flea allergy is the top cause of allergic reactions in both cats and dogs. Therefore, this will be the first thing your vet would want to rule out when they see an allergic cat.
It can be very difficult to find fleas on your flea-allergic cat and you may already use some form of flea control on them. However, if your cat has a true flea-allergy, it can only take one flea bite to trigger a reaction.
Flea-allergic cats will often over-groom and remove all of the evidence of fleas. If you have a flea-allergic cat you need to speak to your vet about optimal flea control, as you will not only need to religiously treat your cat for fleas but you will also need to use flea prevention on any other pets you own, as well as treating your house (and any other outbuildings or vehicles your cat goes in) for fleas and their larvae.
Flea allergy can be seen seasonally, as fleas are more prevalent in the warmer summer months, however, with the widely-used modern central heating systems we all now own, fleas can breed year-round and therefore flea allergy is often seen as an on-going problem.
If you’d like more information about cats and fleas, you may find this article helpful – Does My Cat Have Fleas?
2 – Food allergy
Food allergies are more common in cats than most owners realise. Studies indicate that these account for around 10% of cats seeing their vet for allergic skin disease. Other veterinary studies indicate that the most common dietary allergens (for cats) include fish, beef and dairy products.
It is not unusual for your pet to develop an allergy to a diet they may have previously been fed for several years. If your vet suspects a food allergy or wants to rule a food allergy out, they will probably recommend a dietary trial, where your cat is fed nothing but the food they advise for a period of 10-12 weeks. If this is the case it is really important that you don’t give anything alongside the food your vet recommends other than fresh drinking water.
This includes any treats, scraps, drinks other than water and foods used to hide medications in; your vet may even recommend that you keep your cat indoors to prevent them from hunting/scavenging food elsewhere.
The sort of diet your vet will recommend will depend upon what your cat has been fed before; however, it will usually either be a diet with as single protein and carbohydrate source that your cat has never eaten previously or a hydrolysed protein diet.
Want to know more about foods that could be causing your cat problems? This article might help – What Can’t Cats Eat?
3 – Allergies caused by environment
Other causes of allergy can be numerous and include factors such as house dust mites, pollens and grasses, to name just a few. If the allergy is seasonal, (so only shows up at the same sort of time each year and then disappears), an allergy to a pollen or grass is more likely.
Environmental allergies are often the hardest to diagnose. Your vet will most likely choose to rule out flea allergy, other harder-to-spot parasites (such as mites and ringworm) and food allergies before moving on to consider environmental allergens, unless your cat is easily managed and only affected for a short period of time each year.
Concerned your cat is having an allergic reaction?
If you have any concerns that you may have an allergic pet, please don’t hesitate to contact your vet for advice straight away.
Want to know more?
We hope this article helped to answer your questions about cat allergies. If you have any other questions about cat allergies, your cat’s health, or other facts about your feline friend then we’d like to help – sign up to our newsletter below.