Do you have a sneezy kitty? Does he or she bite and scratch a certain spot constantly? There’s a good chance that your kit may have allergies.
What exactly is an allergy? An allergy is when the immune system displays a hypersensitivity to a particular substance called an allergen. What is an allergen? An allergen is a substance that causes an allergic reaction. What is a… no, I’m kidding. Everyone knows what an allergic reaction is.
There are many different types of allergies that can affect your cat. They can have environmental allergies, food allergies, contact allergies and flea bite allergies.
An environmental allergy is similar in cats to what it is in humans. Things such as ragweed, dust, pollen, and smoke can be culprits. Food allergies are quite self-explanatory, and contact allergies occur when your cat comes in direct contact to where the allergen lives, i.e. carpeting. Lastly, a flea bite allergy is a direct reaction to a bite from a flea.
What to look for
Common symptoms of allergies in cats include:
- Itching the same areas of their fur or coat
- Itching in and around their ears
- Bad odors coming from the affected area
- Itchy, red and/or runny eyes
- Bumps and scaly patches
- Hair loss
- Frequent head shaking
These symptoms are most likely to occur when your cat has encountered an environmental or contact allergy. More often than not, your feline friend will exhibit the irritated skin and/or eyes when they’ve come in contact with an allergen.
When your cat has a food allergy, common symptoms include:
- Diarrhea or foul-smelling feces
Cats are commonly allergic to chicken and beef. If you suspect that’s the case for your kitty, be sure to check the ingredients in any and all of your food or treats. Chicken is very often used as a filler in many products. As a humom to a cat with irritable bowel disease (IBD) who is also allergic to chicken and beef, I’ve learned to double-check every single ingredient before giving my boy anything.
If you believe your cat may have allergies, schedule an appointment with your vet. They can do testing that will help rule out other variables.
Allergy Q&A with human parents
Our CTO Ricardo and his wife Catherine have two boy kitties named Smudge & Ollie. Poor Smudge is allergic to many different things, making them experts in this field—Catherine was nice enough to answer a few questions I had.
Melanie (MD): How old is Smudge?
Catherine (CR): Smudge is six years old
MD: When did Smudge come into your family?
CR: We adopted Smudge and his brother Ollie in January 2014.
MD: What is Smudge allergic to?
CR: Smudge was diagnosed with having Feline Atopic Dermatitis (Environmental allergies, seasonal) and he was allergy tested in November 2018 at the Animal Dermatology Referral Clinic in Dallas. His detailed report says that he is allergic to:
- Grasses: Johnson, Bermuda, Rye, June, Timothy, Bahia
- Weeds: Ragweed, Marshelder, Kochia, Russian Thistle, Yellow Dock
- Trees: Elm, Mesquite, Box Elder, Yellow Pine
- Others: Malassezia, Cat dander, House dust mites
MD: Wow! He’s allergic to cat dander?! Does that mean Ollie or himself?
CR: We were quite surprised to find out that Smudge is, in fact, allergic to himself and other cats. That is one reason why we have to keep the house free from dust and dander.
MD: Does he also have asthma?
CR: No, he does not have asthma.
MD: Did Smudge always show symptoms, or did they come on suddenly?
CR: His symptoms came on suddenly when he had an open wound over one eye. I thought that he had been in a fight with his brother. We went to the vet and he was treated with antibiotics, but the wound came back quickly and even spread—Smudge kept picking at it because it itched so badly.
MD: What symptoms did he display?
CR: Over the winter months, Smudge had various open wounds around his face. One wound started above the right eye then moved to the side of his face. When he had the open wounds he never stopped scratching his face which made them worse—the worst one was around his entire eye, his whiskers, and his mouth. It was horrible and I felt so bad for him. He was miserable, itchy and bleeding everywhere. We had to put towels and sheets on all of the areas where he slept.
MD: What kind(s) of treatment do you and Ricardo have to do for Smudge?
CR: Since we had Smudge allergy tested, Dr. Garfield (yes, his real name) put him on immunotherapy injections every two weeks.Dr. Garfield used Smudge's test results to develop a serum that helps Smudge's immune system to become tolerant to environmental allergies. He was also prescribed a very strong steroid called Prednisolone daily to help calm his skin down, which he took for just a few days.
We've had Smudge on immunotherapy for six months now and he is doing very well with his injections and a twice-daily oral antihistamine called chlorpheniramine 4 mg. We will have to keep Smudge on immunotherapy for the rest of his life, but it is much better than keeping him on steroids, which the vet told us could shorten his life.
MD: Since Smudge is so sensitive, how do you find ways to pamper him?
CR: Smudge loves to be brushed, so we usually treat him to a nice brushing after applying a hypo-allergenic Grooming Foam by Earthbath Natural Pet Care. It has great ingredients such as coconut-based cleansers, colloidal oatmeal, and organic Shea butter—it smells wonderful. We occasionally bathe him with an oatmeal shampoo that "soothes and relieves itching." I don't think that Smudge considers a bath to be a treat though!
If your cat is displaying any symptoms mentioned above, be sure to contact your vet. Remember, cats can have the same type of ailments that people do. They’re just tinier, furrier and have a hard time communicating about what’s going on. Always be alert to keep your furbaby in the best health they can be in!
If you’re looking for a caring and competent cat sitter for your cat, check out Meowtel. We have sitters experienced in administering medication and looking after cats with various ailments.