Understanding Allergies in Cats

If you are a cat owner, you have probably had someone tell you how allergic he or she is to cats. It is not the actual cat that they are allergic to, but instead, they have a reaction to the dander. There are many people who are allergic to cat dander. But, did you know that cats also have allergies, too? Foods, household products and other items can all be common allergens for cats. It is estimated that at least fifteen percent of all cats in the United States suffer from some form of allergy. If you have a cat that suffers from allergies, it is good to know that cats that suffer from allergies can be treated in much the same way as humans.

Just as humans suffer different types of allergies, cats can also suffer from several types. For example, cats can have inhalant allergies, which are allergic reactions caused by airborne articles, such as pollen or household sprays or chemicals. These types of allergies can irritate the nasal passages, eyes and lungs. Cats can also have contact allergies that can be caused by prolonged contact with a certain substance. Food allergies and fleas are another cause for allergic reactions in cats. If you suspect that your cat suffers from allergies, you may first notice coughing, sneezing or runny eyes. Some cats may even experience patchy fur or itchy skin. Your vet can determine whether or not your cat is suffering from allergies.

Inhalant Allergies: Pollen and other airborne articles can cause allergic reactions in cats. An airborne allergy in cats presents much the same way as in humans. These types of allergies can cause cats to sneeze and have runny, watery eyes. Cats can experience irritated nasal passages and upper respiratory problems. Common airborne articles that can cause reaction in some cats are household aerosols and sprays. Many people do not realizes it, but spraying these types of products around some cats can cause breathing difficulties and eye infections. The reaction your cat may experience can range from very mild to severe. Some cats might only sneeze a couple of times, but others might develop coughing or runny, matted eyes. If your cat has these types of allergies, your vet will recommend that you keep the kitty indoors and away from outdoor allergens. It could be difficult to know what household products are causing allergies, but you can reduce the amounts of aerosol products used around the cat. You vet can also prescribe medications to help with the reactions. For cats that have problems with the eyes, a prescription eye drop can be given.

Contact Allergies: Cats can have allergic reactions to items that they come in contact with such as plants, certain materials or household chemicals. The most common form of contact allergies in cats is due to exposure to certain plants. These often include plants that have oily leaves such as rubber plants. If a cat rubs against a certain type of plant, the oil can come in contact with the cat’s skin and cause allergies. Other forms for contact allergies in cats can include carpet cleaners or fresheners, wool, dust in the home, newsprint, house cleaners, carpet and even cat litter. Usually a cat that suffers from contact allergies will experience itching and discomfort on the skin. The cat might develop skin eruptions, such as hives or bumps on the skin or dermatitis. In some cases, the fur could fall out causing dry, itchy patches on the cat’s skin. Usually, contact allergies that cause problem are more noticeable on the chin, ears, inner thighs, abdomen, and underneath the tail. Your cat will probably scratch a lot in one area. If you suspect that your cat is experiencing contact allergies, the first step is to take your cat to the vet to determine the cause and course of treatment. The vet will usually recommend a skin patch test to determine the cause and prescribe a topical solution to help the itching. Sometimes, a steroid shot can be given if the case is extreme. If your cat does not go outdoors, then you will need to find out what is causing the allergy and eliminate that product around your cat.

Insect Allergies: Fleas top the number one list of insect allergies among cats. These little biting critters can irritate your cat’s skin and can cause excessive itching and scratching. Some cats that have allergic reactions to fleas will have patches of fur that can fall out or can develop bumps on the skin. In addition, black “dirt” may be visible on your cat. It is common to see this under the cat’s chin, around the base of the tail and on the belly. This is a sign of fleas and your cat should be treated. If your cat has an allergic reaction to fleas, the first thing you must do it treat the allergies. You vet can prescribe medications or topical solutions to ease the itching and heal the skin. After this is under control, the next step is to treat your cat for the fleas. You vet can prescribe a good treatment that is given at intervals on the cat’s skin. Over the counter flea treatments often do not work as well as the prescription. Treating your home for fleas is also a must to ensure that they will not re-infect your cat.

Food Allergies: Cats can be allergic to certain types of foods, as well. While it is true that cats should never be given table foods, some cats can also be allergic to certain types of cat foods. Common allergies to foods are cat foods that contain certain poultry products such as turkey or chicken. Extreme caution should be used when feeding your cat table food. Cats should never be given chocolate and many times dairy products can cause problems with a cat’s digestive system. In addition, if you cat goes outdoors, it is possible that your cat can ingest mushrooms or wild onions, which can cause severe allergic reactions. Prescription foods can be given to a cat that experiences food allergies.

If you suspect that your cat has allergies, it is important to find out what is causing the allergy and try to keep your cat away from that product. In addition, if you cat experiences a severe allergic reaction, you should always consult the advice of your vet for further treatment options. It is always a good idea to keep the number of your vet and the number of a 24 hour pet emergency care clinic with you at all times.

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