Cat Allergies: Causes and Treatments

If your cat is constantly itching and scratching, it could be a warning sign that your beloved pet is suffering from cat allergies. When we think of cat allergies, the first thing that usually comes to mind are humans that are allergic to their favorite feline. Though it isn't as widely known, cats can also suffer from various types of allergies.

What are the causes of allergies in cats?
There are a number of possible causes for cat allergies that are a result of a reaction with allergens that the pet is exposed to. The four most common types of allergies in felines include inhalant allergies, flea allergies, food allergies, and contact allergies.
  1. Inahalant Allergy - This is the most common type of cat allergy. In the same manner that humans develop allergies to foreign particles in the air, cats can also be allergic to the same types of allergens. These allergens include pollen from trees, grass and weeds, as well as mold, mildew and dust mites in the home. Your pet can be affected by mold, mildew and dust mite allergens at all times since they may be exposed to them everyday. However, pollen allergies are generally seasonal and usually only affect the cat during the spring and summer months.
  2. Flea Allergy - Like dogs, cats commonly suffer from flea allergies. One would think that the bite of the flea would be the cause of this type of allergy, however, the flea bite itself usually causes only minor irritation. It is the saliva from the flea coming into contact with the cat's skin that causes the reaction. This reaction can cause your pet to itch and chew itself severely leading to loss of hair, open sores, or scabs on the skin which could in turn lead to a bacterial infection. The areas most commonly affected are the rump, just before the tail, and the head and neck of the cat.
  3. Food Allergy - Though many would think that a food allergy is a condition a cat is born with, it usually develops to food products that the animal has eaten for quite some time. This type of cat allergy is frequently caused by the protein component of the food such as those found in beef, pork, chicken and turkey. Food allergies can not only cause itching and scratching in the feline, but can also cause digestive disorders and respiratory problems.
  4. Contact Allergy - This type of allergy is the least common of those found in cats. This type of cat allergy can be caused by a reaction to certain substances like those that may be found in a flea collar, or pet bedding materials such as wool. This type of allergy usually causes only minor skin irritations leading to the cat scratching itself at the point of contact.
Signs and symptoms of feline allergies
There are basically three different warning signs and symptoms of cat allergies. The most common is the itching and scratching of the skin. This can be in one specific area or over the feline's entire body. Another sign that your cat may be suffering from allergies involves problems with the respiratory system that may result in coughing, sneezing, or wheezing. Sometimes, the cat may develop a runny nose or discharge from the eye. The last sign of allergies in cats involves the digestive system, resulting in vomiting or diarrhea.

Cat allergy treatments
The treatment for cat allergies will depend upon the type of allergy and on the length of the cat's allergy season if dealing with inhalant allergies. Steroids given either orally or by injenction will block the allergic reaction in most cases. However, steroids can cause unwanted side-effects so an all-natural remedy such as Skin-eze is preferred. If the allergen occurs seasonally, then treatment is only necessary during the allergy season. If it's a year-round allergen, then continuous treatment may be necessary. This treatment should be used in conjunction with a shampoo such as Skin-eze Shampoo. It has been shown that some allergens may be absorbed through the skin. Frequent bathing can reduce the amount of antigen exposure through this route. In addition to removing surface antigen, bathing alone will provide some temporary relief from the itching.

Another form of allergy treatment is desensitization with specific antigen injections. Once the specific types of allergens are known, very small doses of the antigen are injected weekly. The intended result is to reprogram the pet's immune system. This form of treatment may be recommended for middle-age to older cats suffering from year-round inhalant allergies. Desensitization can take up to two years and is successful in about 50% of cases. Another 25% of the patients will see some relief from the treatment, while the other 25% will not be helped at all. This is also the most expensive form of treatment.

If the cat allergies are the result of a flea, food, or contact allergy, then the best form of treatment is to remove the allergen. If it's a flea allergy, then you will need to invest in flea repellant or an effective flea collar. A food allergy may require some investigative work on your part to find the type(s) of food that is causing the allergy and can take several months of trials to determine. The same goes for contact allergies. Although tests for food allergies are now available, their reliability is so low that it isn't generally recommended. A food trial is still the best form of test for a food allergy.