Cat skin allergies

If your cat is scratching, itching, or grooming itself intensely, it may be a sign it suffers from allergies. Learn about what your vet will do to determine the cause, and how you can help your cat at home.
Adult cat sitting outside in long grass scratching its chin.

Like humans, cats can suffer from allergies and the uncomfortable symptoms of an allergic reaction. Although allergies can be treated, working out what's causing your cat's allergy can be tricky and requires help from your vet.

Symptoms of allergies in cats

Your cat's skin is the biggest indicator of whether they are suffering from an allergy. When you pet your cat, you may feel little scabs; you may also notice broad, relatively flat areas on their skin which are red or appear inflamed, or lesions on their face, abdomen, or the outside of their thighs. Cats with allergies scratch themselves frequently, sometimes to excess, and may also over-groom themselves in an effort to alleviate any discomfort. The result can be patches of hair that breaks easily, or hair loss.

Why is a cat's allergy so difficult to determine?

There are three main causes of a cat's allergy: fleas, something in their diet, and allergens in their environment. Determining which of these are causing an allergic reaction is difficult, and your vet will have to undertake a process of elimination and specific diagnostics to work out which of these is causing the symptoms in your cat.

What will the vet do to determine my cat's allergy?

The first thing your vet will do is establish whether there is a cause of your cat's symptoms, other than an allergic reaction. Many of the symptoms a cat with allergies exhibits are similar to those caused by parasitic infection, fungal infection—such as ringworm. All of these will need to be ruled out by your vet before determining that the signs your cat is presenting are due to an allergy.

If they deem it necessary, your vet may treat your cat for fleas. Cats can develop hypersensitivity to flea bites which results in them scratching vigorously and causing scabs or lesions. 

Adult cat sitting down outside in long grass.

If your cat is still having an allergic reaction after ruling out environmental factors, your vet may try to rule out any food allergies by placing them on an elimination diet. This can last up to twelve weeks, during which time, if your cat's symptoms disappear, the vet may then give your cat their original food; if the symptoms reappear, they'll conclude it's sensitive to an element of this diet.

If the exclusion diet process is unsuccessful, it's likely your cat is suffering from an environmental allergy.

The impact of diet on your cat's allergy

Your cat's diet directly affects their skin, the largest organ in their body. A food formulated specifically for cats with hypersensitive skin can help limit any adverse reactions to food and support them in developing good skin health.

These foods have specially selected protein and carbohydrates that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction in your cat. The food may also include omega 3 long chain fatty acids, which help manage skin reactions (such as inflammation) and biotin, niacin and pantothenic acids—these help prevent your cat's skin drying out and strengthens its ability to protect them against irritants.

If you notice any of the symptoms of an allergic reaction in your cat, make sure to visit your local vet. Together, you'll be able to work out how to support your cat's health and improve the quality of their skin and coat.

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Maine Coon adult standing in black and white on a white background