Do cats have allergies?

Are you one of the people that are allergic to cats? Many cat lovers are prevented from keeping cats because of the allergic reactions these animals cause. The runny nose, sneezing, itching of the eyes, throat and skin are common allergic symptoms. These are the symptoms that cause cat owners to decide to find a new home for the pet. Not many people are aware that cats can have allergies too. Similar to humans, an allergic reaction in cats is triggered by an allergen. About 15% of cats suffer from different types of allergic reactions. In humans, an allergic reaction usually causes asthma-like symptoms as breathing is commonly affected. An allergic reaction in cats typically affects the skin.

The immune system has the function of protecting the body from the invasion of harmful organisms. The immune system will recognize the antigens or the proteins found on the surface of bacteria, viruses and other infectious organisms. Once recognized, the immune response is to destroy the substance that has these antigens. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to the invasion of a harmless substance. There are four main causes of allergies in cats. These are insects, food, contact and inhalant.

Cat allergy can be caused by insects and parasites. Bee or wasp stings can cause mild to serious allergic reactions in cats. Fleas are the most common parasites that cause allergic reactions as most cats are allergic to flea saliva. Heavy flea infestation is not necessary for the cat to suffer from allergic reaction as a few flea bites can already cause the cat to itch and to scratch excessively. The scratching and the biting would cause red bumps and bald areas on the skin. Administration of topical medications and antihistamines would control the allergic symptoms however; the parasite infestation must be controlled too. The cat’s allergic reaction can be caused by the introduction of a new diet. The food that is given to the pet may contain additives or ingredients that cannot be tolerated by the cat’s system. Symptoms of food allergies include diarrhea and vomiting. The cat can have itchy and swollen ears, face, neck and head. Due to the excessive scratching, the affected area can get infected. The food that is the likely cause of the allergy must be avoided by the pet, however, this can be rather challenging as it would be difficult to pinpoint the cause of the allergy especially if no new diet was introduced to the pet.

Just like humans, the cat can be affected by allergens in the environment like pollens, moulds, grass seed, dust mites, household cleaners and air fresheners. Allergic reaction caused by these airborne allergens is difficult to control. Even indoor-only cats cannot be prevented from being affected by these inhalant allergens. A cat suffering from inhalant allergy would suffer from immense itching on the head, neck and ears. Excessive scratching would cause scabby lesions and hair loss on the affected area. The pet has to have medical attention. To rule out other conditions like mange, contact dermatitis and flea allergy, the vet would get skin scrapings to be cultured. The cat may need to have blood tests as well. Corticosteroid will only relieve the symptoms but would not cure the cat’s allergy.

Contact allergy is not very common in cats. Contact allergy symptoms will occur when the cat gets in contact with a substance it is sensitive to. This type of allergy is not very common because the cat’s fur serves as protection. However, solvents, acids, and other chemicals can soak through the fur. Leather, wool and plastic materials that get in contact with the cat’s skin would cause rashes that thicken the skin. Corticosteroids are prescribed but elimination of the material that causes the allergic reaction would relieve the symptoms.