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How To Treat Your Cat's Allergies

Cats can be wonderful companions. When a new feline enters your heart and home, getting to know them is part of the fun of being a pet parent. Even though they’re not human, you might find yourself marveling at how much you and your cat have in common—from curiosity to affection to a love of naps. But you might not know that one of the most common things cats share with the humans who love them is the possibility of allergies. 

If you’ve experienced itchy eyes, a runny nose, wheezy breathing or an upset stomach, you know how aggravating allergies can be—and how many different sources of irritation can cause them to flare up.  

 Cat allergies aren’t so different from ours. If you learn what symptoms to look for, you can identify and help treat common cat allergies so your favorite feline can get back to their favorite activities—like curling up on your lap in comfort.

Do Cats Have Allergies?

If you’ve noticed your cat sneezing, scratching or gagging, there’s a good chance you’ve seen feline allergies in action. Just like their pet parents, cats can sometimes develop allergies to a wide variety of irritants inside the home or out in nature. The surfaces they touch, the things they eat and the air around them are all full of potential allergens that may affect a cat’s sensitive skin, digestion or breathing.  

 Once you know how to look for signs of cat allergy, you’ll likely notice similarities between the symptoms of human and cat or kitten allergies. For instance, cat seasonal allergies can sometimes present as coughing, sneezing, wheezing and watery eyes—all symptoms you might be familiar with yourself if you’re prone to hay fever. Or you might find that a cat allergy rash looks just as red and itchy as your atopic dermatitis. Paying attention to these familiar allergy symptoms can help you discover and help treat uncomfortable conditions your cat might be otherwise too stoic to show.

What Are Cats Allergic To?

Pollens, molds, chemicals, dust or eggs—they’re not just potential irritants to people with allergies, they’re some of the things that can sometimes cause cat allergies to flare up. Even if none of the humans in your house are sensitive to these things, keep in mind that your cat could be feeling sick or grumpy due to these common catalysts for feline allergies: 

  • Environmental irritants If your cat seems wheezy when they come inside after a frolic, they could have a cat pollen allergy. Grasses, trees, flowers and weeds can all be allergy triggers for cats, as can mold and mildew.  

  • Fleas No cat likes fleas, but cats with flea allergies like them even less. Those irritating bumps are extra miserable for flea-allergic felines. 

  • Food A cat showing signs of tummy trouble—like vomiting, bloating or diarrhea—could have a sensitivity to something in their diet.   

  • Household irritants From dust to detergent, any number of factors inside your home could be causing discomfort for your cat. Other possible household allergens include chemicals, cleaners, perfumes, cat litter and even surfaces made of certain types of plastic or rubber. 

  • Medicines Your cat’s immune system could be responding to a medication they’re receiving, such as a flea medication or a medicated shampoo.  

  • Smoke Cigarette allergies aren’t just for people—your cat might be suffering allergies from cigarette smoke in the house.

What Are Symptoms Of Cat Allergies?

If you know what symptoms to look for, you’ll be able to help relieve a range of common cat allergies. Keep an eye on your cat with allergy symptoms like the following: 

  • Biting and scratching Cats may bite and scratch at their skin when they’re feeling itchy. Pay attention to increased fur nibbling and take a look at your cat’s paws. If they look tender and your kitty keeps chewing them, it could be a sign of dermatitis. Tail chewing could also indicate allergies, especially a flea allergy.  

  • Redness and irritation Flea bite allergies and atopic dermatitis can give cats the same swollen, red or crusty patches on their skin that are familiar to humans with dermatitis. A cat allergy skin reaction might be harder to spot under all that fur, but take a look if your cat seems itchier than usual or while grooming. 

  • Hair loss Inflamed skin—and the scratching and biting that goes along with it—can cause your cat’s fur to get thin in patches. Constantly irritated places may lead to bald spots.  

  • Sneezing, wheezing and coughing Respiratory and nasal symptoms could be a sign that your cat is having an allergic reaction.  

  • Itchy, runny eyes and nose Yes, cats can have watery eyes and runny noses in response to allergies, too.  

  • Ear infections Allergies of all types can cause swelling and inflammation in a cat’s ears and lead to an increased chance of ear infections. 

  • Tummy trouble A food sensitivity could be upsetting your cat’s stomach. Check for vomiting, diarrhea and a swollen or sensitive abdomen.  

  • Gagging Your cat could be gagging to clear an itchy throat, or because they’ve eaten something they’re sensitive to. Frequent gagging could be a sign that your cat is experiencing allergies.

Is My Cat Allergic To Fleas?

You’ll never meet a cat who enjoys hosting a flea infestation, but fleas are even worse for felines with flea allergies. For these cats, flea bites are particularly unpleasant, as they’re dealing with the regular itch from the bites as well as their allergic reaction to the fleas’ saliva. If you think your cat might have a flea allergy, look at the fleabites. They may be especially inflamed, red or oozing. Pay attention to whether your cat is scratching more heavily around their tail and hind legs and whether they’re losing fur in these areas.  

 The best flea treatment for cats is preventive care. It’s important to consult your veterinarian and get your cat on a good year-round flea medicine to help stop infestations before they start. And if you suspect your cat is allergic to fleas, it’s even more crucial to prevent irritation.

Can My Cat Have Seasonal Allergies?

Hay fever isn’t just for humans—as you may know if your cat gets wheezy in the spring. Cat allergies can strike at any time, but they might worsen during the blooming season, when all those lovely trees, grasses and plants release their pollens.  

 If you notice that your cat comes inside after an outdoor frolic with seasonal allergy symptoms—for instance, a runny nose, wheezing breath, a persistent sneeze, swollen paws or increased instances of scratching—it might be time to look for a cat allergy medicine. Consult a veterinarian and check out Petco’s selection of cat allergy relief medicine to find something that will help relieve your cat’s discomfort.

What Are Common Cat Food Allergy Symptoms?

It’s no surprise that gastrointestinal symptoms could be a sign of food sensitivity in your cat, and both diarrhea and vomiting could indicate that your cat’s food isn’t agreeing with them. You might be less aware that symptoms like ear infections and skin itching can also point to something in your cat’s diet. While true food allergies are less common and can usually only be diagnosed by a vet, food sensitivities are more common. Ingredients like dairy, fish, eggs or beef sometimes disagree with cats’ tummies. 

 Keep in mind that cats can also be allergic to common substances like rubber and cleaning chemicals, so if your cat isn’t feeling good after meals, you’ll want to make sure their dishes or eating area aren’t to blame. Choosing cat food and supplies that help keep them feeling their best is a wonderful way for you to show how much you love being a pet parent. And performing a DNA test on your cat may also help you identify certain predispositions for some allergies.

Can My Cat Be Allergic To Catnip?

While a cat allergic to catnip isn’t unheard of—it’s very rare. It is more common for cats to feel some gastrointestinal discomfort if they consume too much catnip. Cats don’t typically get the chance to overindulge in the good stuff, but if they do happen to eat a lot of catnip, they may have some diarrhea or vomiting for a short period of time. These negative effects typically don’t last long, and if that is infact the cause, your cat might feel better once the episode is over.

What Is The Best Allergy Relief For Cats?

It’s true that there are a lot of things cats could potentially be allergic to, but there are just as many cat allergy remedies and preventive steps to help your cat companion feel well. Try the following to help your kitty combat allergies:  

  • Bathing Cat fur is a great hiding place for pollens, dust, fleas and other irritants. Bathing your cat frequently—as often as weekly, if needed—can often help keep potential allergens away from your cat, and using a medicated shampoo might be a good cat allergy treatment for itchy, inflamed skin.  

  • A clean home Keeping your home as free as possible of dust, mildew, cigarette smoke and harsh chemicals may help your kitty breathe easier. Washing their bedding frequently with hypoallergenic detergent can also be great for helping prevent a cat allergy skin reaction.  

  • Dust-free, unscented litter Perfumes, chemicals and dust may all trigger cat allergies, so make sure your litter is as clean as possible if you suspect it’s the culprit. 

  • Nutritious food Natural cat food free of additives and common irritants can help keep your cat’s belly happy.  

  • Preventive flea medicine Help stop flea allergy symptoms before they start by consulting your veterinarian and finding a good year-round flea medication.  

  • Allergy relief medicines Browse the pet pharmacy for cats and consult your veterinarian to find supportive cat allergy treatment options.

Should I Talk To A Vet If My Cat Has Allergies?

The only certain way to diagnose cat allergies is through a visit to the veterinarian. A vet may perform a diagnostic cat allergy test—using either a blood test or cat allergy shots—and will often recommend prescription or nonprescription allergy treatments. If you’ve tried alleviating your cat’s allergy symptoms and they still seem uncomfortable, Petco’s veterinary services can help you find out what’s behind all that wheezing, sneezing or itching. Nobody should have to live with discomfort from allergies when there are so many good preventive steps and symptom-relieving treatments available—and that goes for your cat, too.

Reviewed by Petco’s Animal Care, Education and Compliance (ACE) Team

Petco’s ACE team is a passionate group of experienced pet care experts dedicated to supporting the overall health & wellness of pets. The ACE team works to develop animal care operations and standards across the organization and promote proper animal care and education for Pet Care Center partners and pet parents, while also ensuring regulatory compliance.