Like humans, cats have allergies too! I’ve been inspired to write on this because one of our readers who is also a customer of Angels has two cats who are allergic to fish. Because allergies are not limited to food alone I will discuss allergies in more detail so that you can know more about them.
There are three main classifications of allergies: food allergy, contact or topical allergy, and inhalant allergies. These allergies manifest in different ways.
Food allergy manifests itself in a few symptoms. These include swelling, like how Sammy Mika swelled up after he had some prawns. The allergy may also present itself as skin problems which are not limited to any particular part of the body. It is also possible that food allergy shows gastric symptoms like diarrhoea or vomitting, like how most cats behave when they drink normal milk not made for cats. By far, swelling is one of the more common manifestations of a food allergy in cats.
There are a few treatments. Firstly, for immediate relief, chlorpheniramine, available OTC from pharmacies. The dose for adult dogs and cats is 2 mg a day and for kittens 1 mg. Pets with more serious food allergies may also be put on steroids when you bring your pet to the vet. The second thing that needs to be done is to change your cat’s diet. This may or may not be a straightforward process. If you know what your cat is allergic to, then you can eliminate that particular source of food. However, if your cat develops an allergy even while being on the same diet he has had for a long time, then eliminating the source is not going to be easy. First you will need to put him on a single-source diet – single-source of protein, single-source of fibre. Then if he does well, add in an additional source of protein, continuing to monitor his reaction. Eventually, by process of reverse elimination you will be able to identify which is the allergen. Yes, it is possible that cats develop an allergy to a food they have been consuming for years, so don’t rule out food as the source of allergy simply because your cat has been on the same diet all this while.
The second type of allergy is topical or contact allergy. The most common of this is due to fleas and ticks. This usually manifests in cats constantly scratching themselves or rubbing against floors and furniture to relieve the itch, occurrence of dry skin flakes around the base of the tail, and of course, seeing the fleas themselves when you groom them. Not all cats will be allergic to flea saliva, some will be more allergic to them than others. The first thing you need to do is to apply a flea treatment like Frontline to break the cycle. When the fleas die off, your pet’s allergy will too.
However, if the contact allergy is limited to only certain areas such as the extremities – ears, paws, hind legs, tail area, then the contact allergy is due to an external irritant, such as household cleaners. This will manifest itself in sore patches that are red and dry. To treat this, bathe your cat with a soothing shampoo containing ingredients such as oatmeal, chamomile, tea tree oil, peppermint. You can also apply a balm to soothe the itch and promote healing. You also need to eliminate the irritant from areas where your cat has access to.
The last type of allergy is inhalant allergies. This usually manifests itself in tearing eyes from a scent that cats are allergic to. Cats are often allergic to citrus scents such as lemon, orange, lemongrass and citronella. Our Slinky had tearing eyes when she breathed in lemongrass scent that I placed in the toilet, which was when I realised she had a citrus allergy, and that lemongrass belongs to the citrus family. To ensure that your cat does not get irritated by inhalant allergies, use other scents in the house – in the cleaning detergents, room fragrances and aromatherapy uses. Because of this I am also not a fan of Natural Defense flea treatments which uses citrus oils to affect fleas’ neurotransmitters, because if your cat is allergic to citrus then she would be to Natural Defense as well.
If you are not sure which classification your cat’s manifested allergy falls into – food, contact or inhalant – there is a sort of treatment checklist you can run through to find out which it is. Firstly, apply a flea treatment on your cat and her furniture. If it is a flea related allergy, your cat’s itchiness will subside. If it doesn’t, then you have already ruled out fleas as the irritant. Next, rule out contact and inhalant allergies from household cleaning detergents and scents by changing them. If the situation does not improve, then you can safely move on to food allergies, which is by far the most tedious. This is when you change your cat’s diet to single-source foods and then reverse eliminate the sources of protein and fibre.
There are many foods that use alternative sources of protein and fibre in their diets that you can choose from. Chicken and fish are the most popular of course, but alternatives include duck, venison and lamb. There is more than chicken and fish out there! Although I can’t for my life imagine a cat eating a sheep or a deer…
Regardless I hope this post helps inform you on the types of allergies in cats. Hope your cats stay safe away from allergic reactions!