My cat and I have a similar complaint—allergies. My black and white tabby, Oreo, has suffered with digestive problems for years but I never suspected she was allergic. I thought cats were the cause of allergies, not allergy sufferers.
Fifteen percent of all cats in the U.S. have one or more allergies related to their environment or food, according to Cats Magazine. In fact, allergies are one of the most common health problems found in cats. Cats suffer from many of the same allergies as humans and are sensitive to the same allergens. Flea or inhalant allergies are the most common but cats may have food and contact allergies.
A stroke of good luck helped uncover that Oreo’s years of health problems were being caused by food allergies. My son, Brian, was left in charge of our pets while my husband and I were away on a trip. Brian ran out of Oreo’s regular cat food and didn’t have time to run to the market. In a pinch, he started feeding Oreo what we give our other cat, Pumpkin.
The change of diet transformed Oreo from a sickly, irritable feline back into the healthy and happy cat we had not seen for years. Food allergies were the last thing on the veterinarian’s radar or mine as the cause of her frequent vomiting of undigested food. We had mistakenly tried everything from hairball remedies to antibiotics.
Five to ten percent of the allergy problems in cats are caused by the foods they eat. Just like humans, cats may go for years without a diagnosis that food is causing their symptoms, including itching, digestive or respiratory problems. Dairy, meat or grain proteins in cat foods are usually the source of the problem. Changing a cat’s diet or feeding a hypoallergenic food is the only way to determine if your feline has food allergies.
Many cats suffer with more than one type of allergy. Flea allergies may produce severe itching, chewing and scratching that lead to hair loss and open sores. The best remedy for flea allergies is strict flea control.
Pollens from trees, grasses and weeds are likely to be the cause of seasonal inhalant allergies in cats while molds, mildew or house dust mites can produce year-round symptoms. Itching is the most common response to pollens but cats may have respiratory problems, such as coughing, sneezing, wheezing, or nasal/eye discharge. Antihistamines may help ease allergy symptoms in cats.
In some cases, cats develop contact allergies to bedding, flea collars, carpet fresheners, wool, house dust, newsprint, carpets or cleaners. It takes some detective work to discover the source of a cat’s skin irritations and itching.
The next time your feline pal gets sick don’t discount allergies as a cause of their symptoms. Your cat will thank you. Next article: “Dogs can be allergic too!”