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Seasonal allergies and cats—signs, treatments, and tips

Often we think of cats as being the cause of an allergy, rather than suffering from one. But like humans, cats experience seasonal allergies, and the effects can be uncomfortable and stressful for them. Here we’ll quickly review the causes of seasonal allergies in cats, describe how these allergies present symptomatically, and offer some tips on how to minimize the effects of allergies on your cat.

What Are Cats Allergic To?

An allergy occurs when the body identifies a substance in the environment as an “enemy,” thus triggering an immune response against it. Like humans, cats can be allergic to a variety of substances, both natural and man-made. Common organic cat allergens include foods, grasses, pollens, parasites, mold, and dust. Inorganic materials that can induce an allergic response in cats include perfumes, cleansers, insecticides, parasite-control products, cigarette smoke, fabrics, and rubber or latex products.

How Do Seasonal Allergies Present in Cats?

Like dogs, cats frequently display allergic symptoms through their skin. Irritation, itchiness, and rashes are common allergic reactions, ad a cat’s tendency to scratch or over-groom affected areas can lead to bald patches, hot spots and even open wounds. Some allergies in cats present with respiratory symptoms (such as wheezing, excessive sneezing, or difficulty breathing) and others with digestive symptoms (such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea). In more severe cases, cats may even experience vomiting or swollen paws.

How Are Cat Allergies Diagnosed?

The first step in easing your cat’s discomfort is obtaining an accurate diagnosis. Sometimes identifying the culprit allergen requires a controlled experiment. For example, if you suspect that a cat that compulsively scratches at its ears and head is allergic to a newly introduced food containing fish, you can replace the food with a seafood-free variety and see whether the behavior persists. Other allergies are harder to diagnose without a veterinarian’s help. You vet can perform skin tests using trace amounts of range of suspected allergens to determine which one is causing your cat’s symptoms.

What Can You Do to Treat an Allergic Cat?

Treatment depends on the allergen. In some cases, you can easily minimize your cat’s contact with an allergen. Using fragrance-free litter, for example, can help ease symptoms in a perfume-allergic cat. Some substances, however, cannot be removed from the environment entirely. In the case of a food allergy, for example, placing your cat on a hydrolyzed protein diet can also help reduce allergy symptoms. (See your vet for recommendations and precautions.)

Frequent and regular bathing (once or twice weekly) can reduce skin irritation that results from organic allergens such as pollens. Also, gentle flushing of the ears can remove allergens from the folds of skin within the cat’s ears. This will also discourage the accumulation and growth of bacteria that contribute to irritation and inflammation. If your pet is allergic to dust, regularly clean its bedding and blankets, and vacuum clean dust-collecting fabrics (including drapes) regularly to remove dust.

If your pet displays severe, persistent allergic symptoms, schedule an appointment with your vet. It may be necessary to identify which allergens are causing your cat’s symptoms, and a vet can tailor a treatment plan specific to your pet.

Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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