Many people are allergic to cats or cat dander. However, it is less well known that the cat itself can react allergically (although not to a human hair). In fact, our domestic cats have more problems with allergic intolerance than is commonly thought. A wide range of allergens is known, from classic hay fever to household substances. By far the most common cause of a cat allergy can be linked to diet: the trigger is in the cat food.
How are allergies manifested in a cat?
Does your cat seem generally irritable and cranky? Then the animal is most likely suffering from an allergy. Allergies are hypersensitivities of the body, in which defense substances against harmless environmental influences are released. In most cases, these reactions are expressed in the form of itching and skin changes. The suspicion of an allergy is obvious when the symptoms appear relatively spontaneously and intermittently. Even with a parasite infestation, the cat can have allergenic side effects, such as a flea saliva allergy. This is one of the most common skin diseases in cats and can occur all year round thanks to the mild climate in our regions.
Do you suspect an allergic reaction? Then you should get to the bottom of the cause quickly to prevent it from getting worse through constant scratching or licking. Our vets at Dr. Fressnapf will advise you easily at home in a stress-free online consultation. They take a look at your cat via video chat and give an expert assessment. The veterinarians are also your contacts for questions about homeopathy and naturopathy.
The disposition to allergies is hereditary, the disease can break out at any age and from one day to the next. Allergic reactions are not usually life-threatening, but they are very uncomfortable for the cat and can severely affect the quality of life. Unfortunately, allergies in cats are not curable; but once the allergen has been found to which the body reacts with the unpleasant symptoms, you will be able to keep the dangerous substances away from your pet as best as possible.
How does a cat allergy test work?
In principle, the range of possible allergy-causing substances is very large. An unfamiliar floor cleaner or the fragrant detergent, a newly acquired toy, human perfume or deodorant, or houseplants are possible triggers – at least as far as contact allergies are concerned. Just like humans, cats can have an allergic reaction to even simple house dust and pollen. If your cat suddenly develops an allergy, think carefully: What have you recently changed in your household? Have new objects or substances been added? Could the cat have been playing with or touching something it didn’t know before? Has there been a change in feed or has something changed in the recipe of the usual cat food? Sometimes the time at which allergic reactions occur also provides information about potential causes – for example, pollen count in spring.
The veterinarian will first use swabs, skin and hair samples to clarify whether the cat’s symptoms might be due to another, non-allergy-related illness. Once that is done, he can use an allergy test and a blood test to identify potential triggers. In the allergy test, various common allergens are injected under the cat’s skin and the skin reactions are observed. This method, called the intradermal test, is also used in human medicine. The blood test measures the concentration of antibodies and lymphocytes.
In addition to avoiding the allergens, which is not always possible, supportive drug therapy to alleviate the symptoms or immunotherapy to desensitize may be advisable. Which of these makes sense depends on the type of allergen, the level of suffering caused by the symptoms, and the general condition of the velvet-pawed patient.
It becomes more complicated with food intolerances. Here you have to rely on an elimination method in a somewhat lengthy process, in which certain components of the cat’s diet are temporarily removed and reintroduced later. The reactions of the organism are observed. The body’s response to food is sometimes not immediate, but can be determined with a certain time lag: patience is required.
By the way: Many veterinarians are recognized experts in cat allergies. The German Society for Veterinary Dermatology has recommendations for specialized veterinarians in your area.
What is a feed allergy?
As part of this elimination diet, it may turn out that the cat is overly sensitive to food, individual components, or additives. These can be grains or proteins, for example. Additives such as flavor enhancers or preservatives in ready-made food can also cause problems for sensitive cats. The elimination diet must be accompanied by a veterinarian so that the animal does not develop any signs of deficiency or malnutrition in the meantime. You are also required to be absolutely consistent: no matter how hard your cat begs for its favorite food, you must not deviate from the diet plan in order not to falsify the results.
What do I feed if I have a cat food allergy?
Once the disease-causing component in the cat’s diet has been determined, it may be enough simply to stop feeding certain things and, for example, to remove dairy products such as cheese from the diet. If that’s not enough, you have to change the type of food. The manufacturers have adapted well to the allergy problem in house cats: Many brands offer special allergy food and light food, both as wet and dry food.