Cats, like people, can be allergic to just about anything, so it’s not uncommon for pet owners to witness scratching, excessive grooming and more, in an itchy cat. “Cats do sneeze sometimes, which may be caused by allergies to food or the environment, although sneezing can also indicate an upper respiratory infection, either viral or bacterial,” explains Stephanie Liff, DVM, medical director of Pure Paws Vet Care in New York City. Hair loss in cats is just one symptom of a possible cat skin condition or allergy. Consulting with your veterinarian is the best way to confirm an allergy, however, the following symptoms will help identify the cause for your itchy cat.
Easing your cat’s allergy symptoms can be as simple as a change of food, or it may be a bit more complex. A more involved allergy case may require systemic steroids, notes Liff. There are a few less common causes of sneezing, including foreign material in the nasal cavity, dental disease that disrupts communication between the mouth and nose, nasal polyps or tumors, she adds.
If your cat is uncomfortable, take note of her symptoms and speak with your veterinarian. In the meantime, here are some of the more common signs your kitty has an allergy and ways to make her feel better—fast.
Itchy cat and bumpy skin: Many cats will scratch because of an allergy, with some developing bumps all over the body that feel like small seeds, notes Liff. These are indicative of an allergy, or may point to a cat skin condition. “More severe allergies can cause plaque-like lesions on the groin and thighs and cold sores or ulcers of the mouth.” These signs are commonly caused by food, a flea allergy or environmental agents.
The fix: Often the protein in a pet’s food is causing the allergy, so in Liff’s practice she transitions cats to a diet that has one protein and single carbohydrate, ideally two ingredients the cat has not previously eaten. One cat food to try: Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea & Duck Formula Dry Cat Food. And when it’s treat time, offer VetriScience Vetri-Lysine Plus Immune Health Bite-Sized Cat Chews.
Red and sore: Scan your cat’s whole body if you think she’s suffering from an allergy. Occasionally the paw pads and the space between the digits will become inflamed or red, says Liff. “The nose is less often involved, but you may still see nasal congestion or nasal discharge that’s related to allergies,” she adds.
The fix: For environmental allergens, it can be hard to pinpoint the exact culprit, but interdermal skin testing, which is a test performed by a dermatologist, can help to map out the allergens that are problematic, says Liff. There are also allergy tests that can be ordered on a blood sample, but the gold standard is still skin testing. You might also ask your veterinarian about a supplement such as Animal Essentials Seasonal Allergy Herbal Formula Dog & Cat Supplement.
Licking and hair loss in cats: Excessive grooming is another sign that your cat may have an allergy. Cats may lick and lick until the fur is gone from an area, causing hair loss in cats, or they might engage in hair pulling.
The fix: Per Liff, topical treatments are available (though with varying results), including ointments, shampoos, hot spot products and mousse-like sprays to help with secondary infections, dry skin and discomfort. These can also help if your cat is exhibiting other symptoms of cat skin condition. “Oral antihistamines can be helpful, including, but not limited to, human OTC brands such as Zyrtec or Claritin,” she says. It’s imperative to consult your vet before you decide to treat any of these conditions since allergies are not the only thing that can cause itching, licking or sneezing. And sometimes a treat is just what the doctor ordered, so consider Halo Liv-a-Littles Grain-Free 100% Chicken Breast Freeze-Dried Dog & Cat Treats for your sweet itchy cat.