Cats are like humans in many ways, especially when it comes to the illnesses they can catch. Cats can get colds, cancer, and even suffer from allergies just like humans. Cats can suffer from a wide range of allergies, and most cats with one allergy will most likely suffer from many others. Allergies are one of the most common conditions that affect cats and occur when their immune system overreacts to a foreign substance, whether it is a food, bug, skin irritant, or inhalant.
The least common allergy found in cats is a skin allergy, which occurs when a cat’s skin is sensitive to something that has come in contact with their skin. Cats can be allergic to certain flea medication or flea collars, certain fabrics or bedding, or even detergents used to wash their beds. The allergy can usually be reversed by removing the item causing the irritation, but figuring out what is causing the irritation can sometimes be difficult. You will know your cat has a skin allergy if they excessively scratch one area, to the point that fur may fall out or be torn out. Scabs and sores can also form if the cat is scratching on a regular basis, which can lead to an infection if left untreated.
Many cats also experience an allergy to fleas, which can cause extreme irritation at the time of flea deposits their saliva in the cat’s skin. While all cats will tend to itch when bitten by a flea, those allergic will be extremely uncomfortable and may chew their skin to deal with the itch. Like skin allergies, cats with flea allergies may scratch and bite their skin to the point where scabs occur, which can lead to a serious bacterial infection that must be treated by a veterinarian. The best treatment for cats with a flea allergy is to keep them in a location that is free of fleas, so going outside is out of the question. Using flea medication on the cat and in your home on a regular basis is essential since fleas can reappear even when you think you have the problem under control.
Food allergies are another type of allergy that can affect cats, but most cats are not born with certain food allergies. Cats develop sensitivities to certain foods when they have not eaten them in a long time, and tends to develop in response to the protein component in the food. An allergy to a food can cause itching, respiratory distress, and even digestive problems, so it is important to keep your cat on the same food in order to prevent any allergies from occurring. An allergy test can be performed but involves placing your cat on a special diet for 8 to 12 weeks. The cat must be kept on the strict diet without any treats or table food, or else determining the food allergy will be impossible.
The most common type of allergy found in cats is an inhalant allergy and is usually caused by some of the same inhalants that affect humans. Pollens, molds, mildew, and even dust mites can cause an allergy in cats, but most of them are seasonal and will only affect the cat for a certain part of the year. Cats respond to inhalant allergies with itching, and inhalant allergies are the most common reason that cats will scratch themselves. Cats that have a sensitivity to one type of inhalant allergy will most likely be sensitive to many others, some of which may not be seasonal allergies at all. The most common treatment for inhalant allergies is steroids, which can dramatically block the reaction that many cats have to certain inhalants.
Hypoallergenic shampoos can also be used to reduce itching in cats, and can actually allow for a lower dose of steroids to be used for cats with allergies. Allergy shots are available for cats with excessive sensitivity to many inhalants, but can be costly and must be given on a regular basis in order to show results. The shots are given on a weekly basis, and over time are able to strengthen the immune system and make the cat less sensitive to inhalant allergies. The shots are usually given for several years if results occur, and can eventually reduce or resolve itching problems that affect cats.
Many think that a cat is supposed to scratch themselves on a regular basis, but this is completely untrue. Cats scratch due to some type of irritation, whether it is something directly on their skin or in their immune system. Like humans, cats can get a number of different allergies that can be irritating, uncomfortable, and can actually make them sick. If you cat is itching on a regular basis, it is best to contact your veterinarian to find out the cause of the irritation.