Just like with dogs, there are several allergens that can cause allergic reactions in cats. However, the symptoms shown in cats are a little different than in dogs. Cats are more prone to showing respiratory symptoms, including: runny nose, runny eyes, coughing, and wheezing. This is because cats are more sensitive to inhaled allergens than dogs.
Food Allergens: Cats can be allergic to ingredients in commercially available cat foods, such as fish, corn, chicken, wheat, and soy. Cats with food allergies will often develop dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) around the face and ears. However, the skin lesions can occur anywhere. Similar to dogs, diagnosis of food allergies is done by putting the cat on a restricted ingredient diet for several months to see if the skin lesions clear up.
Generalized Allergens: Several allergens can cause reactions in cats. These include, dust, mold, pollen, fleas, and cigarette smoke. Cats who are exposed to cigarette smoke will often develop asthma and have difficulty breathing. In addition to the respiratory symptoms, cats can also develop localized inflammation of the skin that causes the cat to continuously groom that area. This is usually on the belly or inside the back legs. They will often groom themselves to the point of creating severe inflammation of the skin in that area.
Flea allergies cause skin lesions that are referred to as military dermatitis. These are tiny, scabbed bumps usually located on the face, ears, and rump.
To determine what allergens your cat may be sensitive to, a dermatologist will need to perform intradermal skin testing. Once you have an idea of what allergens are causing the reactions, you can limit your cat’s exposure to the allergens. This could include: keeping your cat in a room that is smoke free, treating for fleas, or eliminating possible food allergens from your cat’s diet. Your cat may also need medications such as oral anti-histamines or steroid injections.