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Itching, sneezing, scratching, coughing, and congestion are signs of allergies in humans and cats. Like you, your cat can suffer from everything from seasonal and environmental to skin and food allergies. If you've ever had allergies, you know how awful they can be, affecting every part of your life. While allergies in cats aren't necessarily a medical emergency, they can affect their quality of life. 

Cats with itchy skin may try to reduce their symptoms by excessively scratching or grooming, which can cause secondary infections when they break the skin. Itching is uncomfortable, and infections can be painful. Additionally, since there are many causes of allergies in cats, they can be difficult for you to treat without the help of a vet. Diagnosing your cat's allergies is the first step to ensuring their health and happiness. After your cat is diagnosed, they can get the treatment they need to reduce their symptoms. Luckily, there are several types of allergy medicine for cats to give them the relief they need to run, jump, and play the day away. This article will discuss everything you need to know about allergy medicine for cats

Symptoms of allergies in cats

Symptoms Of Allergies In Cats

The most common type of allergies in cats is environmental allergies, which include airborne allergens like dust and pollen. When airborne allergies in cats typically affect the skin, they're called atopic dermatitis, but environmental allergies can cause symptoms other than cat skin allergies. Cats with environmental allergies typically experience severe itching, redness, and skin inflammation. 

Other symptoms of allergies include:

  • Excessive scratching and licking
  • Sores
  • Hair loss, scaling, and crusty skin
  • Respiratory infection 
  • Ear infections1

Environmental allergies are caused by allergens in indoor or outdoor environments, such as dust, mold, and weeds. They can occur both inside and outdoors. 

Causes of allergies in cats

Causes & Diagnosis 

There are several types of allergies in cats, including environmental or atopic dermatitis, food allergies, and flea/parasite allergic reactions. Food allergies occur when your cat is allergic to an ingredient in their food. Symptoms of these allergies are similar to atopic dermatitis, typically resulting in skin itchiness, vomiting, and diarrhea. Meanwhile, parasitic allergies caused by fleas can cause itching, swelling, and sores. Therefore, it may be difficult for pet parents to identify their cat's allergies because the three different types cause similar symptoms. Let's take a closer look at the causes of cat allergies and how they're diagnosed: 

Causes of Allergies in Cats

  • Environmental allergies: Environmental allergies are airborne and common culprits are dust, mold, mildew, dander, and pollen. The cat must inhale the allergens to cause a reaction, but cats can develop external reactions to these allergens on their skin after coming into direct contact with them. In addition, environmental allergies can be seasonal or year-long, depending on what causes your cat's reaction. For example, if your cat is allergic to pollen, they may not experience any symptoms of allergies in the winter. 
  • Food allergies: Food allergies are less common in cats than dogs, but they can still occur in any cat. Common allergens in pet food are animal proteins, dairy, and wheat, but cats can be allergic to anything they consume. 
  • Fleas: Cats are allergic to flea saliva, causing a skin reaction similar to atopic dermatitis. Cats with fleas often scratch at or excessively groom themselves to relieve discomfort associated with the thickness. However, excessive scratching and grooming can lead to infection by creating a sore on the skin. 

Cat allergies are typically diagnosed depending on their medical history and a physical exam. Your vet will ask you when the symptoms started to try to determine the cause. Fleas may be easily identifiable on cats because they look like specks of dirt. You or your vet may see fleas jumping off or onto your cat. Vets typically test for allergies in a few different ways:

Diagnosing Cat Allergies

  • Environmental allergies: Your vet may do a skin or blood test to identify the trigger.2 They can test for atopic dermatitis with a serology allergy test that measures allergens in the blood or use intradermal testing that utilizes injections of common allergies into the skin to look for signs of inflammation or allergic reaction.3
  • Food allergies: If your vet suspects food allergies, they'll likely try an elimination diet, which consists of eliminating one ingredient from your cat's diet for a set period and monitoring their symptoms. Vets may try novel protein diets that remove the potential animal protein allergen, giving them a new food or a food with novel proteins like turkey, kangaroo, or duck.3 
  • Flea allergies: Your vet will use a flea comb to find fleas on your cat. They can also use a blood test to diagnose flea allergies. Usually, a vet can diagnose fleas with an examination and medical history evaluation.3

Shop Allergy Medicine for Cats

Treatment: What Can I Give My Cat For Allergies? 

The best allergy medicine for cats may depend on your cat's unique situation. For example, cats with fleas will need a different treatment than cats with food allergies. However, most treatments and medicines aim to reduce the side effects of allergies like itchy skin, sneezing and other respiratory symptoms, and inflammation. Common medicine for cat allergies include: 

Corticosteroid Pills

Corticosteroids are an itch relief medicine for cat allergies. They're essential steroids with anti-inflammatory properties and can treat mild allergies and symptoms like itchy skin.2


Lotions, ointments, and ear and eye drops can reduce the effects of allergies, including itchy skin, eyes, and ears. If your cat is prone to allergies, they may experience chronic ear infections and inflammation that can be painful and itchy. Your vet may prescribe ear drops to fight or prevent these infections and other topical products to help your cat's skin heal if they've broken the skin while scratching or excessively grooming. 

Flea Prevention Products

Vets recommend flea and tick prevention products for all pets, even indoor cats. Fleas can attach themselves to anything, including your shoes or clothes, and get into your home, affecting any type of cat or pet. Several types of flea and tick products are available for pets, so talk to your vet about which is best for your cat. 

If your cat wasn't using prevention products, you'll need to get them treatment. Several types of flea treatment products are available, including tablets, powders, collars, and sprays. What's best for your cat may depend on their health and temperament. For example, some cats may not want to wear a flea collar and will paw at it. However, apart from treating your cat directly, you'll need to treat your home for fleas by removing fleas from the environment where they can reinfect your cat. You can use sprays or foggers to get rid of fleas, but your cat is highly likely to be reinfected if they're not on preventative medication. 


Antihistamines are a common medicine for cats with allergies because they're effective, and you can get them over the counter. Antihistamines like diphenhydramine, also known as Benadryl, can help treat seasonal and environmental allergies, and it's safe for cats when given in the proper dosage. Since the correct dosage for your cat depends on their weight and other factors, always consult your vet before giving them human medicine for their allergies. Several antihistamines can reduce your cat's allergy symptoms, so you should consult your vet to ensure you're giving them one that can effectively prevent itching, sneezing, and runny nose. 

A New Diet

If your vet diagnoses your cat with food allergies, they'll provide you with instructions for what to feed your cat and what to avoid. They may even give you a prescription for a special food from a pet store to ensure your cat doesn't consume harmful ingredients that can cause itchy skin. Of course, the elimination diet diagnosis process can take a few months since there are many different ingredients your cat may be allergic to, so you can expect some trial and error. 

Of course, you should have your cat's allergies diagnosed by a vet before trying to treat their allergies. Allergies share symptoms of other illnesses and skin problems, so you don't want to treat the wrong thing and leave your cat in discomfort. Instead, a vet can help you determine whether your cat has allergies, what type, and the most effective treatments. 

If your cat has a secondary infection due to allergies, they will also need to undergo treatment for that skin condition. For example, if your cat scratches their skin and the wound gets infected, your vet will treat the secondary infection simultaneously with antibiotics and topicals while treating the primary symptoms to prevent further scratching. 

Side Effects Of Allergy Medicine

Medicine for cats with allergies can be effective, but some treatment options may come with side effects. Let's take a look at a few potential side effects of the different treatment options:


Corticosteroids like prednisolone are common medications given to cats with allergies.4 These pills are anti-inflammatory, which can reduce symptoms of allergies like severe itching. When giving your cat steroid pills, you should always follow your vet's instructions because giving them too much could cause a severe reaction. You should never stop the medication without discussing it with your vet, as abruptly ending treatment can cause serious side effects. When given correctly, corticosteroids can still cause side effects in cats, including:

If the medication is given long-term, cats may experience additional side effects, such as weight gain, decreased energy, distended abdomen, and behavioral changes.4 


Prescription topical medications may cause some side effects in cats, including skin irritation. However, you can stop using them if you notice they're causing skin issues or worsening your cat's symptoms. If your cat's topical treatments aren't working, consult your vet for the next steps. 

Flea Prevention Products & Treatment

Some flea and tick medications can be dangerous to pets because they contain a dangerous chemical known as pyrethrin or pyrethroid, insecticides that can cause cat toxicity. These products are usually in dog specific flea and tick prevention, which is why it’s important to never use dog preventions on cats. Symptoms of flea and tick medication poisoning include:

  • Tremors
  • Drooling
  • Loss of balance
  • Itchiness
  • Hiding
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Seizures and death5

You should never give your cat flea and tick medication designed for dogs. In addition, your cat should never lick an area that has medicine on it. Some cats may also have a sensitivity to the ingredients in the medicine.5 Luckily, not all flea and tick products contain these dangerous ingredients, so talk to your vet about your concerns and look for an alternative solution. 


Antihistamines are some of the best medicines for cat allergies, but they have the same potential side effects for cats as they do for humans. Some cats may experience drowsiness, while others experience hyperactivity. Other common side effects include:

  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Urine retention6

Antihistamines are typically used for seasonal allergies on a short-term basis, but you should always follow your veterinarian's dosage recommendations since they can be dangerous in large doses. 

A New Diet 

When you change your cat's diet, you should typically do it gradually to prevent upset stomach symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Even if your vet recommends a prescription diet or a completely new type of cat food, you should change it gradually by mixing it with regular food. At the same time, they may take another type of allergy medication to reduce their symptoms. Once your cat is fully transitioned, your vet may recommend stopping the medication and monitoring your pet to determine whether the new diet effectively eliminates food allergies. 

No matter what treatment your vet recommends for your cat's allergies, you should always monitor them to prevent severe side effects that can affect their quality of life and health. In addition, your vet may need to test your cat's medication for a few weeks or months to ensure they can effectively reduce or eliminate their symptoms. 

Tips to reduce allergens at home

Tips To Reduce Allergens At Home

Cats with allergies typically experience mild side effects, but their symptoms can worsen if you don't treat your cat's allergies. Even with allergy medicine, you should still aim to reduce your cat's symptoms at home by removing triggers from their environment. Since cat allergy medicine can have side effects, you may choose to find and remove the triggers from your home instead of relying on medication that may make them drowsy. Reducing allergens at home is crucial if you want your cat to be symptom-free. Here are a few tips to reduce allergens in the home whether or not you use allergy medicine for cats. 

  • Flea and tick prevention: Using flea and tick prevention is crucial for pets of all types. Because fleas can find their way into your home, you should protect your cat year-round. 
  • Clean your home: Clean your home regularly to remove potential environmental allergies like dust, mold, and mildew. Depending on your cat's allergies, you should aim to vacuum at least once or twice a week.
  • Use an air purifier: An air purifier can help keep the air in your home free from dust, pollen, and even mold to prevent your cat from inhaling allergens that result in itchy skin. 
  • Avoid mold: Mold grows when there's moisture, so you can prevent mold in your home by keeping the exhaust fan in your bathroom running while you bathe, using dehumidifiers, fixing leaks, and cleaning up any damp areas to prevent mold growth. If you find mold in your home, clean it immediately with bleach. Of course, keep your pet away from the area with bleach until it's fully removed. 
  • Wash bedding: Washing your cat's bedding can remove dust mites that may cause allergy symptoms. If your cat spends a lot of time in your bed, consider washing your sheets weekly to prevent dust from building up. 
  • Check filters: Your home should be ventilated to prevent allergens. Check your furnace and air conditioner filters to ensure they properly filter the air in your home. If they're dirty, you can clean or replace them. A HEPA filter can help prevent mold, bacteria, pollen, and dust from entering the air. 
  • Clean curtains and blinds: When cleaning your home, you might focus on vacuuming and dusting. However, you should regularly clean your curtains and blinds because they attract dust, mold, and mildew. If you have blinds, vacuum them gently or use a disinfecting wipe to remove dirt and bacteria. 
  • Clean toys: Pet toys can attract bacteria, mold, and pollen. Since your cat puts toys in their mouth, you should clean them regularly. Read the care instructions on the tags before cleaning them. Some rubber toys can be cleaned in the dishwasher, while others can be washed in the washing machine. 
  • Bathe your pet: Allergens can get trapped in your pet's fur, potentially causing skin irritation or worsening their allergies because they can't escape the allergens. Regularly bathing your pet will remove the allergens from their skin and fur, which may reduce some of their symptoms. 


Can cats have human allergy medicine?

Yes, cats can have some human allergy medicine. Diphenhydramine is one of the most common human medicines used to treat allergies in pets. However, some allergy medications are not safe for cats. For example, some types of Claritin are not safe for cats because of the ingredients used. Of course, you should not give your cat allergy medication without first consulting your vet. 

How much Benadryl can I give to my cat? 

Antihistamine poisoning in cats can be deadly, so you never want to give your cat too much. Most vets recommend a dosage of 1 mg per pound of body weight. However, you should always consult your vet before giving them any dosage to ensure the medicine is safe and effective for treating allergies in cats.

What happens if a cat takes Benadryl?

If your cat takes Benadryl as directed by a vet and receives the correct dosage, they may experience mild side effects like sedation. However, Benadryl effectively reduces the symptoms of allergies in cats, so it might be a good option as long as you follow your vet's instructions. If your cat accidentally consumes Benadryl in any amount, take them to the nearest emergency vet. A single tablet can contain 25 mg, which may be enough to cause poisoning in cats since the recommended dosage is 1 mg per pound of body weight. Therefore, a 25 mg tablet may be too much for a 15-pound cat. 

Signs of Benadryl overdose in cats include lethargy, behavioral changes, abnormal heart rate, diarrhea, vomiting, and seizures. An overdose can be fatal, so your cat should get treatment immediately. 

Benadryl is safe for cats in the right doses, so as long as you consult your vet before giving any to your cat, they may only experience mild side effects, if any.

Owner’s hand feeding cat allergy medicine

Final Notes

Allergies in cats are fairly common, and they can affect any cat, regardless of age, sex, or breed. While outdoor cats are more likely to develop allergies, indoor cats can suffer from environmental, food, or flea allergies that affect their quality of life. Unfortunately, symptoms of allergies in cats can resemble those of other illnesses, so you should never try to treat your cat's allergies without the help of a vet. 

Worried your cat has allergies? Talk to a Dutch vet. Dutch's telemedicine for pets can help treat cat allergies to improve your cat's quality of life and prevent itching and secondary infections caused by excessive scratching and grooming. Your cat should be happy, safe, and comfortable in their environment, so when your cat has allergies, you should treat them as soon as possible. Dutch makes it easy to diagnose and treat your cat from the comfort of your own home. We'll ensure your pet gets the best allergy medicine for cats to reduce or eliminate their symptoms. Try Dutch today. 



  1. White, Stephen D., and Karen A. Moriello. “Allergies of Cats - Cat Owners.” MSD Veterinary Manual, 8 Nov. 2022,

  2. “Cat Allergies: Learn about the Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.” WebMD,

  3. “Allergies in Cats.” PetMD,

  4. “Prednisone and Prednisolone.” PetMD,

  5. “Flea and Tick Medicine Poisoning in Cats.” PetMD,

  6. “Can You Give Cats Benadryl?” PetMD,

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