Cat covering face with paw

Key takeaway

Symptoms of allergies in cats include excessive itching and licking, sores and crusty bumps, hair loss, swollen skin, vomiting, diarrhea, among other signs. Treatment for symptoms of allergies in cats include medication and environmental changes.

Signs of Allergies in Cats

Just like humans, cats can get allergies, too. There are generally three different types of cat skin allergies: environmental allergies (also known as atopic dermatitis), food allergies, and flea/parasitic allergies. Cats can have one, or multiple different types of allergies. Allergies can be quite painful for your kitty, so it’s important to be aware of the various signs of allergies in cats so that you can catch them as quickly as they come.

Three Types of Cat Skin Allergies

The signs of cat skin allergies will differ depending on the type of allergy. But in order to treat your kitty’s allergies, you have to know what’s causing them. There are various substances in your home or environment that may have no impact on you, but have a huge impact on your feline friend. 

In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the various signs and symptoms of allergies in cats, what causes cat skin allergies, and more. To learn more about the signs of allergies in cats, continue reading the entire article. Otherwise, you can use the links below to jump to a section of your choice.

Signs & Symptoms of Allergies in Cats

The first step in treating your cat’s allergies is being able to identify the symptoms. Symptoms will differ depending on the type of allergy. For example, the signs of food allergies in cats can look different than the signs of skin allergies in cats, so it’s important to be aware of both symptoms.

Symptoms of atopic dermatitis can include:

  • Excessive scratching or licking: This is the most common symptom of atopic dermatitis in cats. A cat with atopic dermatitis with lick and/or scratch at their skin. Atopic dermatitis can be seasonal, so the itching and scratching may get worse at certain points of the year.
  • Sores, scabs, and redness: Often times, the excessive scratching/licking will lead to sores, scabs, and redness on the cat’s skin.
  • Inflammation: Inflammation is also a common side effect of excessive scratching or licking of the skin.
  • Scaling or crust: A cat with scaling skin will have either small and/or large flakes of skin coming off of them. Since cats groom themselves, this can be hard to detect, so if you notice your cat is excessively scratching themselves, make sure you keep an eye out for scaling skin.
  • Hair loss: The excessive scratching or licking can cause hair loss on both sides of a cat’s body and lead to even more irritation.
  • Ear infections: Allergies can cause a cat ear infection because they weaken the immune system, which makes it easier for bacterial and fungal infections to happen.
  • Rhinitis (respiratory infection): Rhinitis is an inflammation of the nasal passages and develops as a result of atopic dermatitis in 15% of cats.
rhinitis develops as a result of atopic dermatitis in 15% of cats
  • Asthma: Atopic dermatitis can trigger asthma in your cat, which can include sneezing, coughing, and/or wheezing. 

Symptoms of food allergies can include:

  • Excessive itching and licking with little seasonal variation: Similarly to atopic dermatitis, a cat with food allergies will also itch and lick excessively, except they’ll do it year round with little seasonal variation.
  • Sores and crusty bumps: A cat with food allergies may develop small sores and crusty bumps on their skin.
  • Hair loss: The excessive itching and licking can lead to hair loss on both sides of a cat’s body.
  • Reddened, swollen skin: If you notice your cat’s skin looks red or swollen, that means they’re likely suffering from some type of food allergy.
  • Ear infections: Food allergies cause an inflammation of the skin, which can increase the temperature and moisture in a cat’s ear. This makes the area more susceptible to yeast and bacteria, thus leading to ear infections.
  • Vomiting: When a cat is suffering from a food allergy, they can develop gastrointestinal issues, such as vomiting.
  • Diarrhea: If your cat has an allergic reaction to a particular food in their diet, this can lead to cat diarrhea.

Symptoms of flea/parasitic allergies can include:

  • Excessive itching and licking: Similarly to atopic dermatitis and food allergies, a cat with flea/parasitic allergies will also excessively itch or scratch their skin. This intense itching or scratching will occur whenever the cat is bitten by a flea.
  • Sores, crusts, bumps: Sores, crusts, and bumps can be a result of the excessive itching and licking of the skin.
  • Hair loss, not only limited to the tail base: A cat with a flea/parasitic allergy will experience hair loss around their tail base, neck, and head.
  • Swollen lower lip: A swollen lower lip is another common symptom of flea/parasitic allergies in cats that you should look out for.

What Causes Cat Allergies?

If your cat is exhibiting any of the above signs or symptoms, they could be reacting to one of these four common allergies: 

  • Environmental: Environmental allergies means your cat is allergic to something that is physically in their environment. Some of these allergens can include pollen, molds, dust, mildew, dander, or dust mites. Typically, a cat has to inhale one of these to have an allergic reaction, but it can also occur from direct skin contact. Pollen is a common environmental allergen and can come from trees, grasses, or weeds, so it’s important to be aware of what type of plants are in your house that could trigger your cat’s allergies. Environmental allergies are usually seasonal, but they can become worse over time. Most environmental allergies are inherited.
  • Fleas: Fleas are another very common allergen for cats, but cats aren’t actually allergic to fleas themselves, they’re allergic to flea saliva. A cat with flea allergies will excessively scratch or lick at the site of the bite, which can cause an infection. It’s also possible for a cat’s entire body to be affected from a flea allergy, and not just the site of the bite. Since cats groom themselves, identifying a flea bite on their skin can be tricky, which is why it’s so crucial to be aware of the different signs of flea allergies in cats.
  • Food: Food allergies are far less common in cats than environmental or flea allergies. The most common food allergens include the proteins that are found in beef, chicken, dairy, wheat, eggs, or fish. Your cat can be allergic to just one ingredient in their food, or a combination. Just like humans, food allergies in cats can also develop over time. It’s also possible for your cat to have a food intolerance, and not an allergy. This is slightly different in that they have a difficult time properly digesting an ingredient, but they’re not allergic to it.
  • Seasonal: Seasonal allergies in cats usually show up as atopic dermatitis, which means your cat will develop symptoms on their skin, like inflammation and sores due to excessive itching. Seasonal allergies in cats typically happen around spring time due to seasonal triggers like pollen, grass, and dust.

Symptoms of Allergies in Cats: Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my cat has allergies?

There are a few telltale signs that indicate your cat is likely suffering from allergies. The most common signs of allergies in cats are skin itchiness, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. The symptoms of allergies in cats will ultimately differ depending on what your cat is allergic to, but it’s still good to be aware of the most common signs.

The most common signs of allergies in cats are skin itchiness, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea

How do you treat a cat with allergies?

There are a few ways you can go about treating a cat with allergies. But in order to properly treat your cat’s allergies, you need to identify what’s causing them, which is why it’s so important to bring your cat to the vet if you suspect they’re suffering from allergies. Your vet will have the best idea of how to diagnose and treat them. 

Treatment depends on the type of allergy your cat has. For example, if your cat has a flea allergy, your vet may recommend using flea/tick control. If your cat is allergic to dust, your vet may recommend using a dust-free litter. If your cat has a food allergy, your vet will likely recommend avoiding feeding them the particular food that they're allergic to. 

Can my indoor cat have allergies?

Outdoor cats are more likely to develop seasonal allergies than indoor cats, but it’s still entirely possible for an indoor cat to develop allergies, too. Allergens can still blow into your house from open windows and doors and trigger your kitty’s allergies. Although they might not go outside, the allergens can still find their way inside and impact your kitty.

What is the most common allergy in cats?

Environmental allergies are most common in cats and are caused by substances like pollen, grass, mold, and dust. Flea and food allergies are also common in cats.

Can a cat be allergic to litter?

Yes, a cat can absolutely be allergic to litter, especially if the litter has a lot of dust or fragrance in it. It’s important to read your cat’s litter ingredients carefully so that you can identify any possible allergens that may make your kitty sick. Fragrance-free and minimal dust litters are always a better option to use.

Cat looking up from litter box

Final Notes

In humans, allergies look like a runny nose and watery eyes. Now while allergies in cats might look a little bit different, it doesn’t make them any less annoying to deal with. Cat allergies can show up in many different ways, from excessive itching and scratching to diarrhea and vomiting. Allergies can be quite uncomfortable and painful for your feline friend, so it’s crucial to get them the proper care they need. This is also why it’s so important to be aware of the signs of allergies in cats, so that you can bring your kitty to the vet as soon as they start to develop them. 

If you’re in need of a quick and easy way to get treatment for your kitty’s allergies, Dutch.com is here to help. Dutch is an online telehealth service that connects pet owners with licensed veterinarians right from the comfort of their own home. With Dutch, you can receive a diagnosis for your kitty’s allergies and get prescribed the proper treatment– all without having to ever leave your home. 

Dutch-affiliated vets are here to help you get to the bottom of your itchy cat, and get them the medication they need, sent directly to your door. With Dutch, you won’t ever have to worry about not having the time to bring your kitty to the vet. We will bring the vet to you, so you can be on your way to treating your kitty as quickly as possible. Sign up online and get started with Dutch today.