Identifying the type of allergy and avoiding the allergen is crucial for managing and treating allergic reactions in cats. Discover the potential triggers and treatment options for allergies in cats in this complete guide.

Can Cats Have Allergies?

Cats can have allergies, and there are four main types: insect (fleas), food, atopic dermatitis (dust, pollen, and molds), and contact allergies. These allergies can cause various symptoms, including skin irritation, itching, and respiratory problems.

Symptoms of Allergies in Cats

If your feline friend is showing any of these symptoms, it could be a "tell-tale" sign that they're suffering from cat allergies:

  • Scratching behavior: In cats, scratching and licking are the most common symptoms of allergies. If your cat is constantly licking its skin, they could be suffering from a skin allergy.
  • Sneezing, coughing, and wheezing: Are you a sneezing, coughing, wheezing mess during spring allergy season? Your cat can experience the same types of symptoms.
  • Runny nose or eyes: If you notice your cat’s eyes watering or their nose constantly running, it could be a symptom of either an environmental or a food allergy.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea: If you notice your cat throwing up after eating or experiencing loose stools, it could be a sign of a food intolerance or allergy.
  • Skin irritation or rash: Redness, bumps, or scabs on the skin may indicate allergies in your cat. To check for signs of allergies, it's important to inspect your cat's skin by gently parting its fur and looking for any signs of rash or irritation. 

What Causes Cat Allergies? 

Cat allergies are caused by a protein found on their skin and in their saliva. When a cat grooms, they spread this protein, which can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Additionally, cat dander, urine, and feces can also trigger allergies.

Types of Allergies in Cats

Cats can develop allergies to a variety of sources. This includes the environment they are exposed to, the food they consume, and the air they breathe. Here's a list of the different types of allergies in cats:

Environmental allergies

Cats can be allergic to various environmental allergens, including mold spores, dust mites, and grass. These allergens can cause a localized or generalized itching reaction on the cat's skin. Other symptoms may include excessive grooming, hair loss, and skin infections. It is essential to identify and avoid these allergens to prevent allergic reactions in cats.

Food allergies

Cats can also develop allergies to certain types of food, including fish and shellfish, dairy, chicken, and beef. Symptoms of food allergies may include vomiting, diarrhea, and itching or inflammation of the skin. Identifying the allergen and removing it from the cat's diet is crucial in managing food allergies.

Flea allergies

Some cats may develop allergies to flea bites. Flea allergy dermatitis is a common condition that occurs when a cat is exposed to flea saliva. Symptoms include intense itchy skin, hair loss, and other skin infections. Flea control measures, such as using flea preventives and regularly treating the cat's environment, are crucial in preventing flea allergy dermatitis.

Contact allergies

Contact allergies occur when a cat comes into contact with a specific substance, such as detergents, fabrics, or cleaning products. These allergens can cause itching, redness, and inflammation of the skin. Identifying and avoiding the allergen is essential in managing contact allergies in cats.

Diagnosis of Allergies in Cats

Due to the fact that symptoms often overlap with other health conditions, diagnosing cat allergies can be challenging. There are several diagnostic procedures that can help, including:

  • Skin tests
  • Blood tests
  • Elimination diets
  • Trial treatments

How to Help Cat Allergies

Cat allergy treatment typically involves both managing the cat’s symptoms and addressing the underlying cause of their allergies. Popular and effective treatment options include:

  • Medications: Cats suffering from allergies can benefit from antihistamines and steroids.
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, are injected into the cat over a period of time so their immune system can build up a tolerance to the allergen in question. 
  • Topical treatments: Topical treatments, such as creams, shampoos, and sprays, can help alleviate skin irritation and itching in cats with skin allergies.  
  • Lifestyle changes: Making lifestyle changes, such as reducing exposure to allergens or switching to a hypoallergenic diet, can help manage a cat’s allergy symptoms. This may involve minimizing exposure to environmental allergens, such as pollen or dust mites, or switching to a limited ingredient diet to identify potential food allergens.

Prevention of Allergies in Cats

To protect your cat from the uncomfortable symptoms of cat allergies, follow these guidelines:

  • Regularly groom and bathe your cat
  • Minimize kitty’s exposure to allergens and using air filters, vacuuming frequently, and washing bedding regularly. Keep your cat’s environment clean and dust-free.
  • Use hypoallergenic shampoos and other grooming products to help reduce the risk of allergic reactions in cats. 
  • Consult with a veterinary dermatologist for advice on managing cat allergies and identifying potential triggers. 


Cat allergies can be a challenging issue to diagnose and manage. However, with proper mobile veterinary care, cat parents can identify the underlying cause of their cat’s allergies and implement effective treatment options to alleviate their symptoms. 

At BetterVet, we believe in providing high-quality veterinary care and education to help pet parents make informed decisions about their furry friends health. If you suspect your cat may be suffering from allergies, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with a BetterVet veterinarian to properly diagnose and treat their symptoms. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if your cat has allergies?

If your cat is experiencing itching skin, either localized to one area or a generalized reaction all over the body, it may be a sign of allergies. Other symptoms include sneezing, coughing, wheezing, watery eyes, and vomiting. 

How do you treat a cat with allergies?

Treatment options for cats with allergies may include medications, such as antihistamines or steroids, immunotherapy (allergy shots), topical treatments like creams or shampoos, and lifestyle changes, like reducing exposure to allergens.

Can indoor cats have allergies?

Yes, indoor cats can develop allergies. Even if a cat spends most of its time indoors, it can still be exposed to various allergens such as dust mites, mold, and pollen that can be carried into the home on clothing, shoes, or through open windows. Indoor cats can also be allergic to foods and other things around the home, like cleaning products. Many cleaning products contain chemicals that can cause respiratory issues and skin irritation in cats.

Can I give my cat Benadryl for allergies?

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is safe for cats and can be used to treat allergies and allergic reactions. Consult your vet before giving your cat any medication to learn about dosage and possible side effects.

What foods help cats with allergies?

A hypoallergenic diet or one with as few ingredients as possible may help cats with allergies. These diets are specially formulated to avoid common allergens, such as chicken, beef, dairy, or grains. Hypoallergenic cat foods typically use alternative protein sources, such as venison, duck, or rabbit, and may also contain limited amounts of ingredients like potato and pea.