Just like humans, cats can sometimes develop sensitivities or allergies to certain foods. When your cat shows symptoms of a dietary allergy or sensitivity, it’s important to know what options are available to help give your cat the healthiest life possible.
A number of common foods can trigger sensitivities in your cat. These include chicken, fish, corn, wheat, dairy and soy, with beef, eggs and pork occasionally causing issues as well. When your cat has an allergic reaction or displays signs of a sensitivity, the cat’s immune system is treating a common agent in the environment as though it is dangerous, and reacting incorrectly to it to try to rid it from the system.
What Food Sensitivities Look Like in Cats
The way food sensitivities can manifest in cats might surprise you; not all reactions are gastrointestinal in nature. In fact, many reactions involve the skin and the respiratory system; sometimes, only the ears will be affected.
If your cat is displaying a lot of itchiness, hair loss or sores from scratching, or if your cat’s ears are red and inflamed, these might be symptoms of a food sensitivity or allergy. Sensitivity also can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
What You Can Do
If you suspect your cat has a food sensitivity or allergy, your first course of action is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. A veterinarian can help you determine the source of the problem and recommend appropriate actions to try to alleviate it.
One tactic a vet might suggest is trying an elimination diet. This involves feeding your cat a strict, minimal-ingredient diet for a few weeks and then introducing the food you suspect is causing the sensitivity. If the cat has a reaction, then you’ll know the source of the problem and can simply remove that trigger from your pet’s diet.
Another suggestion your veterinarian might make is to feed your cat a novel protein formula. Novel proteins are proteins that are not commonly used in pet foods, such as duck, turkey or catfish. This will remove proteins from your pet’s diet that commonly cause sensitivities, and replace them with ones that might be less likely to cause a sensitivity.
Treating Sensitivity Symptoms
While you are in the process of determining what is causing the problem, you can take a few measures to try to help relieve your cat’s discomfort.
Try giving your cat a bath with a mild shampoo, or simply give your cat a rub-down with a damp cloth. This can relieve some of the itching. If the problem is severe, your veterinarian might suggest a medication to give your cat some relief.
Common Allergies in Cats by WebMD Pets
Food Allergies in Cats by Jean Hofve, DVM
Allergies by the ASPCA
How to Treat Skin Rash in Cats by Mario Calhoun