Is Your Cat Allergic?

You can help stop the itching, licking and biting that drives your cat crazy.

By Andee Joyce | Posted: Fri May 11 00:00:00 PDT 2001

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Dr. Raclyn recommends a slow, gradual transition to a new diet; and ultra-finicky eaters should be given a choice of acceptable foods and be allowed to choose what they like best. In extreme cases, where a cat is starving itself to protest the diet change, he might prescribe an appetite stimulant, such as Periactin.

The Next Step: Testing
If food isn't the culprit, a blood allergy or skin test might determine the source. A serum allergy test costs $150 to $200, depending on where you live. "It's next to useless for determining food allergies, but it's very helpful in diagnosing contact or inhalant allergies," Raclyn says.

Casey Phillips, who owns Dominic, a 2-year-old Siamese, says her cat's serum allergy test yielded positive results for house dust mites, black flies, sycamore, rye grass, ragweed and honeysuckle.

Dominic's allergy specialist put him on oral steroids, as well as Periactin, which Casey believes has been a wonder drug for her cat. In addition to being an appetite stimulant, Periactin is also an antihistamine used for human allergies. Other veterinarians, like Dr. Raclyn, claim limited success in putting cats or dogs on antihistamines, but both Casey and her veterinarian were thrilled with Dominic's progress on Periactin.

Stop the Itch - For Good
Whether holistic or traditional, most veterinarians discourage the long-term use of cortisone injections to stop itching because prolonged use can be harmful to a cat's kidneys. Dr. Doering gives a cortisone shot initially for immediate relief but gives allergy shots based on serum allergy test results for longer-term treatment of pollen and mold allergies. These extracts desensitize or hyposensitize the cat to the allergy source like allergy shots for humans and are effective 75-90 percent of the time, Dr. Doering says.

Your veterinarian need not be a specialist to perform serum allergy tests or formulate allergy vaccines. A veterinary school or the closest dermatology/allergy specialist can consult with your veterinarian by phone, or in some cases online for more precise instructions, Dr. Doering says.

Cats suffer from allergies less frequently than dogs, Dr. Doering says. He estimates he sees one cat for every nine dogs in his practice. "I like cats and I'd be a feline allergy specialist if I could, but then I'd starve to death! We don't get many cats in here, but the cases we do get are pretty desperate."

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Reader Comments

Emily    North Quincy, MA

4/26/2010 11:24:34 PM

My cat seems to be doing a lot of what looks like coughing. I dont see belabored breathing. He takes deep breaths when he sleeps but i dont know if thats the same thing. It has been happening more frequently lately but it does not happen everyday. What do you suggest?

Janet    Bethlehem, PA

4/5/2010 9:20:49 AM

good article thanks

theresa    dayton, OH

11/11/2009 10:15:53 PM

Thank you for the info.I have a 17 year old long haired black cat named Dusty and every year she starts to lose her hair around the base of her tail and down the backs of legs.She scratches herself so much we keep her claws short so she doesn't injure herself.We've taken her to the vet numerous times and they all say the same thing a, flea allergy.Well theres one problem with that she has 3 sissys and none of them have problems and they are all indoor cats and always have been.Now i can start testing her for other things.Whoever heard of a cat with allergies!Not me. Thanks again.

Jesi    Covington, GA

8/20/2009 1:08:54 PM

My little kitty Briski is loosing hair near her tail, and is itching herself scabby near her rear end and around her neck. I appreciate the article about cat allergies. The vet assistant had suggested that could be the case, now we can go to our appointment more informed

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