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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Hungry CatAndrea Sullivan remembers the first time she saw the bald patches on Southpaw's flanks. They had just moved from the East Coast, where Southpaw had been an indoor cat, to the West, where she was starting to go outside. "Soon I started to notice she was licking and biting at herself a lot more than she used to, and she was bald from her middle all the way down to the insides of her back legs," Sullivan says. After over-the-counter skin treatments proved unsuccessful, Southpaw had a series of cortisone treatments from several veterinarians. The shots provided temporary relief, but in time Southpaw went back to licking herself bald and scratching her neck until it scabbed over.

Sullivan then took Southpaw to a veterinary acupuncturist. Treatments helped, but they were expensive and Andrea couldn't afford to keep them up. She also tried changing Southpaw's food, to no avail. Finally, Southpaw solved the problem herself: She lost interest in going outside. When Southpaw became an indoor cat again, the itching stopped.

Does Southpaw's story sound familiar? If it does, your cat suffers from allergies.

Cats have allergies just like humans and as with human allergies, cat allergies vary in severity and can only be managed, not cured. Cats can develop allergies from flea bites to food to airborne pollens. Reactions often severe ones may appear suddenly at any age. Some cats develop respiratory allergies (usually asthmatic wheezing) or digestive allergies (vomiting and diarrhea), but skin allergies are the most common.

A single cortisone shot from a general practice veterinarian or even an over-the-counter skin treatment can provide sufficient relief if symptoms are mild. But if basic treatments don't work or stop working, specialty intervention might be needed from a holistic practitioner or a dermatology/allergy specialist.

First Things First: The Diagnosis
Where do you begin if watching your cat scratch, bite and lick itself bald is driving you crazy? Phillip Raclyn, DVM, who practices both holistic and traditional veterinary medicine in New York City, says his first order of business is determining whether the cat's symptoms are allergy-related rather than the result of another problem such as an autoimmune disorder or parasites.

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Reader Comments

Denise    pomona, CA

5/31/2014 7:07:07 PM

um my cats ear is swollen up pretty badly, his ear was all bloody and when the scab went off it was yellow and blood started to come out when i was wipping it down. so now there's a hole on my cats ear

though its not swollen on the top it's wollen on the bottom to so now i don;t now how to treat it
and i don't have money to go to a vet

Nancy    Randleman, NC

7/29/2012 1:17:27 PM

losing hair ,bumps. scaley , irreatation , all over !

Brenda    Jennings, FL

12/30/2011 7:49:50 PM

I'm not sure if my cat is allergic, but lately she has been licking constantly and scratching herself bald . . . but only around the neck area! We recently added a new cat to the house, 2 mths ago, and we had ran out of litter about a month ago, and used dirt from outside! If either of these could be the cause, I'm not sure but need answers!! Please help me, we cannot afford to take her to vet right now! I really don't want her to die from this, but she's isn't eating like she used to and she is now losing weight!

Annita    Stuart, FL

9/14/2011 1:26:04 PM

My Ginger tabby(4yrs old)TINKER has a back paw that swelled to twice the size he is an indoor cat,and sometimes jumps on his brother who is much stronger ,this has happened before,now I see swelling in other paws!!

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