Humans aren't the only animals that can develop allergies, and you may have noticed your cat itching, sneezing and coughing right alongside you during allergy season. Like their owners, cats are susceptible to allergies stemming from a wide variety of sources in their food and environment, including pollen, grass, cat litter and fleas, and the symptoms can be uncomfortable or even dangerous. Recognizing the signs of allergies and understanding how to prevent and treat them are the first steps to ensuring the safety and comfort of your sniffling feline friend.
Recognizing Your Cat's Allergy Symptoms
When cats or humans come in contact with a substance they are allergic to, their immune system overreacts to the stimuli and attempts to fight it by any means possible. This results in symptoms like itchy hives, running sinuses, vomiting and a swollen respiratory system. Since these symptoms are seen in other illnesses like the common cold, it may initially be difficult to pinpoint allergies as the cause of your cat's runny nose. But if they persist for more than a week or two, you should take your cat to the vet to diagnose the issue and begin seeking treatments.
Determining the Cause of Your Cat's Allergies
Once you know your cat has allergies, your vet will work with you to figure out what, exactly, is causing the problem. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, this may involve either a blood test performed in a lab or a trial-and-error system where your pet is exposed to small doses of common allergens to monitor for a reaction. You might need to try switching your cat to specially formulated foods to rule out possible food allergens, as well.
Managing Your Cat's Allergies
With any luck, you should be able to determine the source of your cat's allergies quickly and begin working to minimize their impact on his or her life. If the allergen is minor and non-essential, like an ingredient in cat food, it can simply be avoided, allowing your cat to live in peace. If, on the other hand, your cat is allergic to something like pollen or grass, you will also need to manage his or her symptoms to maintain an adequate quality of life for your pet.
Steroids are frequently prescribed to allergic animals to control itching, along with antihistamines. For longer term solutions, customized, immune-modulating allergy shots can be created for cats to expose their system to the allergen in question and build up resistance over time, with an estimated 75 percent improvement rate. Don't let your cat remain itchy and uncomfortable for any longer than is necessary; by coordinating with your veterinarian, you can move quickly to identify the problem and begin treating the allergies before your cat develops more serious side-effects.