Why Does My Cat Keep Sneezing: Dealing With Allergies In Cats

Posted: September 1, 2021 by Anita

allergies in cats

My co-worker has a cat by the name of Max who suffers from allergies seasonally like a human.

It gets so bad that he scratches and licks himself, resulting in missing patches of fur all over his little cat’s body. Max’s allergies go into overdrive every year during the spring.

Interestingly, his seasonal allergies (to grass – we think) only started a couple of years ago.

I was surprised to learn that allergies in cats are a pretty common condition. And cats can go years without having any problem with allergies then – BAM – your cat is scratching and sneezing like crazy.

Does your cat sneeze a lot? Your cat might be suffering from allergies.

In this article, I discuss the topic of allergies in cats.

My cat keeps sneezing – does he have allergies?

It’s possible.

A cat has allergies when its immune system overacts to foreign substances or particles called allergens. This overactive immune system response will result in common allergy symptoms in cats.

Common cat allergies will look something like the following symptoms:

  • skin itchiness
  • scratching, rubbing or head shaking
  • sneezing, coughing or wheezing
  • vomiting, diarrhea, gas, and or bloating
  • itchy, running eyes
  • ear infections
  • snoring
  • swollen, sensitive paws
  • excessive licking (grooming)
  • red or dry skin
  • scabs on cat

Types of allergies in cats

4 common cat allergies or types of allergies occur in cats. Some cats with allergies can be affected by more than one type of allergy at the same time:

  • flea allergies
  • food allergies
  • enviromental allergies
  • contact allergies (atopic dermatitis)

In the next few sections, I will discuss:

  • each type of allergy
  • symptoms to look for in your cat
  • allergy treatment for cats
allergies in cats

1.Flea allergies in cats

Most cats only have minor skin irritation when bitten by fleas. A single flea bite on a cat can cause a severe flea allergy reaction.

This is what happens – a flea takes a bite of your cat’s skin, injecting saliva. That saliva causes an allergic reaction called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD).

Symptoms of flea allergy dermatitis

The most common area of involvement on your cat is the rump area near the tail. But can include legs, head, neck, and shoulder.

  • intense itching
  • constant chewing, licks, scratches a particular area
  • hair loss (from constant licking and chewing)
  • your cat has scabs – known as miliary lesions on neck and other areas (from the constant licking and chewing)

Diagnosis

If you suspect that your cat might have FAD, you first want to call your Vet. Since cats are amazing at grooming themselves, it might be hard to detect the presence of fleas. Your cat’s Vet can perform specialized tests for allergies:

  • IgE test
  • Intradermal allergy test (skin test)

Cat Dermatitis Treatment

Consult with your Vet on a treatment plan for your cat’s flea allergy. Make this the first step.

The best way to treat flea allergy dermatitis in cats is through the prevention of flea bites. The best prevention is through flea prevention medication such as:

Another way to treat is through cat allergy medicine such as:

  • allergy shots – which has only had limited success in the allergy treatment of cats
  • Corticoidsteroids – used to block allergic reactions and gives instant relief
  • Benedryl (Diphenhydramine) for cats

Let’s talk a bit about treating your cat with Benedryl. First off, consult your Vet. You wouldn’t give your cat the same dosage of Benedryl that you would take for allergies.

Both Benedryl and Corticoidsteroid pretty much work the same in cats as in humans – by blocking the chemical histamine released in the bloodstream when your cat’s body comes in contact with something it is allergic to.

Corticosteroids can be toxic in large doses, so your cat must be monitored regularly by a Vet.

2.Food allergies in cats

According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, “studies have shown that food allergies overall are the third most common type of feline allergy” – with flea bite allergies and environmental allergies preceding it.

Cat food allergy symptoms

  • itchy, irritated skin
  • skin lesions or scabs on cat from scratching
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting

Itching and scratching are primarily the most common symptoms of food allergies in cats – and occur mainly in the neck and head area.

However, 10-15% of cats with food allergies will suffer from gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and vomiting.

Diagnosis

The most reliable way to diagnose food allergy in cats is through a food trial. A food trial is a specialized diet in which your cat doesn’t eat any of the types of proteins that he ate previously in his diet – for 6-8 weeks.

So instead of your cat eating chicken (or beef or turkey), he is introduced to a protein such as venison – something his body has never had before.

After eating this specialized diet for 6-8 weeks, all food allergy symptoms should clear up.

To identify what exactly your cat was allergic to, you would slowly start introducing components of his old diet – one at a time. If the allergy symptoms come back after introducing a food type, then that food item is the culprit.

The food trial should be done in consultation with your cat’s Vet.

Food allergy treatment for cats

Your cat can’t be cured of food allergies. However, you can help manage food allergies by keeping your cat away from the food that causes the allergy to flare up.

The food trial narrows down what food your cat can eat. Thus you would continue feeding him the trial food as his new diet and avoid foods that trigger an allergic reaction.

Best Hypoallergenic cat food

The best cat food for allergies – Hill’s Pet food has a line of food for cats that are food sensitive; click here for more information. Please consult with your cat’s vet for the hill’s prescription cat food for allergies that is right for your cat.

*Must have a prescription order from your Vet to purchase.

3.Enviromental Allergies

Substances that cause environmental allergies are:

  • pollen
  • grass
  • fungi
  • mold
  • dust
  • cigarette smoke
  • perfume
  • cleaning products

Symtoms of enviromental allergies

Symptoms from seasonal allergies (from pollen and grass) are usually easy to spot because your cat will only be affected a few months out of the year – pretty much just like humans.

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • runny nose
  • itchy, runny eyes
  • snoring

Diagnosis of enviromental allergies

The first step to diagnosing environmental allergies is to rule out other medical conditions that could cause your cat to be a sneezy, coughing mess, such as a respiratory infection.

Your vet might perform the following on your cat:

  • IgE test (blood test)
  • Intradermal allergy test (skin test)

Environment allergy treatment for cats

The best treatment is through preventative measures – by keeping your cat away from the allergen.

Keep your cat away from cigarette smoke, perfume, and cleaning products. If your cat is an outside cat (such as my co-worker’s cat Max), you might have to start keeping him inside.

It’s difficult to keep your cat away from pollen and dust – during allergy season – it is everywhere! However, try to keep your home as dust-free as possible and change air filters frequently.

The best allergy medicine for cats is a good antihistamine such as Benadryl. Check with your Vet for proper dosage.

4.Cat atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is an allergic skin disease that can affect both dogs and cats. Not a lot is known about the cause of atopic dermatitis in cats, but it’s thought to be hereditary.

Cats with atopic dermatitis have an overactive immune response and a defective skin barrier that allows easy entry of bacteria and environmental allergens.

Symptoms

  • inflamed itchy skin
  • overgrooming
  • hair loss
  • rash
  • repeated ear infections
  • thickened skin

Diagnosis

Your cat’s vet will rule out other causes such as flea or food allergies first. A diagnosis of atopic dermatitis can be made by performing a skin test – which is more accurate than a blood test.

Treatment

There are ways to treat atopic dermatitis:

  • preventation by avoiding those things that trigger an allergic reaction.
  • medicines to control itchy skin such as steroids and anti-itch medication
  • ear drops for ear infections.
  • skin supplements such as fish oil to improve skin health – check out this skin supplement from Amazon, by clicking here.
  • antibiotics to treat skin infections from the scratching, itching and lesions.

Conclusion

Does your cat sneeze a lot? Your cat might be suffering from allergies.

A cat has allergies when its immune system overacts to foreign substances or particles called allergens. This overactive immune system response will result in common allergy symptoms in cats.

Common cat allergies will look something like the following symptoms:

  • skin itchiness
  • scratching, rubbing or head shaking
  • sneezing, coughing or wheezing
  • vomiting, diarrhea, gas, and or bloating
  • itchy, running eyes
  • ear infections
  • snoring
  • swollen, sensitive paws
  • excessive licking (grooming)
  • red or dry skin
  • scabs on cat

4 common cat allergies or types of allergies occur in cats. Some cats with allergies can be affected by more than one type of allergy at the same time:

  • flea allergies
  • food allergies
  • enviromental allergies
  • contact allergies (atopic dermatitis)

The first step to diagnosing allergies of any type is to rule out other medical conditions that could cause your cat to be a sneezy, coughing mess, such as a respiratory infection. You should consult with your veterinarian so she can help eliminate any other causes besides allergies.

The best way to treat allergies in cats is by:

  • prevention
  • anti-itch medicine sucha as steroids
  • antibiotics to treat skin infections brought on by your cat constantly scratching and licking the area

For more information on cats, I suggest reading the following articles from the Cat Mama: