Food allergies in cats are a real thing. In fact, they’re the third most common allergy in cats behind environmental and inhaled allergies. That is incredibly important for all cat owners to be aware because so many people don’t realize that cats can be allergic to food.
Cats have an almost myth-like presumption of indestructibility surrounding them, but the reality is that they can get sick just like other pets. So let’s go over what you need to know about food allergies in cats.
Food Allergies in Cats vs. Food Sensitivity
Just like dogs, cats can have food allergies or food sensitivities, and it’s important to know the difference. Food allergies involve a whole body response to an ingredient in their food, which causes a cascade of reaction most commonly associated with the skin. Conversely, food sensitivity is a localized response occurring in the cat’s GI tract due to an inability to properly process certain food ingredients.
Food sensitivity is an inability to adequately digest certain ingredients in the food. It’s the cat equivalent of humans eating something that doesn’t agree with them. They are not allergic to the ingredient, however, their GI tract cannot process it which leads to discomfort and GI symptoms. GI symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Poor body condition
Food allergies are completely different from food sensitivity. Food allergies are a systemic reaction to a food ingredient that causes a release of histamine and other allergic bodily responses. Unlike food sensitivity, which is a cat’s in ability to process a certain food, food allergies are a total body response to a allergenic cause. Symptoms of food allergies in cats include:
- Excessive scratching
- Red, inflamed skin
- Chronic ear problems
- Skin lesions – usually around the head and neck
- Hair loss – again, usually around the head and neck
What to do About Food Allergies in Cats
If you suspect your cat has food allergies, the first thing you need to do is take her in for a thorough exam from your vet. They symptoms of food allergies in cats can also be caused by other things such as mites, mange, or fleas so a complete, head to toe once over from your vet is vital to determine what’s going on with your cat.
If your vet determines that you cat has food allergies, they’ll help you begin looking for a food specifically designed to address food allergies in cats. These foods will use protein and carbohydrate sources not found in commonly available, over the counter cat foods in order to help reduce or eliminate the allergic response all together. So see your vet if your cat is showing any allergic symptoms, because food allergies in cats are nothing to ignore.