Seasonal allergies in cats and tips to help them

March 31, 2024

Yellow cat looking at the camera

It’s that time of year again: Flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing, and many are sneezing. For all the joy the spring season brings, those who struggle with seasonal allergies often dread this time of year. Our furry feline friends are no different. Cats can have seasonal allergies just like their human companions, but symptoms and treatments can look quite different. Here’s what you need to know.

Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

For those who are allergic to pollen or mold, sneezing, and watery eyes are often the first signs that something is amiss. For cats, however, symptoms can be subtler. Cats might not sneeze, but their skin can become quite itchy, irritated, and inflamed.

Typically called atopy or atopic dermatitis, seasonal allergies in cats occur when the allergen can penetrate a weakened skin barrier. They’re most common in the spring and summer, and they can worsen over time.

As with people, cats can be vulnerable to different allergens. Common environmental allergens for cats include:

  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Fleas
  • Dust mites

As these allergens penetrate the skin's protective barrier, you might see your cat scratching and grooming excessively. This can lead to additional symptoms, including:

  • Hair loss, typically near the base of the tail, around the groin, near the neck or ears, or along the back
  • Irritated skin, which may develop crusts or scabs
  • Red or yellow ulcerated plaques on the thighs or groin
  • Inflamed ears
  • Disc-shaped ulcers

Cats are prey animals, often hiding symptoms of illness, so reach out to your vet as soon as you notice unusual scratching or excessive grooming. If the allergies go untreated, your cat might begin to hide, eat less, and generally feel unwell. Secondary infections can occur.

Diagnosing and Treating Seasonal Allergies in Cats

Allergy symptoms are not always linked to external allergens, so your cat’s veterinarian might want to rule out other health issues or allergies before creating a treatment plan. First, your cat must be on a strict flea control regimen, which can help reduce allergy symptoms and the risk of various parasites.

Your vet might also recommend a food trial to rule out food allergies. This involves introducing a novel protein, such as duck or rabbit, and feeding nothing else during the trial period, typically at least a few months. Your cat cannot have any “people food,” treats, or other snacks containing anything other than the novel protein.

Once your vet has determined that your cat has seasonal allergies, they may be prescribed various medications and therapies, including:

  • Corticosteroids to stop the allergic reaction
  • Immunosuppressive medications, which target the hypersensitive immune response
  • Desensitization, which can help reduce the severity of the allergic reactions and help desensitize the cat to the allergen

Each cat is unique, and your vet will consider all factors when developing a treatment plan. If secondary bacteria or fungal infections are present, they must be prioritized. Medicated shampoos might also be recommended to keep your cat comfortable and reduce the risk of secondary infections.

Contact Cozy Suites today to learn more about how grooming can keep your cat more comfortable through allergy season or to schedule cat boarding in one of our luxury suites.