Having your cat snuggle up to you is one of the best feelings in the world. But there is nothing more annoying than having them itch compulsively, scratch, and lick themselves while you're stuck beneath them. Shoving your cat off your lap isn't the solution, and it's important to deal with cat allergies so that snuggling can commence. Finding the allergen trigger is the first step in implementing the right treatment. 

How do you know what over the counter (OTC) medication is safe for your furry feline? Are there natural remedies that actually work? Sneezing, skin conditions, and general itchiness is annoying for pets and their humans. We discuss the common allergens and how you can help your companion animal find relief.

Cat Allergies: Why Your Cat is Struggling and What To Do About It

An allergy is when your cat has a hypersensitivity to something in their environment. Their immune system identifies the allergen as dangerous and will overreact by producing antibodies that "fight" it. Pets with allergies will have an extreme reaction to substances that are usually harmless to other pets. This reaction will include some rather bothersome side effects that will leave your kitty feeling pretty sorry for itself. Symptoms of an allergic reaction in your cat will differ depending on the allergen they've encountered. 

Allergy Symptoms To Look Out For

Make a note of any of the following symptoms in your cat so that you can discuss them with your favorite veterinarian:

Any unusual behavior in your pet should be seen to, as it is often a sign of unwellness in their body. You know your cat best; you'll know when something is wrong. 

The Possible Causes of Cat Allergies

There are a few things that may be causing an allergic reaction in your cat. By identifying the culprit, you can try to remove it from your cat's environment. The different types of allergies in cats include:

Feline Atopic Dermatitis

Non-flea, non-food allergic dermatitis in cats can cause a hypersensitivity reaction causing pruritic (itchy) skin disease. Atopic Dermatitis is caused by an overreaction to specific allergens in the environment. Common substances in your home could be causing this problem, such as perfumes, cleaning solutions, fabrics, insects and plants in or around your home. Dust mites or mold spores could also be irritating your furry friend. This type of allergy can also be seasonal, depending on the specific cause.

Blood testing or intradermal skin testing may be necessary to diagnose atopic dermatitis correctly. This will help a veterinary dermatologist to formulate a "vaccine" shot that can decrease your pet's sensitivity. Atomic Dermatitis will present itself through itchiness, over-grooming, secondary skin infections, red and inflamed skin, and more.

Flea Allergy

Flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in cats and dogs. General flea control is essential to rid your cat and the environment of the tiny critters. Flea bites can irritate your cat and lead to excessive scratching, biting, and increased attention to the hot spots where the fleas love to live and bite. Cats are sensitive to flea insecticides and chemicals, so speak to your vet about the best solution, or try some natural flea repellants.  

Food Allergy

Food allergies may be one of the trickier allergens to pin down, especially when your cat has been eating the same food for years. When your cat is allergic to something in their kibble, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, skin changes, and a poor coat may be the obvious symptoms. Another typical signal is the presence of small, pale, fluid-filled lumps on the cat's skin, usually found on the head or neck area. The source of protein or the choice of carbohydrate in their meal may be the problem, and switching to a hypoallergic diet with new and different ingredients free of common allergens,, may help. The foods most commonly associated with allergies in cats include chicken, fish, beef, and dairy products.

Seasonal Allergies

Many humans are familiar with seasonal allergies, and unfortunately, pets aren't immune to the effects of pollens and irritants that come with the changing of the seasons. Allergic Bronchiolitis is an inflammation of the airways and can cause coughing, wheezing, and strained breathing in your cat. Allergic Rhinitis, or nasal allergies, can also present and show up as a watery nasal discharge or sneezing. Allergic Asthma is uncommon but can also present in cats by shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and general asthma attacks caused by constricted airways.

Diagnosing Allergies in Cats

Repetitive reactions and no signs of relief may mean that it's time to take your cat for an allergy test. Your veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist will perform a medical exam. A discussion of their medical history and sharing the list of symptoms will also help find the right diagnosis. For extreme cases, your veterinarian will perform a test for environmental allergies. Food allergies might require limiting your cat's diet to find the culprit. 

What Can I Give My Cat For Allergies?

They say 'prevention is better than a cure,' and with allergies in your cat, it can be the best response. If perfumes, cleaning agents, medications, food, or plants are irritating your cat, then prevention is possible. But, as you know, avoiding allergens during hayfever season is not always achievable. In that case, medication may be needed to treat your cat's allergies.

Natural Home Remedies For Pet Allergies

Nature has given us many plants and remedies that can make a difference to ailments, allergies included. It is worth trying some natural methods to see if they can bring relief to your pet's allergy symptoms. If your cat's skin is red and inflamed, CBD Coconut oil can do wonders in bringing relief and moisture back into the skin. It may also soothe skin-related issues associated with seasonal allergies. CBD oil can support a healthy inflammatory response and may help with occasional or seasonal allergies.

Aloe vera spray or gel can also help with skin healing but use it sparingly as it can make your cat sick if they lick the area where you've applied it. Calendula tincture or cream is also known for its antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, useful in soothing pruritic skin conditions.

Over The Counter Allergy Medication for Cats

The desperation to stop the itch is real! Medication that puts an end to symptoms is called Symptomatic drug therapy. This treatment can include the use of prescribed steroids and other OTC medications. OTC medication is convenient, but while it may help your runny nose, it may not be the best choice for your kitty cat. Here are a few popular choices of OTC medication for pet allergies:

Benadryl (diphenhydramine)

Benadryl is a popular antihistamine choice that's available without a script. It works by blocking the histamines, also known as inflammatory substances, from attaching to your cat's cells and causing those irritating allergic reactions. 

Commonly used antihistamines include chlorpheniramine, dimenhydrinate, diphenhydramine, promethazine, meclizine, and loratadine (Claritin). Benadryl can be safe for cats and dogs when used sparingly and with the correct doses. Antihistamine toxicity will display side effects such as drowsiness and possible sedation, hyperexcitability, lack of coordination, tremors, drooling or dry mouth, fever, rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, gastrointestinal upset, changes in urination and seizures.

The dosage of plain, liquid Benadryl is typically 2-4 mg for an average sized cat, every 8-12 hours.

Zyrtec (cetirizine)

Cetirizine, found in OTC Zyrtec, is an antihistamine and doesn't have many adverse side-effects. Zyrtec's most common side effect is sleepiness, but can also include constipation, vomiting, urine retention and excessive salivation. Antihistamines are not a cure for pet allergies but only provide temporary relief from itchiness and other allergy symptoms. In a Cetirizine study with 32 cats, 41% of the felines had a reduction in their pruritus (itchiness). However, when the antihistamine was no longer administered, the symptoms returned. 

Claritin

Claritin treats allergy symptoms, but it can also be given to dogs and cats to treat inflammation associated with mast cell tumors. The side effect of giving this medication is similar to other antihistamines. If you choose to give your cat Claritin, only provide the child-safe syrup and never offer your pet Claritin-D, which contains pseudoephedrine, lethal for cats and dogs.

Nasal Decongestants

Nasal decongestants offer temporary relief of nasal congestion due to hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies. They are OTC medications for humans, but some owners will consider administering them to their pets. 

Drugs in this class include oxymetazoline, tetrahydrozoline, naphazoline, and tolazoline. Afrin and Visine are the OTC medications that you may be familiar with. These OTC medications may be safe, but overuse can be dangerous for your pet and even toxic. Side effects, and signs of toxicity, include: vomiting, cardiac arrhythmias, hypotension or hypertension, panting, increased upper respiratory sounds, weakness, collapse, nervousness, depression, hyperactivity, or shaking.

Cat Allergy Treatment

Getting your cat tested to find the exact allergen may be expensive, but it can mean that a more specific treatment plan is implemented. Long-term medication that only stops the itch and doesn't get to the underlying issue can lead to other health problems and will prove to be more costly in the long run.

Pet allergy treatment can bring on high expenses. Should your cat need annual allergy shots, and a regular treatment plan, it may be worth signing up for animal medical insurance. Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, will often be covered by insurance, but you'll still have a copay expense. Without medical aid for your cat, you may end up coughing up over $1,000 per year on shots. Speak to your vet so that you know what to expect and can plan your budget accordingly. With immunotherapy, the allergens are injected into the body so that tolerance builds up, and a reaction is subdued, training the body to fight the cat allergens.

Cat Allergies: The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies, and lifelong management is often necessary. Selecting the right medication, allopathic or natural, is the first step to easing your pet's symptoms. Your veterinarian can help to formulate the best long-term approach. Helping your cat live with allergies may mean a lifestyle change on your part too. But it will be all worth it to see your kitty purring happily on your lap without that annoying itch ruining your vibe.