Cats are notorious for their self-hygiene habits. In fact, the cat’s two favorite activities are sleeping and grooming. Grooming generally involves vigorous licking and some scratching. 

However, if the scratching seems more frequent than usual, it is probably not part of the self-care routine. In such cases, the scratching may indicate that your cat suffers from one of the most common ailments of modern times – allergies. 

The incidence of allergies is on the constant rise. Cats can be allergic to a plethora of things, from pollen and dust to fleas and kibble ingredients. The consequences are also varying from annoying but relatively benign scratching to severe and potentially life-threatening anaphylactic shock. 

Therefore, as responsible pet owners, it is your responsibility to do everything within your power to prevent allergies in your furry friend, or if already present, to manage them. 

This article will review everything you need to know about skin allergies in cats – from triggers through clinical manifestation to treatment. And by treatment, we mean both conventional and holistic

What Causes Allergies in Cats? 

cbd oil for cat allergies

The Mechanism Behind Allergies in Cats

All allergic reactions follow the exact mechanism – the body’ immune system misidentifies a common substance (pollen, dust, food ingredient) as a potentially harmful agent. 

To protect the body, the immune system initiates a cascade of extreme events, culminating in an allergic reaction. In simple words, the allergic reaction is an exaggerated defense response by the immune system. 

Allergens

The allergens responsible for dermatitis in your cat can be found either in its environment or in its food. Identifying the culprit that triggers the immune system to overreact is essential – you cannot protect your cat unless you know what you are watching her from.

Common Cat Allergy Causes 

common cat allergies

Atopic Dermatitis 

Atopic dermatitis is a unique skin inflammation that develops when the cat’s body overreacts to a specific allergen found in the environment. The allergens list includes cleaning solutions, household chemicals, perfumes, different fabrics, latex products, rubber, plants, or even insects. Mold spores and dust mites are ubiquitous allergens in cats. 

Depending on the allergen, or better said, its presence in the environment, there are two forms of specific skin inflammation:

  • Seasonal – this type occurs in particular parts of the year.

  • Non-seasonal – this type is constantly present, all-year-round regardless of the season. 

Both cat dermatitis forms have one thing in common – pruritic, or in layman’s terms, excessively itchy skin. Over time, the excessive itchiness will trigger an array of symptoms and complications, including over-grooming, red and inflamed skin, miliary dermatitis, and secondary skin infections. 

Atopic cat dermatitis can be tricky to diagnose. More often than not, setting the correct dermatitis diagnosis requires intradermal skin testing or blood testing. 

In addition to being diagnostic, these tests can help the veterinary dermatologist develop an injection that will decrease your pet’s sensitivity to troubling allergens. These injections are individually tailored based on specific triggers. 

Flea Allergy 

The most frequently diagnosed skin condition in cats is flea allergy dermatitis. This form of cat dermatitis occurs when the flea feeds on the cat. While feeding, the flea injects saliva into the cat’s skin. 

Under normal circumstances, the saliva is harmless. However, some cats are allergic to flea saliva. In allergic cats, even a single flea bite is enough to cause allergic dermatitis accompanied by excessive scratching, biting, and hot spot development. The hot spots are uniquely distributed on areas of the body where the fleas prefer to dwell and feast.

The excellent news about flea allergies is that they are easily preventable in the first place. Namely, you can protect your cat by applying monthly anti-flea topical products.

Choosing the ideal anti-flea product for your cat is something you need to discuss with your vet. Since some flea insecticides can be harmful to the cat, too, it is highly inadvisable to use over-the-counter products.   

Food Allergy 

Food allergies occur when the cat is sensitive to a specific ingredient found in its food menu. Food allergies are tricky to diagnose because of several reasons. 

First of all, food allergies need time to develop, meaning your cat may eat its food for years before manifesting problems.

Secondly, the symptoms are nonspecific. Food allergies usually manifest with vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, skin changes, and poor quality. These symptoms can be triggered by an array of health issues and conditions. The only more specific signs are the small and fluid-filled lumps (miliary dermatitis) developing on the cat’s neck and head.

Finally, the exact food ingredient that triggers the allergic reaction must be identified. In most cases, the culprit is the protein source (for example, chicken, beef, fish, or dairy). However, sometimes the carbohydrate source (grains like corn, rice, or soya) can act as triggers.

Once the diagnosis is set and the troublesome food ingredient is identified, things get more straightforward – removing the allergy-causing component from the menu. 

Seasonal Allergy 

Just like humans, cats are prone to seasonal allergies. The pollens and grasses that come with season changes are inevitable. 

Based on the exact consequences, there are three main categories of seasonal allergies in cats.

  • Allergic bronchiolitis – can be defined as airway inflammation that manifests with wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. 

  • Allergic rhinitis – also known as nasal allergies, is inflammation of the nose and nasal pathways. It manifests with watery discharge and sneezing. 

  • Allergic asthma – this is severe but, fortunately, a relatively rare form of seasonal allergy in cats. Just like in humans, it is characterized by constricted airways which results in strained breathing and shortness of breath. 

The first step toward treating seasonal allergies is identifying the allergen. For this purpose, the vet will conduct skin tests. Once the triggers are identified, you can limit your cat's exposure to them. 

If limited exposure is not an option, and your cat’s symptoms are severe, the vet will recommend using prescription drugs to control the allergy. Alternatively, the vet may recommend desensitization shots.

Symptoms of Allergies in Cats

Symptoms of Allergies in Cats

When talking about skin allergies in cats, itching and relentless scratching are the first things to mind. However, just because itching and scratching are the most common allergy symptoms, they are the only ones. 

This is a list of other common symptoms of  allergies in cats: 

  • Sneezing

  • Coughing

  • Wheezing

  • Throat inflammation 

  • Gagging 

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Eye inflammation 

  • Watery and puffy eyes

  • Nose inflammation 

  • Runny nose 

  • Vomiting 

  • Diarrhea

  • Inflammation of the ears 

  • Paw chewing

  • Tail chewing 

  • Swollen paws

  • Skin redness and inflammation 

  • Skin lesions

  • Miliary dermatitis  

  • Skin flaking and dandruff 

  • Patchy hair loss (irregularly distributed over the body)

In addition to these noticeable physical signs, a cat with an allergic reaction may also develop some non-specific behavioral changes, including:

  • More pronounced vocalization (meowing and purring).

  • Reluctance to be petted.

  • Become more withdrawn or more attention-seeking.

How to Help Alleviate Allergic Reactions for Cats

It is essential to emphasize the fact that allergies cannot be cured. Instead, the focus is put on management and symptom alleviation. For this purpose, there are several options.

Antihistamines and steroids 

Most antihistamines (Benadryl, Claritin) are generally available over-the-counter, while steroids need a prescription. They are usually used together to relieve the symptoms associated with skin allergies and allergies in general.

It should be noted that these drugs are associated with specific side effects. Plus, their use is life-long as discontinuation will result in allergic flare-ups and dermatitis.  

Allergy Shots 

This is a more advanced approach to managing allergies. However, desensitization treatments come with hefty price tags. Plus, they need to be administered regularly and take time before achieving effects. 

Topicals 

The pet market offers various products, including sprays, balms, shampoos, conditioners, and gels that reduce the inflammation caused by the skin allergy. In general, used on its own, a topical product cannot do much. However, in combination with some of the above-listed options, it can offer a favorable effect.  

Anti-Inflammatory Supplements 

There is a wide choice of anti-inflammatory supplement products such as yucca extracts, omega-3 fatty acids, aloe vera, coconut oil, and tea tree oil. Same as the topicals, these supplements are primarily efficient if used as part of a more complex approach. 

CBD oil

Cannabidiol can help maintain a normal inflammatory response in the body. Since inflammation is a crucial component of every skin allergy, CBD oil can soothe skin-related issues associated with allergies. 

How Can CBD Oil Help with Cat Skin Allergies?

The CBD oil’s beneficial effects when it comes to allergy relief are suspected to be multifactorial. Namely, CBD oil can help cats with allergic dermatitis by working on several different levels:

  • The CBD oil’s cannabidiol interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which results in an overall health balance.

  • The CBD oil’s cannabidiol activates the Endocannabinoid system responsible for managing inflammation and immunity, thus modulating the body’s inflammation and immune response. 

  • The CBD oil’s cannabidiol influences the fatty acid levels in the skin, which helps keep the skin well-moisturized and healthier. 

  • The CBD oil’s cannabidiol can promote skin cell growth and regeneration, which can help relieve the symptoms associated with allergic dermatitis. 

How Cats with Skin Allergies Can Take CBD Oil

How Cats with Skin Allergies Can Take CBD Oil

There are many different cat CBD products, including CBD hemp oil, CBD treats, and CBD topicals. Each CBD product has its perks. Perhaps it would be ideal to use these products combined. 

The CBD oils can be served during mealtime or alternatively directly to the skin areas affected with allergic dermatitis. Serving the CBD alongside the meal can be challenging as cats have delicate palates and do not like unusual additions. Regardless of their mode of use (orally or topically), CBD oils can achieve faster results and are easier to dose. 

The CBD treats are practical and extremely easy to use. Not only will your cat love their taste and perceive them as a reward, but you can use them on the go. However, unlike CBD oil, CBD treats have slower results and come in fixed doses. 

The CBD topicals are mixtures of CBD oil with some other calming substance like honey, aloe, or coconut. CBD topical can be applied directly over the skin, reducing inflammation and decreasing itchiness.  

Our Final Thoughts

Skin conditions, or more specifically, skin allergies, are becoming increasingly common in cats. In fact, skin allergies account as the most common reason why cats are brought to veterinary dermatologists. 

Considering that allergy is not something that can be cured, it is more than clear its on-going management requires close collaboration between you, your furry feline friend, and your trusted vet.

Simultaneously, more and more studies are proving that the endocannabinoid system is essential for maintaining healthy skin. Since CBD products interact and stimulate the endocannabinoid system, we can extrapolate that CBD hemp oil can benefit a cat with allergic dermatitis.

Hopefully, soon, there will be more evidence proving CBD oil’s effects on skin health and its importance in managing the body’s immune response.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I give my cat for skin allergies?

Well, it depends on whether you prefer a conventional or holistic approach. In the first case, you can give your cat an over-the-counter antihistamine drug (Benadryl, Claritin). In the second case, you can use CBD oil to manage your cat's allergy symptoms and promote healthy skin.  

Can CBD oil help skin allergies?

CBD oil may help with skin allergies because its main component, the cannabidiol, contains inflammation reducing compounds, skin health-promoting fatty acids, and antioxidants. These compounds help reduce the symptoms associated with skin allergies.  

What can I use to soothe my cat's itchy skin?

From skin-soothing bathing products through topical ointments to CBD oil – many products can help you soothe your cat's itchy skin. It is advisable to consult with your vet regarding which product can address your cat’s symptoms best.  

How do you stop itching from cat allergies?

It is best to prevent the itching from developing in the first place. This can be done by avoiding the allergen responsible for triggering the skin allergy. If the itching is already present, you can use antihistamines, corticosteroids, or CBD oils. 

Will the CBD oil make my cat sleepy? 

Theoretically speaking, tiredness and sleepiness are listed as potential side effects of CBD oil for pets. However, the doses necessary for soothing the skin inflammation and promoting healthy skin are generally not enough to trigger any side effects.