Cat Allergy Testing: An Introduction

Symptoms of a cat allergy may be very similar to those of a human allergy. Cats may be allergic to a wide variety of foods. They may also be allergic to dusts, mites or pollens in the air (these allergies are collectively called atopy). Keep an eye out for the following cat allergy symptoms:
  • Excessive scratching
  • Skin irritations or redness
  • Licking and chewing of the feet
  • Rubbing of the face
  • Hair loss
  • Respiratory problems
  • Gastrointestinal problems

A veterinarian should examine any cat that displays one or more of these symptoms. Symptoms may increase in intensity during summer months, in the case of pollen and dust allergies, or may be relatively constant throughout the year, as in food allergies. Veterinarians may prescribe steroid regimens or hyposensitization as feline allergy treatment methods. In the case of hyposensitization, the veterinarian attempts to increase your cat's tolerance to the allergen progressively over an extended period of time.

How Cat Allergies Are Diagnosed

Many pollen, food and cat flea allergy symptoms are common with other, more serious diseases. To ensure that your cat is not suffering from another affliction, your veterinarian will first perform a thorough physical and medical history examination of your cat.

After these examinations, your veterinarian will conduct a series of skin and blood tests based on your cat's symptoms and their fluctuation throughout the year. For cats with irritated skin, the vet may test an antihistamine ointment or shampoo to help determine the allergen.

In difficult cases, an intradermal skin test may be necessary. For this test, your veterinarian will shave a small patch of skin on your cat and inject a variety of common allergens in small amounts. Allergens that produce irritation are considered to test positive.

A veterinarian may use a similar process of trial and error to determine if your cat is allergic to a certain food or ingredient. Typically, the vet will put your cat on a diet of prescription, non-allergic food for 10-12 weeks or until his symptoms diminish. To single out the ingredient or food your cat is allergic to, you may individually reintroduce foods from his prior diet and monitor him for symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Once you have pinpointed the source of your cat's allergies, your veterinarian can recommend dietary changes or prescription drugs that can reduce your cat's symptoms. The primary goal, however, is to limit your cat's exposure to the allergen as much as possible.

There is no cat allergy cure, but with proper identification and a plan for eliminating allergens from the environment, your cat may life a normal and healthy life in spite of cat allergies.