Cat Food Allergies

Cat food allergies may occur in pets that are more sensitive. Cat allergies may be of 3 main types:

  • Inhalant allergies caused by chemicals, dust, pollens
  • Skin parasite allergies caused by fleas, ticks or mites
  • Food allergies

Food allergy is the third most frequent type of allergies. The main symptom of food allergies in cats is itchy skin and this may lead to further complications such as skin infections or bald patches.

Causes of Food Allergies

The occurrence of the negative reactions due to food is not entirely understood. However, the most frequent food allergens are common ingredients that are found in commercial food such as:

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Turkey
  • Corn
  • Corn starch
  • Seafood
  • Soy
  • Flour
  • Wheat gluten
  • Dairy products

The cat must be tested and as soon as the allergen is determined, it must be eliminated from the cat's diet. In some cases, the cat may be allergic to 2 or several ingredients.


Food allergies in cats may occur in young cats of 5 to 6 months old, but may also occur later, even when the cat is 12 years old. Typically, food allergies occur in felines between 3 and 6 years old. Sensitive cats are more prone to food allergies and many cats with food allergies suffer from other types of allergies also.

The symptoms of food allergies coincide with the symptoms of inhalant allergies:

  • Itchy skin
  • Excessive licking and scratching
  • Bald patches or hair loss
  • Red skin or dermatitis
  • Unhealthy looking coat

One way of distinguishing between food allergies and inhalant allergies is to observe your cat's negative reactions. Inhalant allergy symptoms are typically seasonal, while the food allergy symptoms are permanent.

You must also make a distinction between food allergies and food intolerances. Food intolerances cause diarrhea and vomiting without causing any other symptoms.

Testing to Diagnose Allergies

The best way to diagnose food allergies and to pinpoint the exact allergen is by food testing.

A food trial is a period of up to 12 weeks, during which the cat is fed a single type of food (proteins combined with carbs). The cat is thoroughly monitored and if there are negative reactions, the allergen is detected.

Food testing may be a lengthy analysis; however, blood testing and skin testing are not accurate methods of detecting food allergies.

Treatment for Cat Food Allergies

The first step in treating food allergies is to eliminate the allergen ingredient(s).

The cat's diet must be free of any allergy causing agents. Your vet may prescribe a special diet that you may prepare at home or you may get prescription pet food. If you decide for homemade food, make sure that your pet's diet will include all the necessary nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Fatty acids are also effective in relieving the food allergy symptoms and are recommended during the food trials until the allergen is detected.

Antihistamines and steroids may also be prescribed to relieve the allergy symptoms.