The Nine Most Common Food Allergies in Cats

Nine ingredients frequently cause food allergies in cats. Cats affected by allergy or intolerance to foods develop itchy dry skin or skin rashes, particularly around the face and ears. If your cat spends long periods of time scratching at himself and there are no fleas or ticks present, cat food allergies may well be the problem.

Food Elimination Diets Stop Food Allergies in Cats

According to Wendy Brooks, DVM, beef, dairy and seafood are responsible for 8 out of 10 allergies in cats. Often switching to a cat food containing duck and peas or venison and potato are good options.

To be sure, however, use an elimination diet to rule out one food over another until you can pinpoint the foods causing allergies in cats. During this food trial, feed your cat specific food for 12 weeks, keeping the cat indoors the entire time and not allowing treats or snacks. If the new food does not alleviate the feline allergies during this time, try another formula. Usually, if improvements are seen, they start to appear after four weeks.

Artificial Coloring

Many inexpensive cat foods add artificial food coloring to their foods. The food coloring serves no purpose other than for visual appeal to humans and cause allergies in cats sensitive to the ingredients used in the artificial dyes. Brands like Friskies and Fancy Feast use food coloring.

Corn Products

Cornmeal and corn gluten meal are used as inexpensive fillers in cat foods. Many cats simply are allergic to any form of corn and will develop itchy, dry skin. In addition, some veterinarians believe there is a link between fillers and cat diabetes.

Dairy Products

Cats are frequently allergic to the lactose found in cow's milk. Some pet foods add dairy products like milk powder or cheese for the calcium. Even quality brands like Innova add milk, so be sure to read labels carefully if cat food allergies are suspected.


Cat food companies use egg for added protein, but some cats will have allergies to the egg yolks or whites. Watch canned food especially because many include egg.

Meat By-Products

Meat by-products generally contain organs that humans do not eat, skin and pieces like the tail or hoof. Because by-products offer less nutrition than pure beef, avoid foods with these by-products.


Pet food companies use artificial preservatives to lengthen the shelf life of cat foods. Some experts believe these artificial preservatives like BHA and BHT may be carcinogens and that they may cause cat food allergies. If your cat has allergies, try using homemade cat foods to see if that clears the allergy symptoms up.


Like beef, seafood is another leading cause of feline allergies. If you suspect fish is to blame, stop choosing seafood based cat foods and stick to venison or duck.

Soy Products

Soy is added to cat food for the protein benefit, but it's a plant and really unnecessary to a cat's health. The possible allergic reaction to soy makes it an ingredient to avoid.

Wheat Gluten

Like corn products, wheat gluten is used as a filler in many cat food brands. Cats are often allergic to wheat products, so it's best avoided.