Feline Food Allergies Demystified

Cats are not born with sensitivity to specific feline food. They develop feline food allergies after eating food items for a prolonged period of time. Feline food allergies can affect cats of any age group or gender. It's essential to tell the difference between feline food allergy and food intolerance. Food intolerance usually occurs when your cat has a reaction to any food item that she has consumed for the first time. Food allergies take several months to a few years to develop. The cat's immune system needs to be repeatedly exposed to the allergens that develop antibodies and causes the allergic reaction. If your cat is suffering from food allergies, she will exhibit certain physical signs or symptoms.

Feline Food Allergy Symptoms

  • Itching around the head and neck
  • Excessive scratching or biting of skin
  • Digestive disorders like gas
  • Hair loss and non-seasonal itching

There are various skin conditions that exhibit the same symptoms as feline food allergy. In order to find out the true cause of the allergic reaction, the vet will conduct tests for a correct diagnosis. If your cat is suffering from another infection or illness, it's best to treat your cat before you conduct food allergy tests or trials.

Allergy Tests

  • Serum allergy tests
  • Radioallergosorbent serum test (RAST)
  • Food elimination

80 percent of feline food allergies are caused by beef, dairy and fish. During diet elimination your cat will be put on a hypoallergenic diet. This diet will include a new protein and carbohydrate source that she has never consumed before. The cat will have to exclusively eat diet food for several weeks. After nearly 12 weeks your pet may show a positive response to the diet. In order to confirm the food allergy, the vet might re-introduce original food into your cat's diet. If the itching reoccurs the food allergy is confirmed. Food elimination and food trial are the only ways in which feline food allergies are diagnosed. Most other allergy tests rule out varying causes of allergy, such as atopy. If the cat doesn't respond to the food trial test, the vet may repeat the trial with another novel source of protein.

There are several commercially available food diets that are made with unusual sources of protein.

Novel Sources of Protein

  • Kangaroo
  • Duck
  • Rabbit
  • Alligator

Some of these ingredients may not be so unusual in certain regions. Another technique used to diagnose and treat feline food allergy is a hydrolyzed protein method. In this method the source of protein is broken down into small units, that don't activate the immune system. Formerly, the duration of the diet lasted 4 weeks. However, increasing research indicates, that cats need to be on the hypoallergenic diet for nearly 10 to 12 weeks for any change to take effect.

If your cat has responded positively to the elimination diet, you can identify the allergen in her original food by adding a single protein source like chicken to the trial diet. If she starts itching after 2 weeks you have identified the allergen. You can resume the hypoallergenic diet until the itching stops and repeat the test with another single protein source from her original food.

Food and Diet Trail Tips

  • Don't feed your pet treats during the hypoallergenic diet period.
  • Don't allow your children to feed your pet any chicken or remainders of food.
  • Avoid any unnecessary medications, including supplements.
  • Make sure the cat doesn't come in contact with garbage or food found outdoors.

Feline food allergies cause discomfort and in rare cases become potentially dangerous. Keep your cat in clean surroundings and rule out other causes of skin irritation before your start a hypoallergenic diet.