Identifying Food Allergies in Cats with Food Trials

Food allergies are common among cats, and they can have many food intolerances. One of the simplest and cheapest ways to find out what is causing allergic reactions in a cat is a food trial.

Symptoms of Food Allergies in Cats

A cat with a food allergy will become very itchy after ingesting a particular food. The cat may lick her paws and the base of her tail, or rub her face a lot. Her skin may smell bad and develop red bumps or a scaly appearance.

Cats with food allergies are also prone to ear infections. In some cases, a cat will begin to vomit or have diarrhea in response to the food she is intolerant to.

Foods that Cause Allergic Reactions in Cats

Dairy, seafood and beef are the foods cats tend to be allergic to the most. Other foods that cats are intolerant to include:

  • Lamb
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Products with wheat and gluten
  • Fillers
  • Artificial colors and preservatives

Finding the Food a Cat is Allergic to

A food trial, also known as an elimination diet, is the easiest way to find out what food is causing an allergic reaction.

To start a food trial, a cat will need to eat only hypoallergenic cat food for up to eight weeks. Hypoallergenic cat food contains ingredients that will not cause an allergic reaction. The source of protein in this type of food is duck, rabbit, venison or even salmon. These proteins are referred to as "novel sources". During the length of the trial, a cat should not be given any special treats or snacks.

After the hypoallergenic-only food period has ended, slowly reintroduce foods you suspect could be causing the allergic reaction. Introduce one protein or one carbohydrate at a time into the cat's diet. If she has an allergic reaction after eating a certain food, the culprit has been found and should no longer fed to her.

A food trial can be continued if you suspect your cat is allergic to more than one food product.

I Know What My Cat Is Allergic to. Now What?

The number one thing to do after figuring out what food item a cat is allergic to is to not give it to her. Many cat owners opt to make their own homemade diet instead of purchasing commercial cat food. With homemade food, you're able to control what your cat is eating and how much. A veterinary dietician should be consulted, to make sure all of the necessary nutrients are being included in the meals.

Keep an eye on your cat during the new diet, as it's not uncommon for cats to develop symptoms of a new food allergy. Consult a veterinarian if this happens, to make sure there are no other underlying causes for the symptoms.

Food allergies are very uncomfortable and unpleasant for cats. A food trial is an effective way to find out what exactly is causing your cat grief.