Inhalant Allergies in Cats

Allergies in cats fall into three main categories: inhalant, flea and food. Inhalant allergies are the most common allergy found in cats, and they usually show themselves as skin problems, rather than the common human symptoms of wheezing and sneezing.

Signs of Feline Inhalant Allergies

Cats can be allergic to a wide variety of things that are commonly found in the home environment, including pollens, mold, mildew and  dust mites. These inhalant allergies often cause respiratory symptoms in people, but cats react differently. Inhalant allergies in cats are technically classified as atopic allergies, or an inhaled allergy that shows itself as a skin problem.

Cats with inhalant allergies are often very itchy. This itching may be targeted around the animal's eyes, ears, mouth, belly, legs and rear. Affected cats scratch constantly, which can result in hair loss, and they may develop secondary skin infections if the cause of the scratching is left untreated.

Depending on the cause, inhalant allergies may be seasonal, affecting a cat at certain times of the year, or they may be year-round. Although inhalant allergies can develop at any point in a cat's life, most cats that are prone to these types of allergies will show signs of a problem when they are between 1 and 3 years of age.

Diagnosing Feline Inhalant Allergies

If your cat begins scratching constantly, try to determine the cause of her problem. After you've made a list of a few possible allergens, contact your veterinarian for an appointment. The vet will use the information you provide on potential allergens, along with a combination of skin and blood tests, to determine the cause of the cat's itching and scratching.

With skin tests, your veterinarian will administer small amounts of common allergens to your cat under her skin to try to recreate an allergic reaction. Blood tests will combine small amounts of allergens with samples of your cat's blood to try to elicit an allergic reaction. Once allergic reactions are achieved, your veterinarian will be able to identify the problem allergens and devise a treatment plan for your cat.

Treating Feline Inhalant Allergies

Depending on the cause of your cat's allergy, treating her may be a multi-step process that involves treating her and her environment.

If your cat is allergic to pollens or other plant-based materials, she may need antihistamines to help control her immune system's response to them. Antihistamines block the body's production of histamine, a chemical the immune system created to fight an allergen. Antihistamines help control itching, hives, runny nose and eye irritation and discharge.

If your cat's itchy skin continues to be a problem, she may need topical sprays, medicated shampoos or even a short course of steroids to help alleviate the itch.

Keeping your home clean and dust-free can help relieve some of the cat's inhalant allergies. Consider placing a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaner in the room in which your cat spends the majority of her time, to help her breathe easier.