Seasonal Allergies in Cats

You've noticed that your seasonal allergies have kicked into high gear, and now your cat is scratching and sneezing. Could she have seasonal allergies?

The seasonality of your cat's allergy symptoms may depend on the climate in which you live. Cats with flea allergies may have more outbreaks during warm weather when fleas are most active, or they may suffer from dust allergies during the winter when houses are shut up tight with heaters running regularly. Mold may be a problem in your basement during the spring, but it's under control at other times of the year. In some climates, flea allergies may be year-round problems because the climate is so temperate that fleas thrive all year long.

Feline Seasonal Allergies Take Two Forms

Cats are prone to two main types of seasonal allergies: flea allergies and atopic (inhalant) allergies. While either allergy may seem to crop up overnight, flea allergies or atopic allergies result from months or years of exposure to a potential allergen before a reaction is triggered.

Flea allergy is the most common feline allergy. However, it's not the flea that causes an allergic reaction in sensitive cats, but rather a protein in the flea's saliva that triggers the reaction. Flea-allergic cats often have very few fleas on their bodies at the time of an allergy attack, which can make diagnosing the problem difficult. Many cat owners assume that a cat should be infested with fleas if she has a flea allergy.

Atopic allergies are the second most common feline allergy. In atopic allergies, a sensitive pet's skin reacts to something she inhales, such as house dust, pollen or mold.

Feline Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Although seasonal allergies can affect cats of any age, they most often begin when cats are between one and three years old. Symptoms of atopic allergies can include irritated eyes, runny nose, coughing, wheezing and sneezing, along with itching, scratching and other skin problems.

Symptoms of flea allergies may include hair loss, skin scabs, hot spots and constant itchiness on the your cat's hindquarters, which she will scratch incessantly.

Treating Feline Seasonal Allergies

You'll need to take steps to resolve your cat's symptoms and improve her home environment to eliminate potential allergens, once you determine the cause of her problem.

Among the treatment options available to your cat are oral medications, regular baths with medicated shampoos, or grooming sessions with special topical treatments or creams to relieve skin itchiness. Your cat may also need to receive regular flea treatments to eliminate this parasite from the home. In some cases, a course of desensitization injections (allergy shots) may help eliminate your cat's allergy symptoms over time.

Treating your home may be simple or complicated, depending on the severity of your pet's allergies. Simple treatments can involve thorough vacuuming and cleaning to remove flea eggs, pollen and house dust. An intermediate step may be to upgrade the filters in your home's climate control system to high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which may remove more allergens than regular air filters. More complicated treatments may involve cleaning and disinfecting moldy areas in your home or having your home's air ducts cleaned.