Cats Can Have Allergies Too

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It is a little known fact that most mammals suffer from some form of allergy. Most of these go unnoticed as, upon contact with an allergen, the immune system mounts an effective defence and the threat is dealt with before the onset of any symptoms.

This happens every day for most of us in one form or another, be it with pollens, dust, microorganisms or a host of other potential nasties. The problem, as I'm sure you will already know, is the allergens the individual immune system is unable to effectively defeat.

Like most other mammals, cats can have allergies too. Unfortunately our furry friends can't tell us when something is irritating them and we have to be vigilant to detect the symptoms.

Luckily most of us cat owners are a little bit obsessive about our cats and know every little change that happens, but it's not always easy to determine the cause of a problem and allergies are often overlooked.

What are the signs of an allergy in a cat?

As with human allergies, cat allergies exhibit a limited range of symptoms, you just need to know what to look for. Determining the cause of a reaction can be a whole other challenge, but figuring out that it's an allergy in the first place can be half the battle won.

Symptoms can include sore or weepy eyes, excessive mucus, upset stomachs or itchy skin, but allergies can occasionally create some other unusual symptoms too. If your cat exhibits some unusual symptoms that are not on the list and you can't find another cause you should consider allergies as a possible cause.

How we found out cats can have allergies.

A few years ago, before we knew cats could have allergies, we noticed Bones was washing a lot, to the point that certain areas on his legs and belly lost patches of fur. We were, of course, very concerned about this and thought he may have some sort of obsessive mental disorder. (As you may already know, Bones is quite an unusual cat)

After monitoring him for a week and trying to discourage the behaviour, we took him down to the vet, who could find nothing wrong. We saw a behavioural psychologist, who said Bones seemed happy and well adjusted. We scoured the Internet, but came up with nothing.

By this time, (about 3 weeks later) he seemed to have stopped with the obsessive washing and the fur was growing back, so we decided we had no choice but to accept that it was a mystery that may never be solved.

About a year later we noticed the same thing happening. After a few frustrating weeks it cleared up again and all was back to normal and we were as confused about the problem as ever.

We continued to try and find a cause in anticipation of it happening again when a though occurred to me. It was like a lightning bolt of realisation. It took a bit of looking into to substantiate it but I'd hit the nail on the head.

Both episodes of obsessive washing had been in early spring as the weather heated up. Both episodes had started before a flea treatment. Both episodes had started to clear up within a week of the flea treatment, it was so obvious it hurt Bones is allergic to fleas!!

Dealing with Bones' allergy is easy

We don't like to use chemicals unnecessarily, so the common 3 monthly routine treatments are out of the question, but years of cat ownership has taught us that outdoor cats will catch fleas in spring and summer, so they always get a treatment in early spring and early summer. They also get a treatment if we notice any of the wee beasties at other times, although that's quite rare.

You can't do anything about cats catching fleas, it's just something that happens, but we now look out for Bones washing more than seems normal and when we see him doing it we go on a flea hunt.

Most of the time we're being over cautious and it comes to nothing, but on a few occasions we've found one or two of the little blighters (the fleas that is, not the cats) and have immediately begun treatment. I'm pleased to say that this is a very effective approach and for the last couple of years we've prevented any serious reactions and bones has kept his fur coat in tact.

How does this relate to allergies my own cat may have?

Well, although bones' allergy is quite specific it's also surprisingly common, and the principle for dealing with it applies to dealing with most other allergies. If you work out that your cat has an allergy there are steps you will be able to take to minimise the risk of exposure. Further, you will know what symptoms to look out for and what steps to take should you find any.

If you think your cat might have an allergy, try to look for patterns in when, where and how the symptoms exhibit themselves. Take the cat to the vet and tell him what you've seen, they should be able to interpret the symptoms and do some checks to come to a firm conclusion.

In most cases, identifying the problem and putting preventative measures in place is all that is needed to save both you and your cat from a lot of anguish.

This article was first published in The Purr Company's regular Mews-letter, visit us for more cat stories and articles, a gallery of our visitors cats , cat videos and our online shop.

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