If there is one thing we, humans have in common with our cats, it is food allergies.


Food allergies can happen for a number of reasons and have a number of consequences ranging from the uncomfortable to the unpleasant. Knowing how to deal with these food allergies, what causes them in the first place can be one of the most important thing you can do to keep your pet healthy.  To that end, a quick overview of what food allergies are is important.


Are we born with food allergies?


A recent study in the state of Victoria determined that human babies may indeed be born with allergies.  In a recent study, it was found that lifestyle and environmental exposure were such that they could impact the epigenetic switches on a DNA and cause the gene for food allergies to express itself forcefully. This study didn’t extend to animals, so no opinion based upon it can be formulated but it is reasonable to envisage that animals might also respond to certain types of lifestyle and environmental exposure and if that is the case, would it be far-fetched to assert that cats too have the potential of being born with food allergies? A question worth contemplating to be sure.


If not from birth, how do we develop food allergies?


It is a known fact that some allergies can come to the fore after an extended period of time.  We sometimes find ourselves reacting to certain types of food we never had problems with before and it can reasonably be asserted that repeated exposure to certain foods may cause the immune system to build a resistance, a defense mechanism against specific proteins or carbohydrate molecules.


Some food allergies cause a skin reaction, an irritation that may prompt a cat to harm herself by over-scratching the affected area. This over-scratching destroys the outside layers of the epidermis and leaves a cat vulnerable to bacterial infection of the affected skin. This infection can then be spread internally and a visit to the local vet will be needed to help identify the allergen responsible for the infection, eliminate the ensuing symptoms and prevent your cat from being exposed to the allergy in the first place.


How do you know if you cat is suffering from food allergies?


Watch for the following symptoms and if they are extended through time, they might indicate the presence of allergens in your cat’s food.


  • Over-scratching causing irritation to the skin.
  • Weight loss
  • Food avoidance
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Dull coat


How are food allergies in cats diagnosed?


A veterinarian will look for patterns indicating the presences of allergen during a physical examination.  Since you know what food you give your cat, you will need to share that information with your vet as well.  One of the first thing a vet will need to establish in this discovery process is whether mange and infection can be eliminated from a possible diagnosis.


What steps can you take to prevent food allergies/intolerance


1) Watch your cat for allergy symptoms like over-scratching. Monitor your cat before, during and after she eats. Be alert for changes that take place after her meals.

2) If your cat is sick, take her to the vet immediately where a bacterial sensitivity test might be ordered.

3) Your vet may prescribe antibiotic, antifungal treatment and or hydrocortisone lotion for your cat.


4) Change your cat food. Many people make the wrong assumption that a cat eating needs are such that changing the type of food may disrupt his or her eating habits.  Nothing is further from the truth.  It is true that cats are creatures of habits, but if you suspect your cat to be suffering with symptoms usually associated with food allergies, your very step is to indeed change the food you give her.


5) If a change of food caused your cat to exhibit signs of food allergies, then go back to the previous brand and see whether these allergies disappear. Some pet foods are healthier than others, or could simply contain a specific allergen that your cat might react to.


Food allergies in cats account for 10% of all cats’ allergies.  They also account for 57% of the causes of itching and over-scratching. Some studies have shown that some ingredients are more likely to cause food allergies than others. When in doubt avoid food that contain beef, seafood, soy, lamb, corn, wheat gluten and dairy products.


It is important to understand that there is a distinction to be made between food allergies and food intolerance. The former cause physical reaction such as itching and skin problems while the latter can induce diarrhea, vomiting and or upset stomach.


The process of what causes food allergies in cats is not one that is fully understood as of yet.  Fortunately, common sense observation and reasoned actions can help eliminate the allergen responsible for these allergies.

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