How to Deal with Cat Food Allergies

Two Methods:Managing Your Pet’s Allergies with Medical InterventionTrying Different Diets to Manage Your Cat's Allergies

If your cat has a food allergy, it will be important to keep her needs in mind when picking out her food. Figuring out what diet works best for your cat may be a bit of a trial and error process, but there are some techniques you can employ to make the process more streamlined. If your cat is having an allergic reaction right now, take her to the vet right away.

Method 1
Managing Your Pet’s Allergies with Medical Intervention

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    Watch your cat for allergy symptoms. Your pet's immune system may react negatively to a particular foreign substance, which creates allergy symptoms. The first sign of allergies is normally the presence of an itchy, scratching kitty.
    • The itchy patches may be localized or all over your cat’s body. When your cat scratches the same place over and over again, she may begin to lose hair in that spot. Additionally, your cat may have difficulty trying to breath and may begin to wheeze, sneeze and cough due to respiratory distress.
    • Other issues may include a discharge from the eyes also related to the respiratory problems, along with vomiting or diarrhea.
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    Have your cat diagnosed. There are several factors that could be causing the allergies such as chemicals and other seasonal allergens, along with food allergies.
    • The only way to determine if the cause is due to diet is monitoring your cat before, during, and after she eats. Specifically watch for changes in your cat after eating. You can also bring your cat to the vet to have different tests performed to diagnose the problem.
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    Use hydrocortisone to combat the itch. Once the allergies are diagnosed, symptoms should subside. You can use a hydrocortisone cream on itchy patches of your cat’s skin to help your pet find some immediate relief.[1]
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    Get a prescription for antibiotic or antifungal treatments from your vet. Your veterinarian will most likely prescribe a short course of antibiotic or antifungal therapy. The antibiotic drug should be prescribed after having a bacterial sensitivity test done. The medication may come in the form of a pill or a topical cream.
    • The topical ointment is commonly a combination of neomycin sulphate and bacitracin or Mupirocin.
    • Commonly used systemic antibiotics are cephalosporin (10-20 mg/kg, once daily) or amoxicillin (10-15 mg/kg, once daily) and Gentamicin (5mg/kg once daily) for skin infection.[2]
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    Consider pursuing allergen specific therapy. Allergen specific therapy can also be performed by your vet. Your vet may also prescribe your can an anti-inflammatory drug, or an antihistamine.
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs may include a glucocorticoid (like prednisolone with a dose of 0.2-0.3 mg/kg; orally) or Dexamethasone. The drugs can help to treat any lesions caused by the allergic reaction.[3]
    • Antihistamines have not be fully proven to work against food allergies in cats (and the itching that the allergies create). Only give your cat an antihistamine if it has been prescribed by a vet.

Method 2
Trying Different Diets to Manage Your Cat's Allergies

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    Put your cat on a hypoallergenic diet. When your cat experiences a food allergy, medical intervention is often necessary. While at the vet’s office, your vet may advise you to put your cat on a hypoallergenic diet for a two to three week period to see if your cat’s allergies clear up.[4]
    • Hypoallergenic diets are very bland and limited in ingredients. If your cat seems to recover, switch your cat back to her regular diet for the next two weeks to see if the allergy symptoms return.
    • If symptoms do return, your cat needs to be returned to the hypoallergenic diet for good, or you can try feeding her another prescription diet.
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    Change your cat’s protein source. When your cat has allergies, it is frequently due to a protein component that your pet eats over a long period of time, such as turkey, pork, chicken or beef. Change the protein and you may resolve the problem.
    • However, this process does require a trial or test diet until you can pinpoint the exact protein that is at fault for your cat's discomfort. If you currently feed your cat a diet with chicken as the main protein, choose fish or another healthy meat to feed your cat.
    • If the new trial diet is not successful after two to three weeks, you consider feeding your cat a different protein for the next two to three weeks, until you find a protein that your cat can eat comfortably.
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    Opt for foods with as few ingredients as possible. When choosing a new food to help your cat with allergies, consider a choice with minimal ingredients. The first option should be a healthy protein, which should be different from the ones your cat has eaten previously.
    • Ensure that there is only one protein source in the food that you give your cat, or you will not be able to determine which product is affecting your pet. Also check to see that the food has no grains, fillers or by-products; these may cause your cat some discomfort.
    • Once you have introduced your cat to this new trial diet, keep her on the new food for at least 8 to 12 weeks, feeding your pet nothing else. If you see a positive change in your cat, continue to feed her this diet. If not, you may need to try a different novel protein food until you find one that provides satisfactory results.
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    Make sure your cat’s diet includes one good source of both protein and carbohydrates. The diets you choose during this trial period should contain one good protein and one healthy carbohydrate, such as duck and peas, venison and potato, egg and rice or fish and potato.[5]
    • You can also find treats with the same components. Remember, the object of this trial period is to limit the number of ingredients your cat eats, so try to find treats that match the ingredients of your cat’s trial food. If you think your cat may be allergic to chicken, do not feed your cat chicken-based treats.
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    Feed your cat a home-cooked diet. You may also choose to feed your cat a home cooked diet. Preparing your cat’s food at home will give you the advantage of knowing exactly what your cat is eating.
    • To make your cat’s food, choose one healthy novel protein such as chicken or fish and a novel carbohydrate like potato or brown rice; these ingredients should be free of any chemicals the immune system might attack.
    • Contact your veterinarian for advice on where to find some of the best home cooked recipes for your cat. You can also run an online search.
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    Consider giving your cat some nutritional supplements. With a home cooked diet, your feline may need some nutritional supplements for a balanced diet. However, your vet may advise you to eliminate all supplements until the end of the trial diet, so contact the vet before giving your cat these supplements.
    • When appropriate, consider nutritional supplements that are often recommended in the veterinary field such as essential fatty acids; black currant oil, flaxseed oil, evening primrose oil and fish oils. These oils are usually administered at a dosage of about 200 mg daily.


  • If you want to keep your cat healthy and food allergy-free, be very picky about the foods you provide; choose all-natural foods with high protein and minimal ingredients; no fillers, grains and by-products.

Sources and Citations

  1. Sicherer, S. H., & Sampson, H. A. (2006). 9. Food allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 117(2), S470-S475.
  2. Sicherer, S. H., & Sampson, H. A. (2006). 9. Food allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 117(2), S470-S475.
  3. Sicherer, S. H., & Sampson, H. A. (2009). Food allergy: recent advances in pathophysiology and treatment. Annual review of medicine, 60, 261-277.
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Categories: Feeding Cats | Feline Health