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July 29, 2020 |10 min read |Veterinarian Reviewed

Top 10 Causes of Allergies in Cats

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Just like us, our furry friends can get allergies and they present themselves in similar ways. If you notice your kitty is suffering from runny eyes, is sneezing more than normal, or is acting lethargic or has a skin condition, they may be experiencing an allergy of some sort. While most of these allergies will alleviate themselves after time and by identifying the cat allergen, talk to your vet if you notice something out of the ordinary. 

Have you asked yourself "What can I give my cat for allergies?" Let’s look at ten of the most popular causes of allergies in cats and what you can do to prevent them.

Allergy Symptoms in Cats

Before we dive into how a cat can be an allergy sufferer, let’s look at some of the most common symptoms so you can learn how to identify whether or not your cat has allergies. 

Many of the feline allergy symptoms cats suffer from are similar to what humans experience, too. Here are some:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing/wheezing
  • Itchy skin
  • Rash
  • Runny eyes
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Swollen paws

Depending on your cat and the exact cause of the pet allergy, these symptoms can range from mild to severe. As always, consult your vet if something seems off with your kitty.

Now that we know what to look for when a cat may have allergies, let’s look at some of the most common causes of allergies in cats.

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10 Causes of Allergies

There are many causes of allergies in cats, including everything from seasonal pollen to the litter they’re using. Just like humans, every cat is different. Let’s look at some common causes of cat allergies!


Believe it or not, one of the most common causes of allergies in cats is food. Although cats are obligate carnivores, some can be allergic to proteins such as chicken, beef, or fish. A cat may develop a food allergy to a food they’ve never been exposed to before. For example, if you got a kitten that was only ever fed food with chicken in it, it could develop an allergy to another protein, like fish. Of course, this isn’t always the case! Cat food allergies can also develop at any time. 

Generally, food allergies will cause cat allergy symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. This is because these foods affect the GI tract. Cats may also develop a skin allergy, though, to foods that don’t agree with their bodies. 

To help reduce the risk of food allergies in your cat, make sure to stick with high-quality, protein-rich cat food. Too many foods on the market are filled with grains, fillers, gluten, and other harmful ingredients that are hard for your kitty to digest. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they need a diet that consists primarily of protein. Focusing on a cat diet with high-quality ingredients may help reduce the risk of food allergies in your cat. 


In addition, cats can also be allergic to litter. If you notice your kitty sneezing, coughing, or suffering from runny eyes after using the litter box, you may want to switch out the litter. Some cats are allergic to litters that have higher dust content, like clay litters. Crystal litters produce less dust, which can be good for kitties with allergy sensitivities or breathing issues, such as asthma. 


Of course, flea bites are never fun for cats, allergies or not, but some cats are especially allergic to flea bites. This allergy is also called flea allergy dermatitis. It can cause intense itching that can last for days, hair loss, swollen areas, and other symptoms. A single bite is enough to cause these reactions. 

Outdoor Allergens

Just like humans, cats can get allergies from outside allergens like pollen, dust, grass, certain types of trees, and many more. Even indoor cats can suffer from allergies caused by the outdoors because of open windows and the things we track into the home. 

Seasonal Allergies

Related to allergies caused by the outdoors, cats can also get seasonal allergies. These can be caused by the pollen in springtime, the dry air in the winter, or increased humidity in the summer. Seasonal allergies can even affect indoor cats!

Flea Medicine

Although most flea medicines are generally safe (and help protect your cat against dangerous pathogens from fleas, ticks, and mites), some cats can have a bad reaction to these medicines. These reactions may cause vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, itching, or hives. If this is the case, talk to your vet about switching flea medications. 

Grooming Products

If you take your cat to the groomer (or attempt to groom them yourselves!), you may have noticed your kitty’s skin reacting to certain shampoo or grooming products. This might present itself in red skin, a rash, or other skin allergies. There are certain shampoos designed for pets with sensitive skin. You may start wondering “Do cats need baths?

Food Products

We talked about food allergies, but cats can also be allergic to the actual bowls their food and water is served in. Many cats are allergic to plastic, especially if it’s not cleaned well, and can cause cat acne or a little bald spot by their mouth. 

To help prevent this, some pet experts recommend switching out all plastic bowls for stainless steel or glass options. Also, make sure to keep them extremely clean. 

Household Cleaning Products

Some cats can experience allergies from common household cleaning products and depending on the situation, this can be a major health concern. Not all household products are safe for animals, so make sure to check the ingredient list before introducing new cleaning products into your home, and try to keep them away from your cat as much as possible. This is especially important because cats can inject these products by grooming themselves after coming into contact with them. 

Not sure where to start? Here is a list of some ingredients that are known to be toxic to dogs and cats:

  • Bleach
  • Ammonia
  • Glycol Ethers
  • Formaldehyde
  • Phthalates

These ingredients can be found in anything from laundry detergent to toilet bowl cleaner to dishwasher detergent and carpet cleaner. If possible, seek out more natural alternatives, like vinegar, lemon juice, and essential oils. 

Another thing to look out for is scented room fresheners. These sprays or adaptors that you plug into the wall often have harmful scents that can irritate your cat’s nose, eyes, or mouth. Instead, opt for more natural versions. Baking soda makes a great litter box refresher when sprinkled in, or you can use essential oils that are safe for cats (but make sure to consult a list by a vet first). 

Prescription Drugs

 Lastly, a major cause of allergies in cats to be aware of is a prescription medicine. Cats can be prescribed all kinds of medicine, but that doesn’t mean that it will always agree with their bodies. 

On the mild end of the spectrum, these prescription drugs can make them nauseous and lead to vomiting or diarrhea. On the more extreme end of the spectrum, they can lead to seizures, neurological issues, and even death. This is why it’s important to listen to your vet and report any past medical conditions. Some medicines should be avoided if your cat has a previous medical history. 

How to Prevent Cat Allergies

There’s no guaranteed way to avoid your cat getting allergies, but here are some tips and cat tricks to help limit the risk:

  • Keep a clean litter box
  • Avoid harmful chemicals and household cleaners
  • Look for high-quality, protein-rich food that has fewer fillers and more real meat
  • Clean and sanitize your cat’s food and water bowls regularly
  • Use a hypoallergenic shampoo while bathing them
  • Consult your vet before giving your cat any new prescription drugs and discuss their previous medical history
  • Close the windows during times of high pollen or allergen count
  • Monitor your kitty and take note of anything that seems out of the ordinary

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As with humans, allergies in cats can be caused by a number of things, from food sensitivities to dusty litter to what kind of food bowl they are eating out of. The main thing is to stay vigilant of your kitty’s health and report anything to your vet if you notice something doesn’t look right. If you have a sensitive kitty, look for things like hypoallergenic food bowls, protein-rich food, and hypoallergenic grooming products. Also be aware of what household cleaners and perfumes you use around the home, as cats can be allergic to these, too. 









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    Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

    Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.


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    Geoff DeWire

    PrettyLitter's Veterinarian in Chief Dr. Geoff DeWire graduated UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2007 where he earned the Pfizer Clinical Achievement Award for Excellence in Veterinary Medicine.

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