In an allergic reaction, your cat’s immune system mistakenly identifies certain proteins in food as harmful and sends the body to attack them. Identifying and eliminating these allergens can reduce your cat’s itching and help with his other symptoms. This can be a long process, but it’s worth it. Allergies can be hard to diagnose, and some allergies are more difficult than others. But finding out what your cat is allergic to will help you make a big difference in his life.
Food allergies are very common in cats, and it’s usually a specific protein source that causes the allergy. Most allergic reactions are to beef, chicken, turkey, fish or dairy products. In rare cases, cats can be allergic to a variety of proteins or other ingredients such as wheat, soy, or other grains. If you think your cat has a food allergy, start with an elimination diet. This will require you to feed him a food that contains only the ingredients to which he is not allergic for about 8 to 12 weeks. If his skin problems and ear infections improve during this time, he is likely suffering from a food allergy.
A good cat food for allergies will be limited-ingredient, and preferably hypoallergenic. This means that the food should contain only one or two protein sources and no other ingredients. This will eliminate most of the possible irritants and make it easier to discover which food is causing the problem.
Many brands of pet food include several different types of proteins in their foods. This can make it difficult to know which protein your cat is allergic to. A few companies make a line of cat foods that have just one type of meat or other ingredient. For example, they may have a lamb and liver food for allergic cats or just a fish meal for allergy sufferers. These are ideal for testing your cat’s allergy to a single protein source.
When you choose a food for your allergic cat, make sure it is labeled as an allergen-free diet. A few cat foods are guaranteed to be free of all allergens, including chicken, beef, wheat, soy and other allergens. However, even these foods may be contaminated with an allergen. This is because most pet food manufacturers use the same machinery to make numerous types of pet food, so cross-contamination is not unusual.
If your cat has already been diagnosed with a food allergy, but is still scratching and itching, you might want to ask his vet about a new type of food that uses antibodies to inhibit the production of cat allergens in the food. This type of food has been shown in a small pilot study to significantly reduce cat allergy symptoms.