Can Cats Have Allergies? Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments

3 min read
Mar 05, 2024

Like humans, cats can experience allergic reactions to all kinds of different stimulants called allergens. If you notice your cat seems to be feeling under the weather and is constantly scratching themself or sneezing, it could be a sign that they’re experiencing allergies.

Fortunately, feline allergies are very treatable. Let’s take a closer look at some common causes of allergies in cats, how they can be treated, and how pet insurance could help.

Symptoms of Allergies in Cats

Recognizing signs of allergies in cats isn’t that different from identifying allergies in humans. Any of the following symptoms could indicate that your cat is dealing with an allergic reaction:1

  • Frequent coughing and sneezing
  • Itchy skin
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Discharge from the nose and/or eyes

It’s important to keep in mind that any of these symptoms could have a number of different causes, including allergies. That’s why you should bring your cat to the vet for a thorough exam and an accurate diagnosis.

What Are Cats Allergic To?

The first step to alleviating your cat’s allergies is figuring out what your cat’s hypersensitivities are. A visit to the vet is the easiest way to narrow down your cat’s allergens.

Generally, common cat allergies fall into one of six categories:2

  • Food allergies
  • Environmental allergies
  • Flea allergies
  • Feline asthma
  • Cutaneous drug eruptions
  • Allergic contact dermatitis

Let’s take a closer look at each of these common cat allergies.

Food allergies in cats

Cat food allergies aren’t that different from human food allergies. They’re caused by an immune system reaction and can result in gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea, as well as itchy skin and difficulty breathing.1

Environmental allergies in cats

Environmental allergies are also known as atopy.2 This type of allergy may have many different environmental triggers, including pollens, mold and spores, dust mites, and plants.1,2 Atopy may also be referred to as seasonal allergies, since many of these triggers are only present during specific times of the year. However, atopic dermatitis can also be triggered by something like cleaning products or the perfume found in certain types of cat litter. Usually, these allergies in cats present as coughing, sneezing, itchy skin, pustules, skin plaque, or ear infections.2

Flea allergies in cats

Flea allergies are actually the most common type of allergy experienced by cats.1 Most cats experience only mild irritation when bitten by fleas, but felines who are allergic to flea saliva have much more severe reactions. These often include extreme itchiness leading to scabs, open sores, and even hair loss.1

Feline asthma

Also known as allergic bronchitis, feline asthma is an allergic reaction to an airborne trigger, such as pollen, cigarette smoke, or cat litter dust.2 Cats suffering from feline asthma will have trouble breathing and display other signs of respiratory distress, including wheezing, coughing, and labored breath.

Cutaneous drug eruptions

This type of cat allergy is caused by an adverse reaction to medication. Signs of cutaneous drug eruptions usually include:2

  • Redness
  • Skin rash
  • Inflammation
  • Hives
  • Itchiness

In more extreme cases, cutaneous drug eruptions can cause skin cells to die off, resulting in widespread skin shedding.2 If you notice these symptoms, particularly after starting your cat on a new medicine, bring them to the vet for a professional opinion before taking them off the drug.

Allergic contact dermatitis

Also known as contact allergies, these can flare up when your cat makes direct contact with certain materials, resulting in a localized allergic reaction. Common triggers include pollen, yeast, mites, medicated shampoo, flea collars, and certain materials or fibers, like wool.1,2 The reaction will typically be localized to the part of your cat’s skin that made contact with the trigger and may present as itchiness, redness, swelling of the skin, and the formation of pustules.2

A MetLife Pet Policy May Help Cover Cat Allergy Costs

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Diagnosing Cat Allergies

Testing for allergies in cats can look different depending on the type of hypersensitivity your vet suspects to be the culprit. They may use different types of allergy testing, such as blood tests, skin tests, or X-rays (for conditions like allergic bronchitis) to help determine what your cat is allergic to.2 A common diagnostic tool for atopy is intradermal testing, in which veterinary dermatologists inject allergens into your cat’s skin to discover which ones elicit a reaction.2

To identify the cause of cat food allergies, you’ll have to put your furbaby on an elimination (or hypoallergenic) diet and slowly reintroduce food elements until you can identify the offending allergen.1 Once you know which food ingredient is causing the allergic reaction, it’s just a matter of avoiding it! Your vet might also recommend your cat try a hydrolyzed protein diet. These foods contain cat-safe animal proteins that have been refined down to their smallest molecular weight in order to avoid triggering an allergic response.2

Cat Allergies: Treatment Options

Once the allergen is identified, removing it from your cat’s environment often relieves the symptoms and allows your feline friend to go back to normal. But not all allergens can be easily removed.

If that’s the case for your cat’s allergies, there are still ways to help them feel better. Bathing your cat regularly with vet-approved hypoallergenic shampoo can help alleviate some of the discomfort caused by environmental allergies.2

Other forms of treatment may include immunotherapy, which is basically a vaccine against environmental triggers.2 Quick-working options like immunosuppressive drugs, along with steroids, antihistamines, antibiotics, and antifungal medication may be used.2

Ultimately, your vet will be able to determine the best treatment options for your furbaby!

Does Pet Insurance Cover Cats with Allergies?

None of us want to watch our feline friends suffer from allergies, and we certainly don’t want our wallets to suffer as we treat them. A cat insurance policy could help you cover the cost of allergy testing and treatment, so you can focus on getting back to the belly rubs and purrs.

MetLife Pet did just that for a Georgia cat named Cashew. When this little kitten began experiencing allergy symptoms, her parents took her to the vet to figure out what the root cause was and hopefully get Cashew some relief. The exam bill came out to $815, but Cashew’s insurance policy covered 100% of the cost! That left her parents free to focus entirely on Cashew’s health.3

Find out how a cat insurance policy from MetLife Pet Insurance could help cushion the cost of your cat’s medical expenses. Get your free quote today.

We Can Help Cover Vet Bills While You Focus on Your Cat’s Care


Dr. Hunter Finn is an integrative veterinary expert first, and social media star second. America’s favorite veterinarian owns Pet Method in McKinney, Texas, where he cares for pets while prioritizing their emotional well-being. When he’s not at his clinic, he’s starring in viral videos on TikTok (2 million followers) and Instagram (500K followers) — where he’s been known to snuggle puppies and conquer the latest dance trends.

**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Allergies in Cats,” VCA Animal Hospitals,

2 “Allergies in Cats,” PetMD,

3 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife internal claims data from October 2022. Story altered for illustrative purposes.

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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