Sneezing, wheezing, itching—these allergy symptoms are all too common among humans. What pet parents tend to forget, however, is that their furry friends aren’t fans of pollen, either! Cats experience many of the same allergy signs as their owners, yet their comfort doesn’t always receive the same level of attention.
As allergy season approaches, watch out for signs of seasonal allergies in your cat and speak with a vet for the best treatments.
Common symptoms in allergic cats
The signs of seasonal allergies are easy to spot, but many pet parents dismiss them as if they’re no big deal. While allergies usually aren’t life-threatening, they’re certainly aggravating for your kitty! Paying attention to the signs puts you one step closer to seeking the allergy treatment your cat deserves.
Here are the most common signs to look for:
- Cold-like symptoms: Many pet parents are unaware that their kitty has seasonal allergies because they assume it’s just a cold. However, recurring symptoms shouldn’t be ignored—cats that are allergic to pollen might experience a persistent cough, runny nose and sneezing. Talk to a vet about getting your cat tested for allergies if their symptoms flare up during periods of high pollen in the air.
- Skin irritation: Seasonal allergies usually trigger redness, dryness, itchiness and swelling on the skin. Pet parents may also notice patchy fur and hair loss because their cat is constantly itching the same spots. Serious flare-ups may cause lesions to develop on the skin’s surface that appear crusty or leak discharge.
- Secondary infection: Cats that repeatedly itch the same spot could potentially break open the skin with their claws or teeth. No matter how small, open wounds offer a direct pathway for bacteria to enter the body. As a result, your cat can develop an abscess or bacterial infection. Vets can prescribe antibiotics, but the only way to prevent future infections is to address the cat’s underlying seasonal allergies.
- Excessive hairballs: The occasional hairball is nothing to worry about. Cats ingest small amounts of hair every time they groom themselves. Unfortunately, cats with seasonal allergies will use grooming as a way to itch inflamed, dry skin. Excess hair builds up in the digestive tract and causes your kitty to puke up hairballs a lot more frequently.
- Chewing on their paws: Allergic kitties develop some odd habits, and chewing on the paw pads is one of them. Some pet parents might mistake this behavior as the cat trying to clean out their claws. In reality, seasonal allergies cause the paw pads to become itchy, painful and swollen. Persistent chewing can cause trauma to the paws, and the cat may develop a limp in their walk.
Tips for reducing exposure to seasonal allergens
Pollen and other airborne allergens are pretty much unavoidable, even for indoor cats. They can enter the home on clothing and through open windows. The pollen from trees, grass and flowers can travel for miles, so the allergens that are causing your kitty grief could fly in from a completely different neighborhood!
However, there are still a few habits you can practice to minimize the amount of pollen in your home and reduce your cat’s overactive immune response:
- Wash your cat’s bedding: When’s the last time you washed that favorite blanket of theirs? If you can’t remember, then it’s time to run a load of laundry! Pollen can make its way into the home and cling to cat fur. As cats lounge in their napping spots, that pollen rubs off and accumulates on bedding. Wash blankets, towels and pillows on a regular basis, too, to eliminate allergens.
- Keep the windows closed: It’s tempting to let that cool breeze blow in through the windows. But if you do, your poor kitty might sneeze up a storm! Keep the windows closed and cool down your home with an air conditioner instead. As a side note, make sure you’re changing the air filter in your AC unit at least once a month.
- Bathe the skin and fur: Cats with seasonal allergies need extra help cleaning themselves, especially if they spend part of their time outdoors. As soon as your cat walks through the door, wipe down their fur with a clean, damp cloth to get rid of the pollen. You could also bathe them in the sink or bathtub, but only if your kitty will tolerate it!
Seasonal allergies require lifelong management through prescribed medicine and at-home intervention. Your cat might have to settle for stalking squirrels from the other side of a window rather than chase them outside. But fear not—allergic kitties can thrive during the highest pollen counts when they have a loving owner like you to take care of their needs!