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CAT / nutrition

Does My Cat Have a Food Allergy?

Diet could be the culprit behind some kitty discomfort


What is a food allergy?

In cats with food allergies, certain ingredients can trigger an immune-system response. A food allergy isn’t quite the same thing as a food sensitivity. Food sensitivity usually affects a cat’s digestion (think vomiting and diarrhea); but a food allergy often appears as a skin problem.

If your cat seems itchy and you’ve ruled out fleas or reactions to pollen and grass, there’s a chance that something in your pet’s food is causing the trouble.

None of this is your fault, by the way. Veterinary studies show that cats can develop allergies even to ingredients they’ve eaten all of their lives without any problems.

While food additives are often blamed for causing allergies or sensitivities, there’s not much evidence to support this. Most often, cats are allergic to:

  • Lamb
  • Whitefish
  • Dairy
  • Beef

How are food allergies treated in cats?

A vet can help you figure out if kitty has a food allergy and may recommend a different type of food. Cat food labeled “grain-free” or “limited ingredient” can be a good choice; it’s often made without the ingredients that cause trouble for some cats.

Grain-free cat food contains no wheat, corn or soy, all of which can sometimes cause reactions in cats. Limited-ingredient cat food is often made with alternative or “novel” proteins, such as salmon, turkey or duck.

Do remember to read labels carefully. Even a cat food designated “grain-free” or “limited ingredient” may still contain an ingredient that bothers your cat.

How do I change my cat’s diet?

Transition your cat to a new food by substituting a little of the new stuff for the old stuff in their usual meal. Swap out a little more at the next feeding, and so on, for a week.

By the seventh day, your cat should be completely switched over to the new food.

Remember to avoid giving your cat treats and people food, which may include some of the allergens you’re trying to avoid.

If you notice any new symptoms, talk to your vet.

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