Does My Cat Have Allergies?

Cat in pet cone

Q: My 6-year-old male cat has allergies. He is allergic to plastic. Even though he isn’t around much of it, he insists on scratching his neck until it bleeds.

I have tried everything. Could this be behavioral?

A: Plastic allergies are a big problem as we are surrounded by plastic — from everything that comes from the grocery store to the undersides of furniture.

If your cat is drawing blood it is unlikely to be behavioral. In fact, in most cases of behavioral disease, when the skin is biopsied, it is an allergy and must be treated appropriately.

Also consider that you may have multiple allergies going on — food and plastic.

Q: I have 5-year-old female cat who has developed a sensitive area of skin on her back, right over her hindquarters. When I run my hand down her back and touch the area she behaves as if it is really itchy. She makes licking motions and meows a little if I brush or prod the area.

The fur/skin under the area doesn't appear different. I have noticed a marked increased in dandruff and her shedding has also increased quite a bit. She went through this before, and the dandruff and general shedding became much worse over time. Could this be a food allergy or a flea allergy?

When she had the symptoms last time, they stopped when I switched her food and also changed to a different flea medication at the same time. I assumed it was the flea medication working better. But now the same symptoms have returned.

A: When you have areas of the back with increased dander I usually think of a few things. When a cat gets overweight and/or lazy, she sometimes won't take her built-in comb (her tongue) to groom the middle of her back.

Food allergies usually manifest themselves on the heads of cats (although a diet change may bring more essential fatty acids to the skin, which cuts down inflammation).

The other issue you may see is hyperesthesia syndrome, in which the back is more sensitive/itchy/responsive. It is usually not treated.

Other allergies can cause the back to be itchy as well. If the symptoms are very mild, treatment may not be warranted.

Lastly, the cause could be pain originating from the back.

Dr. Grant Gugisberg, D.V.M.
Parkview Cat Clinic
Mendota Heights, MN