How Diet Plays a Role In Your Cat’s Food Sensitivities

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Over the past decade or so, the cat food industry has experienced a major shift in focus (with many brands focusing on high-quality, minimally processed ingredients). One of the other dominant trends is the focus on allergen-free ingredients. 

Cat’s Food Sensitivities


While feline food allergies are somewhat common, not every single cat suffers from them. With that being said, a fairly large majority of cats have at least some form of mild or moderate food sensitivity. There’s a difference between food allergies and sensitivities, however, they both can cause similar symptoms.


Whether you’re looking for advice on how to choose the best cat food for your pet, or simply want to learn more about the various ways that food sensitivities can affect your cat, below we cover everything related to cats with food sensitivities. 

Allergies vs Sensitivities


Many owners might see their cat experiencing certain symptoms and automatically think they must have a food allergy, but this isn’t always the case. The most likely reason for your cat experiencing a certain set of symptoms is that they have a food intolerance/sensitivity (which is much different than an allergy). 


Just like with humans, food allergies can be very dangerous to cats. Symptoms might range from mild to moderate, however, the key difference between a sensitivity and an allergy, is that allergies always have the potential to lead to advanced complications (and can even be fatal in certain situations). 


Cats can develop both allergies and sensitivities at any age, however a lot of the time this is determined through the cat’s genetic makeup (i.e. if their lineage has a history of allergies, they are more likely to develop them). In the following section, we cover some of the most common symptoms related to both allergies and sensitivities. 

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How to Tell If Your Cat Has Food Allergies (Or Sensitivities)


Allergies can slowly develop over several months (or even years), and it’s not entirely uncommon for cats to develop them seemingly out of the blue. While allergies can develop with any type of food/ingredient, cats most often display allergic reactions to beef products, dairy, and even fish. 


Some of the following symptoms are common indicators of your cat being allergic to a certain food (or being sensitive to it):


  • GI-related issues
  • Digestion problems
  • Throwing up (i.e. vomiting)
  • Difficulty passing stool (or vice versa – i.e. diarrhea)
  • Itchy skin
  • Skin that becomes inflamed/red
  • Development of an excessive cough 
  • Non-stop scratching 
  • Ear-related issues 

Dealing With Food Allergies and Sensitivities in Cats


The single most important factor in managing a cat’s allergy-related issues is controlling the type of food they consume. Your pet’s diet has a much greater effect on their overall health than you could ever imagine (and this is especially true when it comes to food sensitivities/allergies). Using a brand like Hills Prescription diet ZD cat food for pets with food sensitivities is one route to go down. Products like this contain specific blends of high-quality ingredients (specifically formulated for cats with sensitivity issues). 


The easiest way to determine exactly which food your cat has problems with is by performing an elimination-based diet on them. This means slowly taking away certain groups of foods until your cat stops experiencing whatever symptoms they’re having. Your cat’s diet should have protein as its primary ingredient, with minimal additives, and even less artificial ingredients. 

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Many cats have problems with beef, so if the food you’re using contains beef, it’s recommended to try another protein source (such as duck, chicken, etc.). The same goes for any other type of ingredient/food that your cat has a bad reaction to. Simply take it away and then replace it with something else until your cat’s symptoms subside.

Symptoms That Might Not Be Related to Allergies 


Just because your cat experiences some of the symptoms listed in this blog doesn’t mean that they necessarily have a food allergy/sensitivity. Many other types of illnesses can cause similar symptoms, and it’s important to rule out other potential causes before simply assuming that your cat has a food allergy. 


For example, fleas can cause many of the same symptoms as an allergy (e.g. itching, red skin, ear-related problems, etc.). Whatever symptoms your cat may be experiencing, it’s important to schedule an exam with their vet to rule out other potential problems. Once other illnesses have been ruled out, you can then focus on figuring out which food(s) your cat is allergic and/or sensitive to.