Signs of Food Allergies in Cats

Last Updated on April 13, 2020

Sometimes when a cat is having a health-related issue, it isn’t always clear what is causing it. While there are common things a vet may check for, a food allergy seems to be one that is typically overlooked. How do you know if your cat has one?

Common Signs And Symptoms

Below are common signs and symptoms you may notice in your cat if they have a food allergy. While these symptoms can also be caused by other medical issues, it is important you rule out everything else first to be sure it isn’t something more serious.

Check With Your Vet

It is always important to rule out other medical conditions that can cause these symptoms. Some clinics will also test for food allergies.

Loose Stool

Cats who have a food allergy will typically have diarrhea. This can range from very soft stool to liquid stool. It is important to get this under control as it puts your cat at risk of dehydration.


Some food allergies can lead to excess gas and upset stomachs. While not all cats who have allergies will vomit after eating, some will. It is important to note that this can also be caused by backed-up hairballs, eating too fast, and air pockets (swallowing air) when eating.

Itchy Skin

An allergic reaction to something typically will trigger an immune response. This causes the cells to release histamine in order to stop the substance from spreading in the body. Blood vessels will expand and the surface of the skin becomes itchy and dry. Common itching spots include the limbs, stomach, paws, and neck.

Hair Loss/Pulling

Itchy skin can also lead to cats pulling out their fur for relief. If your cat is pulling out its hair, be sure to put some topical moisturizer that is edible on the area such as coconut oil to relieve the dryness and keep the skin from becoming infected.

Paw Chewing

This usually goes hand in hand with itchy skin, the paws become dry and bothersome. In some cases, there may be a nerve disruption that causes a jolt like pain or tickle causing the paws to itch.

Watery Eyes

With humans, allergies that cause watery eyes are usually airborne but for cats (and dogs), this can be a sign of a food allergy. This is because the sinuses can become “stuffy” and the drainage will result in overproduction of tears.

Sneezing And Coughing

The immune response that is triggered will often cause a build-up in the lungs as a form of protection. This can lead to coughing. The build-up can also end up in the sinus cavity which will cause sneezing. Some cats with more severe food allergies may develop asthma from this.

Heavy Breathing And Snoring

Similar to sneezing and coughing, an allergy that leads to build-up will cause snoring or what sounds like heavy breathing. You may hear a whistling sound as well.

Skin Rashes And Breakouts

A food allergy can lead to feline acne, dermatitis, and fungal skin infections. These issues can also be found in the ears which can cause frequent ear infections, pain, and itchiness.

Common Food Allergies

  • Chicken and/or Eggs
  • Preservatives (BHA, BHT, etc.)
  • Brewers Yeast, Rice, Wheat Gluten
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Dairy – Most cats are lactose intolerant
  • Corn
  • Soy

When ruling out food allergies, it is best to start with protein sources. While chicken is the most common protein allergy for cats, some may also be allergic to fish, beef, lamb, and/or pork. Consider using grain-free food options with single-source proteins. Many brands and recipes include chicken so if you need help finding some chicken free foods, check out our Chicken-Free Cat Food list for options.

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