Allergy Medicine for Cats: What Can I Give My Cat for Allergies?

Are there medications for allergic cats?

Just like people, cats can suffer from allergies. And like humans, felines may benefit from medications as part of an allergy treatment plan. Remember, however, that allergy medicine for cats isn’t complete treatment for your cat’s allergies. Real relief comes from a multifaceted approach that’s customized for your cat’s unique situation.

Before you start giving your cat any medication, bring them to the veterinarian. Your vet can confirm that your cat’s symptoms are indeed an allergic reaction and help you learn more about the appropriate treatment protocol.

If your cat has been grooming excessively, losing patches of fur, mutilating their own skin, or pulling out tufts of their own hair, they’re probably exhibiting an allergic response to something in their diet or environment. Several types of allergens affect cats, and identifying those allergens is key to helping your cat feel better.

Types of Cat Allergies

Environmental Allergies

Medications are typically indicated for cats affected by environmental allergens. Environmental allergens typically cause atopic dermatitis, an allergic skin condition involving itching, scratching, rashiness, over-grooming, and raw skin. Common environmental allergens include grass, pollen, mold, mites, and animal dander.

Flea Allergies

No one enjoys a flea infestation, but allergic cats experience extreme discomfort, incessantly biting and scratching their skin. If your cat is allergic to fleas, your job is not necessarily to treat the symptoms. You need to get rid of the flea infestation.

Click here for a guide to treating fleas in cats.

Food Allergies and Sensitivities

If your cat has food allergies, you don’t need to give them medications. Instead, use an elimination diet to identify allergenic ingredients. Once you know which proteins cause your cat’s allergies, purge them from your pantry and switch your cat to a diet that doesn’t cause problems.

nomnomnow cat food

What Allergy Medicine is Safe for Cats?

Some allergy medications—perhaps ones you already have in your medicine cabinet—are safe and effective for both you and your cat. As always, it’s a good idea to talk to your vet before giving your cat a dose of allergy medicine, particularly if it’s not approved for veterinary use.

Antihistamines for Allergic Cats

Although antihistamines can treat cats with allergies, it’s crucial that you never administer human medications without the approval and guidance of your veterinarian.

H1 antihistamines work better than do H2 antihistamines.

Different types of antihistamines target different histamine receptors. The H1 receptor is linked to allergic reactions in the nose and skin, while the H2 receptor is linked to gut-related allergies. While H2 antihistamines work well in humans, H1 antihistamines are the best choice for cats.

Second-generation antihistamines are safer.

Antihistamines developed before the 1980’s readily penetrated the blood-brain barrier and are more likely to cause side effects, like drowsiness and a dry mouth. These first-generation antihistamines are still on the market today—perhaps the best-known example is Benadryl.

New antihistamines, referred to as second-generation antihistamines, pass the blood-brain barrier less readily and are less likely to induce drowsiness and other side effects.

Steroids for Allergic Cats

Corticosteroids—distinct from anabolic steroids used by bodybuilders and athletes—are often given to allergic cats as an anti-inflammatory. Steroids are often extremely effective in the treatment of feline allergies.

Steroids are available in topical, oral, and injectable forms. Remember that giving your cat a steroid injection means a commitment to side effects and effects lasting one week to a month. An oral or topical steroid treatment is comparatively flexible. If you don’t like what you see, you can discontinue administering the steroids and get rid of both therapeutic effects and side effects.

If your cat takes high doses of steroids for a continued period of time, they may experience an increased incidence of infections, poor coat condition, immunosuppression, diabetes, adrenal suppression, and liver problems.

Because the side effects can be relatively extreme, steroids should be a treatment of last resort after you’ve tried other therapies like omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and antihistamines.

Immune Modulators for Allergic Cats

Your veterinarian may prescribe a drug called Atopica, which represses the activity of helper T-cells, thereby reducing inflammation.  It’s sold for cats and it resolves symptoms in about half of all pets. There are a few side effects linked to this immune modulator, including stomach upset. This is a prescription drug and it’s not cheap.

Home Remedies for Allergic Cats

Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Allergic Cats

Omega-3 fatty acids are an extremely effective supplement for cats suffering from allergies. These anti-inflammatories work in the skin to reduce the amount of histamine released in response to allergens. In most cases, it will take several weeks to months of continued fatty acid supplementation before the omega-3’s create an effect in your cat’s body.

Biotin for Allergic Cats

This B vitamin helps to improve skin health. Since dry, itchy, and rashy skin is the most common allergy symptom in cats, biotin is a valuable supplement for allergic cats.

Best OTC Allergy Medicine for Cats: Our Top Picks

Best Antihistamine for Allergic Cats: Basic Care All Day Allergy Cetirizine HCl Tablets


Cetirizine, the active component in Zyrtec, is a relatively safe second-generation H1 receptor blocker that’s typically used in humans, but which is considered safe for cats as well.

Although it’s registered for human use only and there are no veterinary formulations of the drug, it’s widely used as an allergy medicine for cats and is regularly recommended by veterinarians. As always, this OTC product is best administered under the supervision and guidance of your veterinarian.

Dr. Shelley Knudsen, DVM of All Feline Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska recommends that you “give your cat ½ of a 10mg tablet (5mg) once daily. There are very few side effects to this.”

The side effects include sedation, lethargy, vomiting, drooling, and loss of appetite.

Pros

  • Relatively safe and recommended by vets
  • Non-drowsy
  • Effective in cats
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not formulated for veterinary use

Runner-Up—Best Antihistamine for Allergic Cats: Chlorpheniramine Maleate Allergy Tablets for Pets Review


Chlorpheniramine is a relatively weak first-generation H1 antihistamine. It minimizes nasal irritation and general itchiness associated with allergies.

It’s one of the most commonly-prescribed antihistamines in small animal veterinary practice. While not very effective in dogs, it’s one of the most reliable antihistamines for cats.

Compared to other first-generation antihistamines, it has a relatively mild sedative effect. Nevertheless, when you give it to a cat, they’ll probably experience some drowsiness. Other side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

Each tablet contains 4mg of the active ingredient. The typical dose of this drug is 1-2mg every 8-12 hours.

Note that it has a bitter taste that cats hate. You might need to put it in a pill pocket or embed it in a piece of cheese or meat. According to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center, the drug acts synergistically with omega 3 fatty acid supplements, so it’s a good idea to give your cat fish oil in conjunction with the allergy medication.

Pros

  • A well-known medication for cat allergies
  • Effective in cats
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Can cause drowsiness
  • Has a bitter taste

Best Omega-3 Supplement for Allergic Cats: Zesty Paws Pure Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for Dogs & Cats Review


Cats with allergies can greatly benefit from omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Omega-3 fatty acids minimize inflammation, which is crucial when an allergic response is ultimately an inflammatory reaction. They also promote a healthy skin and coat, which is also important, considering that allergic cats usually develop skin problems.

It’s important to always choose animal-sourced omega-3’s, like those from fish and krill. Plant-sourced omega-3’s are not as effectively utilized by your cat’s body.

This omega-3 supplement is simply wild Alaskan salmon oil, which is rich in the DHA and EPA your cat needs.

Pros

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Great flavor that cats love
  • Helps to promote skin and coat health

Cons

  • The pump tends to leak

Best Skin Cream for Itchy Allergic Cats: ResQ Organics Pet Skin Treatment


Since the main symptom of allergies in cats is skin itching and irritation, it’s a good idea to choose products that can soothe and heal your cat’s skin. This cream contains a variety of ingredients that can do just that.

It contains manuka honey, coconut oil, shea butter, blue-green algae, hemp seed oil, and other anti-inflammatory ingredients.

According to reviewers, it’s a good choice for cats and dogs with allergies.

One of our cats developed an atopic skin allergy due to the food she was eating. We switched her food and used the ResQ Organics Skin Treatment along with a topical hydrocortisone spray. After 3 days of using both the rash was almost completely gone. We then started using the Skin Treatment on the large bald spot on her neck – within 2 days the bald spot was no longer raw and red but pink and healthy and she is a much happier an prettier kitty!

Pros

  • Soothes irritated skin
  • Targets the primary symptom of cat allergies
  • Gentle and safe

Cons

  • Doesn’t directly treat allergic reactions

In conclusion, medications and home remedies can help to soothe your cat’s symptoms if environmental fixes aren’t possible.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to identify what is bothering your cat. Obtaining a diagnosis of your cat’s allergy or intolerance can be time-consuming and challenging, and your cat will be forced to suffer longer without treatment.

If you think your cat may be suffering from a food or environmental intolerance, there may be a fast-working alternative to traditional elimination diets. We had the opportunity to try the Affordable Pet Test, an intolerance tests which identifies food and environmental triggers through a pet hair test.

For more information on how the Affordable Pet Test works and how it could help your cat, please read our review. If you purchase a test for your cat through our links, we’ll receive a commission from the sale. We appreciate your support!

 

Let us know what you’ve tried and what works to soothe your cat’s allergies!