Hay Allergy in Cats

Hay Allergy in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Hay Allergy ?

Cat’s can have allergies to food, parasites, and even things in their environment.  While it sounds unlikely, your cat can actually have an allergy to hay.  He may be sensitive when he comes into contact with it or even if he just inhales the dust.  Typical allergies in cats present as chronic skin issues that may start out mild and develop into serious unsightly conditions.  Your cat can go from a luscious full coat to half bald due to an allergy.  If you suspect your cat has an allergy to hay, there are very few ways to get a 100% diagnosis.  There is no cure for an allergy in your cat, but you can manage and treat the symptoms.

If your cat is experiencing a skin related issue that has been going on long term, he may have an allergy.  You should consult with your veterinarian before letting it continue without treatment.

Symptoms of Hay Allergy in Cats

Symptoms may include but are not limited to:

  • Pruritus¬†
  • Papules
  • Lesions
  • Crusted pustules
  • Scaling
  • Alopecia
  • Hyperpigmentation¬†
  • Excoriation
  • Lichenification¬†
  • Secondary skin infection¬†


A contact allergy or inhalant type of allergy is typically a delayed type of sensitivity, but not always.  This means it usually requires weeks to months of repeated exposure to the allergen for the sensitization to develop.  Once there is sensitivity, clinical symptoms typically appear 24 to 48 hours after exposure.

Causes of Hay Allergy in Cats

A hay allergy in your cat can be considered a type of contact allergy or inhalant allergy to something in his environment.  When the hay makes contact with your cat’s skin or if he inhales the dust, his immune system sees it as a threat and causes symptoms of an allergic reaction to begin.  Environmental allergies can develop against any number of chemicals or natural items including plants.

Diagnosis of Hay Allergy in Cats

When diagnosing hay allergy in your cat, it will be based primarily on clinical signs.  An allergy in a cat does not present itself like a human allergy would with sneezing and coughing.  Instead, it presents itself as a skin issue that may only be identified as chronic feet licking or something more obvious like hair loss all over the body.

Your veterinarian will begin by performing a full physical exam on your cat.  She will make note of all his symptoms and where they are primarily affecting him on his body.  She will also want to collect a verbal history from you.  She will want to know any and all details as to what your cat has ingested and had contact with recently.  

As a safety precaution, your veterinarian may want to take a skin scraping sample from your cat or perform a skin cytology.  These tests can rule out skin issues that may be affecting your cat.  For example, she will need to rule out parasitic infections, fungal skin infections, or other likely skin ailments.  

There is also an available blood serum test panel you can have completed on your cat in regards to environmental allergies.  The results are very reliable and can offer you insight to your cat’s condition.  Your veterinarian will collect a blood sample from your cat and send it off for testing.  The laboratory will run it against an environmental panel and results will show what your cat is allergic to and how severely.  For example, it can indicate if your cat is allergic to pollen, dust, human dander, and more.

Treatment of Hay Allergy in Cats

Avoidance of the allergen is ideal.  However, it is almost impossible to have your cat not be exposed to environmental allergens.  If this is the case, your veterinarian may consider administering glucocorticoids for a short period of time in order to get your cat’s symptoms under control.  She may also offer antihistamines to see if the product can offer him some relief.  Also, if your veterinarian thinks your cat is a candidate, there are allergy medications you can offer him on a long term basis.

The skin will need to be treated depending on the lesions and symptoms your cat has developed.  If there is a secondary infection, your cat will need antibiotics.  Your veterinarian may also recommend a topical medication that may come in the form of a liquid, ointment, or spray for you to apply directly to the lesions themselves.  Your veterinarian may need to prescribe additional medications or therapies depending on the severity of your cat’s condition.

If you do pursue the allergy test panel, you can also pursue immunotherapy.  There are shots you can administer or liquid drops you can give to your cat sublingually to suppress his immune system against the specific allergens.  If he is allergic to hay, the drops or shots will train his body to no longer think hay is a threat.  Therefore he will no longer break out when exposed to it.  Immunotherapy can work very well but it may be something he needs for the rest of his life.

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Recovery of Hay Allergy in Cats

The severity of the allergy will determine the recovery process.  The more severe the allergy is, the longer it will take your cat to recover.  You must also consider the range of skin where your cat has developed lesions.  If the area is small, it may be quicker to resolve and look better versus a large region.  Also, if there is a secondary skin infection present the recovery process will take longer and need more aggressive treatment.  As long as you address the condition of the skin, his prognosis of recovery is good.  You cannot cure your cat’s allergy but you can manage it.

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