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What is Laundry Detergent Allergy?

Your cat can be allergic to elements in your laundry detergent which can lead to skin itchiness and irritation as well as chronic skin and ear infections. An allergy presents when your cat has an excessive immune response to a particular protein in the individual detergent. There are similar symptoms in a variety of allergies and your veterinarian can help in narrowing down what your cat is allergic to.

An allergy to one or more elements in your laundry detergent can occur in your cat should his immune system overreact to a particular ingredient, leading to skin irritation and itchiness, among other symptoms.

Symptoms of Laundry Detergent Allergy in Cats

Should your cat be experiencing an allergy to laundry detergent, you may notice:

  • Patches of missing fur
  • Lesions that are like blisters
  • Chronic ear infection
  • Feet are inflamed frequently
  • Rubbing his face and shaking his head
  • Hives
  • Continuously licking himself
  • Biting his paws
  • Rashes
  • Skin ulceration


There are many different types of laundry detergent, each containing different properties. One can find laundry detergent in liquid and powdered forms; as the different forms are made up of different ingredients, a person or pet who has an allergy to a powdered detergent may not experience one to a liquid form (as well as in reverse). Some detergents will contain an enzyme that occurs naturally in order to remove stains and odors from fabrics and others have a synthetic cleansing element. Your cat can be allergic to the natural enzyme or to the synthetic cleansing element. An allergy may also occur to the dyes and fragrances contained within the detergent.

Causes of Laundry Detergent Allergy in Cats

When an allergy to laundry detergent occurs it is an overly aggressive immune response by your cat’s mast cells to a particular protein in the detergent, whether it is natural or synthetic. When the mast cells release histamine, its inflammatory effect will cause much of the itching and swelling that occurs in an allergic reaction.

Diagnosis of Laundry Detergent Allergy in Cats

If you notice signs of an allergy in your cat, it will be helpful to bring him to the veterinarian for an examination. Your veterinarian will ask you for details regarding the symptoms you have noticed in your cat and when you first noticed them. Upon conducting a physical examination of your cat, you veterinarian will likely take scrapings from his skin that can be examined under a microscope. The skin cells will be looked at more closely for possible issues, like mites or a yeast infection. Should those not be present, they will be ruled out as causes of your cat’s symptoms and lead to your veterinarian considering an allergy.

While an allergy to laundry detergent can be seen in any part of the body, skin allergy reactions are usually seen around the face, groin area, under your cat’s front legs or between the toes. Should your veterinarian think that your cat may be experiencing an allergy, he may recommend conducting a patch test (intradermal skin test) where a microscopic number of particular antigens are injected into the skin in order to induce a localized reaction.

As there are many different chemicals in different laundry detergents, it can be challenging to make a correct diagnosis. Your veterinarian may choose to try and eliminate allergens from your cat’s environment to see if that helps determine what is causing the issue. If laundry detergent is suspected your veterinarian may recommend a change in what you use in order to see if your cat’s symptoms are resolved.

Treatment of Laundry Detergent Allergy in Cats

Should your veterinarian confirm that your cat has an allergy to your laundry detergent, you will want to try a type of detergent that contains different elements that may not cause the same overactive immune response. Antihistamines may or may not be helpful for your cat. Your veterinarian may recommend shampoos or ointments that are made of hydrocortisone that will help with some of the discomfort that your cat is experiencing with his skin.

If neither the antihistamines or topical hydrocortisone are able to minimize the symptoms your cat is experiencing, corticosteroid injections or tablets that can be administered orally may be recommended. Corticosteroids will typically minimize the allergy symptoms, however they can have significant side effects and long-term use can cause more problems, possibly leading to diabetes and liver disease. Should your cat need corticosteroid therapy over an extended period of time, your veterinarian will monitor his blood regularly to be aware of possible developing issues. Should your cat suffer from a severe reaction to multiple types of detergents over an extended period of time, injected immunotherapy may be a consideration.

Recovery of Laundry Detergent Allergy in Cats

You will want to work closely with your veterinarian in treating your cat’s allergy to laundry detergent. Your veterinarian may have recommendations on detergents that are less likely to cause symptoms in your cat that you can try. In the meantime, while you seek a detergent that does not lead to a reaction in your cat, your veterinarian will work with you on treatment options.

Adding baking soda to the final rinse or rinsing a second time may help eliminate excess detergent that may be contributing to your cat’s reaction. Less detergent residue will help keep your cat from having a reaction.

Laundry Detergent Allergy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

15 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Biting herself
little wounds, big wound on head

Our cat has little wounds on her back and one on her head, and this has been increasing the past weeks. She also has some wounds close to her anus, and she is biting herself many times. Since we live in a student house, my housemates thought it might be my laundry detergent and she has been sleeping on my bed a lot, but I suspect there might be a different cause as well. Do many cats have laundry detergent allergy and what are the most likely options?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
If there has been a recent change in laundry detergent or any cleaning products it is possible that Foefje may develop some contact allergy with the new detergent; in these cases, changing back to the old detergent and bathing Foefje regularly usually helps. However, other allergies, infections, internal disease, poisoning, parasites among other cases may also cause similar symptoms; given Foefje age I would recommend visiting your Veterinarian for an examination to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

PS and should we wash her just with water?

Thank you very much for the advice! If we remove her from the sleepingroom where the laundry detergent has been used, so that she does not come into contact, will we notice an improvement immediately if this is the case? What is a normal period for cats to recover from these kind of allergies?

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