Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Ask A Vet > Can Cats Be Allergic to Pollen? (Vet Answer)

Can Cats Be Allergic to Pollen? (Vet Answer)

cat smelling cherry blossom flowers

Vet approved

Dr. Kelly DeBaene Photo

Written by

Dr. Kelly DeBaene

Veterinarian, DVM MPH

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Do you or someone you know suffer from a runny nose and watery eyes from environmental allergies? Many people’s bodies react in such ways when exposed to foreign substances in the environment, like pollen and grasses. But it isn’t just people suffering from these reactions. Cats can also experience environmental allergies (also known as atopy) when their bodies hyper-react to foreign substances like pollen.

When a cat has an environmental allergy, its immune system tries to fight off and eliminate the allergen. While cats with atopy can experience ‘cold-like’ signs (e.g., sneezing, coughing, and wheezing) as many humans do, oftentimes, feline atopy manifests as itchy, inflamed skin. In rare instances, some cats with atopy also experience gastrointestinal upset like vomiting and diarrhea.


What Are the Signs A Cat Has a Pollen Allergy?

While some cats do experience respiratory ‘cold-like’ symptoms or stomach upset when they have a pollen allergy, most allergic cats experience signs related to their skin. Most commonly, cats with a pollen allergy can have the following signs:

  • Scratching their skin
  • Excessive licking/grooming of their fur
  • Licking and chewing their toes/paws
  • Shaking their head and scratching their ears
  • Debris and inflammation in their ears (i.e., ear infection)
  • Crusts, scabs, and sores on their skin
  • Hair loss
tabby cat licking its paw
Image By: WiP-Studio, Shutterstock

How Is a Pollen Allergy Diagnosed in a Cat?

If you have noticed your cat becoming increasingly itchy, especially if you are noticing skin lesions or ear problems, it is best to have your cat evaluated by your veterinarian. It is very helpful to be prepared to share a thorough history of your cat’s diet, lifestyle, flea prevention, and environment (e.g., time spent outdoors, bedding, etc.).

It can also be helpful to keep a diary to understand if there is a pattern to your cat’s itchiness and skin lesions. Does your cat seem to only experience itchy skin during the warmer months in spring and summer, or is it a constant year-round experience for your cat? This information is very helpful for your veterinarian as they will consider several conditions that can cause such problems in cats. For example, other allergic conditions such as food, contact, and flea bite allergies can have similar signs as atopy.

When a veterinarian sees an itchy pet, often, the veterinarian will recommend flea control to eliminate the possibility of flea bites causing the reaction. You don’t want to overlook flea bite allergy as a possible cause of the itchy skin, as diagnosing and managing the cause of chronically itchy skin can be a long and frustrating experience.

In addition to flea control, your veterinarian might also recommend a strict food trial for several weeks to months to eliminate any food allergens before exploring potential environmental allergies.

Sometimes a cat owner may be referred to a veterinary dermatologist at this stage, as these specialists are uniquely trained to diagnose and manage these conditions. Other diagnostic tests like intradermal skin testing or serum allergy testing can be performed to help diagnose an environmental allergy, such as a pollen allergy. These tests can help reveal allergies and support the development of a long-term treatment plan for your cat.

vet checking up the cat
Image By: YULIYA Shustik, Shutterstock

How Is a Pollen Allergy Treated in a Cat?

Unfortunately, there is no single cure for allergies. Instead, allergic conditions are managed using a variety of treatment options. Every situation is different, so the ideal treatment for one cat and its owner might not be the same for another cat with a similar pollen allergy.

Cats with chronic atopy can be treated with several medications, including low-dose immunosuppressive medications such as steroids (i.e., prednisolone) or cyclosporine (Atopica). Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids can be helpful supplements for cats with allergic skin issues. Antihistamines are sometimes used in cats, but there is little evidence of their efficacy.

Atopic cats can also receive specific immunotherapy in the form of “allergy shots” or oral drops. A cat’s immunotherapy is determined based on its specific test results (intradermal skin testing or serum allergy testing). This type of therapy can take a while to take effect (from 3–12 months) and has been shown to be effective in about 60% of cats with atopy.

Veterinarian at vet clinic giving injection to cat
Image By: Tom Wang, Shutterstock

How Can I Prevent Pollen Exposure to My Cat?

In some instances, you can reduce your cat’s exposure to certain environmental allergens like house dust mites through special house cleaning methods. However, some allergens, like pollen and grasses, are much more common in the environment and are difficult to prevent exposure to.

While a cat’s pollen allergy cannot be cured, there are several treatment options that can help support your cat and this chronic condition. Reach out to your vet to learn more about those options.

Featured Image Credit: Andréas BRUN, Unsplash

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets