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Our cat has an allergy. A mysterious allergy. At least, it was a mystery until today.

Several months ago, we noticed that Phineas was scratching and licking himself too much—a frantic, worried sort of licking that reminded me of how itchy I get in dry weather. I know. I shouldn’t anthropomorphize. But my gut feeling was that Phineas was allergic to something environmental.


In order to find out what’s going on with cat allergies, there are steps you have to take, logical steps that rule out the more common and easier-fought causes.

The most likely culprit in cat-allergy cases is the infamous and resilient flea. Just one bite can send some cats into allergic hell, yet it’s a relatively easy thing to treat. So, even knowing that we hadn’t seen hide nor speck of any bloodsucking insects, we pursued two months of flea medication just to be sure.

Once fleas are ruled out, food becomes the next target. Anyone with pets can tell you how many “limited diet” brands have invaded the large pet-store chains, which tells you how many cats and dogs apparently have food allergies. The number one ingredient that’s troublesome for cats, surprisingly, is chicken. And good luck to you in finding anything that doesn’t have a little chicken in it.

We finally settled on a duck-and-pea recipe, which eliminates the aforementioned bird, as well as grains such as corn and wheat that can also be problematic for puss.

The trouble with changing the cat’s diet is that results take up to two months. And thus began another long wait-and-see period, which, as you can probably surmise, also became a dead end. On the upside, both cats like their new food a lot, and it’s probably healthier that what they were eating before. The lower fiber content has made them both a little fatter, but they’re happy and not obese.

At this point in our tale, a couple of things were going on. First, Phineas had gotten worse. Second, I’d started to speculate, which is a hereditary trait that goes hand-in-hand with being a worrywart. After months of observation, my developing theory was that the offending substance was something on the ground because Phineas’s itchiest points were his paws and belly, which, in its low-slung and newly bare, pink state reminded me of a pot-bellied big.

Phineas and His Belly

So what’s on our apartment floor other than rugs (wool), dust (various), and a lot of cat-fur tumbleweeds? In the interest of cutting back on the first two variables, we rolled up the rugs and stashed them away.

We asked our vet about potential allergy testing, but the problem with the test, apparently, is that it often comes back with vague results, so it isn’t always helpful. It also costs a few hundred dollars, so it isn’t the first line of detection. But at this point, we’d eliminated the obvious suspects, and his situation was worsening over time. We put him on a low dose of steroids to break the itching-licking cycle and paid to have the blood work done. Maybe, just maybe, it’d tell us something—or at least eliminate some options.

At one point, it occurred to us that Phineas’s symptoms had developed not long after we got a second cat. Was it possible that he could be allergic to Lucy? That would be truly terrible, indeed, as the two of them are snuggle buddies.

Snuggle Buddies

I sheepishly asked the vet about such a possibility, and, interestingly, she said that it’s hard to prove a cat-to-cat allergy, but there’s anecdotal evidence that supports the possibility. However, in cases where that has seemed possible, the symptoms don’t match what Phineas is suffering. So we were fairly confident that Lucy wasn’t the culprit, but the test confirming her innocence would also be a relief.

Our biggest worry while waiting for the test was that it wouldn’t be conclusive. Sometimes it merely indicates “dust,” which becomes an impossible target.

Well, two weeks later, we have an answer. …


Phineas is allergic to people.


From → Cats, Weird Things

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