Will changing my cat’s diet cause a food allergy?

While changing the food won’t cause an actual food allergy (unless there’s an ingredient in it to which she’s allergic), but it most definitely can cause food intolerance. Any cat can develop a food allergy at any time. Even if your cat has eaten a particular item for a while with no problem, she can still later develop an allergy to it.

Changing your cat’s food should be done gradually over a two-week period, mixing the new with the old, because any abrupt changes will cause vomiting, diarrhea and cramps.

It’s important that you know the difference between an allergy and food intolerance. Both create uncomfortable symptoms, but they are actually different.

An allergy is an extreme over-reaction of immune system, which is overly sensitive to certain everyday substances and begins to identify them as dangerous. Even though these substances-or allergens-are usually common in most environments and harmless to most animals, a cat with allergies will try to rid itself of these substances—by releasing histamines—which is what creates the itchy skin and ears.

Food intolerance, however, creates no immune system response to the offending food. The problem occurs in the digestive system and the inability to digest food causes uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms. In contrast to a food allergy, a person with food intolerance can typically eat small amounts of the identified food without experiencing symptoms.

It’s important to know that food intolerance can also occur as a result of a recent food change, and it usually is an immediate reaction. Food intolerances are caused by either a lack of digestion of an item or a lack of absorption. They appear immediately, whereas a food allergy (or hypersensitivity) develops as a result of a longer term exposure to a food, where an immune response has occurred.

If you have any concerns, discuss them thoroughly with your veterinarian or pet nutrition expert.

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