Much like humans, Maine Coons can develop food allergies or general intolerance to certain foods, even commonly used cat foods. Oftentimes the reaction is only caused by one ingredient, typically a type of protein.
Food allergies are the third most common type of allergy in cats, with the first two being flea bites and inhaled substances.
Can Allergies be Treated or Prevented?
Allergies almost always last a lifetime, so to treat an allergy in your Maine Coon you must remove the ingredient that is causing it. There are rare cases, however, where an allergy can go away over time or appear suddenly with no discernible cause.
Common Food Allergies in Maine Coons
Food allergies in cats are usually caused by a protein, but can sometimes be caused by a carbohydrate or chemical additive. Some of the most common allergens are:
Common Non-Allergenic Foods for Cats
When it’s time to adjust your Maine Coon’s diet to get rid of the allergic reaction, there are a few types of diets that generally fare well with the breed that might be good to try.
Since protein is a very common source of food allergies, a hydrolyzed protein diet is generally a good way to go. In this diet, you provide foods where the protein has been broken down into such small pieces that they’re almost unrecognizable by the cat’s digestive system.
Another way to go is to just try a completely different diet altogether (referred to as a novel protein diet). This method requires scrapping your Maine Coon’s current diet completely and replacing it with either an entirely new brand of food or type of food. For example, if your Maine Coon mainly ate chicken and beef, you can try an entirely fish and duck diet.
Finally, you can try a home cooked or even raw food diet. The advantage of these diets is that they remove a lot of the mystery ingredients found in commercial cat foods, including fillers, chemical stabilizers and ultra-processed ingredients.
Symptoms of Food Allergies
It’s important to know what symptoms can be caused by food allergies so you can make the right decision about when it’s time to take your Maine Coon to the vet or at least try out different foods.
Itchy, irritated skin is perhaps the most common symptom of food allergies in cats, followed by vomiting and diarrhea.
Some others to also be aware of:
- Excessive itching or hair loss
- Red, inflamed skin
- Ear problems
- Coughing, wheezing or sneezing
Itching caused by food allergies usually occurs near the head and neck, but not always.
Keep in mind that some of these symptoms might also be symptoms of other health issues, so it’s important to consult your vet if any of these are present in your Maine Coon.
Finding Which Food is Causing the Allergic Reaction
Allergic reactions can be painful and have long term consequences for your Maine Coon so it’s important to locate and remove the problem ingredient from your Maine Coon’s diet as soon as possible.
Dietary elimination trials are the best method of figuring out which ingredient may be causing the allergy because they’re accurate and can pinpoint exactly which one is causing the issue. To effectively conduct a dietary elimination trial, you must remove only one type of food from your Maine Coon’s diet at a time for a set period. This might mean eliminating a certain dry food brand or a flavor of wet food.
The set time that you eliminate the food for depends on the frequency that you typically would feed your Maine Coon that food. If it’s a wet food flavor that you only serve about once per week, then you might need to try a few weeks without it to know for sure if it’s the cause of the allergies. If it’s a dry food that you serve every day, then you might only need to eliminate it for a few days and see if the symptoms subside.
Food Allergies Vs. Food Intolerances
The difference between a food allergy and food tolerance is that a food allergy involves an immune system response while a food intolerance does not. Generally food allergies can be more serious than food intolerances, and can even be life-threatening.