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We suspected a food allergy in one of my cats. The course my vet recommended for this was to switch him to a special diet (containing no previously-eaten proteins) for a few months and then, if that made it better, re-introduce old proteins one at a time to see which he reacts to -- possibly with iterations.

My cat's allergy turned out not to be to food, but this got me wondering: many foods, both canned and dry, use a combination of ingredients, so he'd been exposed to all the biggies (chicken, turkey, beef, tuna, other seafood, etc) and possibly even to some of the less-common ones (lamb, duck, a stray mouse...). If I were trying to isolate a food allergy, I'd have to pick one of those at a time to try.

Can we improve on random choice? Is there any research on what are the most common food allergies in cats?

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When I had a cat with severe (anaphylaxtic shock severe) allergies, we were able to have the vet do a blood test which gave us a list of foods that we had to avoid. It was definitely easier than randomly guessing which food to try next.

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Web-MD for Pets has this list of common cat allergies:

The most common food allergens are chicken, fish, corn, wheat, and soy; cats may also develop a food allergy to beef, pork, dairy products, or eggs.

If you think your cat has a food allergy, I'd suspect some additive in the food if you're feeding a commercial diet before I'd suspect the meat itself (beef, chicken, etc.). Cats need meat, not grain. They're obligate carnivores and food manufacturers add a lot of extras to their formulas.

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    Cats are carnivores and need meat, but it sounds like some cats can be allergic to some meats (but not all of them or that would be a problem, of course). – Monica Cellio Oct 10 '13 at 19:31
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    I suppose you're right. I admit I'm biased against commercial diets so I tend to suspect the additives before I would the actual meat. – Cuthbert Oct 10 '13 at 19:33
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    I don't know that it's not the additives -- just that my vet and the article you linked both suggested actual meat allergies could be in play. – Monica Cellio Oct 10 '13 at 19:36
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My cat is an allergy nightmare, so let me give you my two-cents. Get a blood test done.

It's going to cost more money, but it will be loads better for your cat. Dietary guesswork is difficult, because of multiple factors. It takes a lot of time to try them one by one, and even then you can't be completely sure if it's an additive or the meat or really what is causing the allergy.

My vet was positive my cat was allergic to chicken, but it turns out he's also allergic to beef, turkey, eggs, milk, corn, and dust mites as well. (Among other things, I digress) We didn't know that at first, and it took months on a new beef diet to catch it. I ended up getting the blood work done and it helped out a lot. Allergies manifest in all kinds of different ways, and getting the tests to show you what to avoid can save a lot of trouble for you and your pet.

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