Allergies in Ragdolls: Ragdoll Cat Leo’s Cat Allergies

When our male Ragdoll Leo reached his first birthday, we celebrated his fantastic long coat, large ears, and long fluffy tail. We posted videos of him enjoying a Yeooowww! catnip banana on the Floppycats Facebook page.

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Leo on his first birthday

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But underneath the banana-swatting antics there was something wrong. We were noticing that he was starting to scratch his ears and around his eyes. Within a few days he had scratched so much that the skin under his sparse fur inside his ear cups was scratched and raw.

Dirty Earwax

The insides of his ears were turning black with what looked like dirty earwax. He would shake his head from side to side even in the middle of sleeping. His eyes began to weep a runny brownish fluid and he spent excessive time grooming his face with the sides of his paw. In addition his sclera (whites of his eyes) began to turn a frightening pinkish color.

It was time to take Leo to the vet. At the vets Dr. Bob (our vet) gave Leo a thorough examination including swabbing inside his ears and administering a stain agent in his eyes to check for Herpes virus. After a few tests Dr. Bob came back and informed us that Leo had conjunctivitis in both eyes and Otitus – a common bacterial infection of the outer ears in cats. He had the vet tech clean the dirt and wax out from inside his ear cups and showed us how to grab Leo by the scruff of his neck, pull the skin back, and stretch his face so we could administer eye drops to treat the conjuntivitus. He also gave us Otibiotic ointment to apply inside his ears.

After a few days of treatment, Leo began to feel and look better. We breathed a sigh of relief, assuming that the issue was resolved. But a week later the symptoms seem to return. He was still itchy, and his right eye continued to weep – especially after eating. We kept applying the eye drops, but eventually his right eye got so bad that it developed a crusty layer of kitty tears around the whole eye. Poor guy !

We took Leo back to vet for a second examination.

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Leo in the catio – its hard to see, but his eyes are runny and his ears are greasy from Otibiotic ointment

Dr. Bob performed another eye test, but could not see any other problems other than conjunctivitus. He cleaned up Leo’s face and administered eye drops. He started to suspect that Leo might be allergic to something. He thought it was unusual in a cat so young, but thought it was possible. He asked us what feed our cats and if they ever go outdoors. We explained what we feeding at time, and no our cats do not go outdoors – but they do spend lots of time on kitty perches on window ledges. Dr Bob wanted us to try a hypo-allergenic food with Leo for a three month period to eliminate any possibilities of a food allergy. We expressed our doubts that Leo would eat it (he’s a very fussy eater) but we promised to try and took him home with a few sample cans of Royal Canine hypo-allergenic food.

At Leos next feeding, we opened the can of Royal Canine and let him give the lid the sniff test – nope ! Leo was having none of it.


Now what ? We were not sure what to do next, so we went to the pet store and bought a variety of different foods featuring various flavors. Some of them he ate, some got the patented Leo “huff-and-walk-away”.

We began to notice that Leo’s eye would weep more if he ate something with duck meat as an ingredient.

Hmmm – OK – scratch duck off the shopping list.

Along with switching foods like an impatient teenager, my wife began to notice that Leo’s symptoms seem to worsen after sleeping with us on our bed. I mean this was a fast reaction – within 8 hours of sleeping on our bedcovers we saw a difference.

Could Leo be allergic to the detergent we use on our clothes?

We went to store and bought non-scented, no dye detergent. We pulled off all the bedsheets and washed them in the scent-free and dye-free laundry detergent and put them back on bed.


After sleeping on bed with us Leos symptoms did not worsen – instead they continued to improve.

Armed with this new discovery, my wife Tammy got busy re-washing all our clothes in the new scent free detergent. After several wash loads and giving away all our canned food with duck to the women I work with who rescues strays our home was now “Leo safe”.

We kept up the eye drops and the antibiotic treatments and Leo continued to improve.

After a few weeks his face and ears returned to their normal impossibly cute and fluffy selves, and now we keep a hawks eye on him to keep him that way.

Since that time we must be vigilant about exposing him to anything scented – he will weep and itch within eight hours of exposure to any scented detergent which seems quite severe. Interestingly he is not affected by scented candles, air fresheners, or perfume.

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Leo back to his normal devastatingly handsome self

Leo back to his normal devastatingly handsome self.

Discover how Leo’s allergies led to Entropion in Cats.

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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  1. My beautiful raggy Kiki, who is literally the female version of Leo, is dealing with the same thing with the EXACT same symptoms!!! And have been for so long!!! She’s eating Purina One now and I think she is reacting to it so we are currently phasing it out with hypo allergenic food from a specialist.

    If you have any additional tips, please send them my way. My kitty has been on and off in a cone for so long it breaks my heart.

  2. Laurie Hubik says:

    Thank you for sharing Leo’s story! I had the same issue when my Puff turned one year old, and we brought a live Christmas tree into the house. Should have known better, as she had previously gotten runny eyes from any flowers brought inside. The issue then seemed to travel from her eyes to her ears. She reacted to the ointment based eye medicine, so I switched to a “cats only” vet and their drops worked quickly and were only once a day instead of twice a day. Ear meds were done next, but we’re still dealing with some shaking of the head, so I am going to try different foods, after reading Charlie’s story!

  3. Nancy Dungan says:

    What a beautiful boy! Thank you for sharing Leo’s story and good work on figuring out what was causing his allergies! So glad he is feeling better.❤️

  4. Clair Squires says:

    I’m glad Leo is better and you’ve found the cause of his allergy.

    Strangely enough one of our raggies, Charlie, was around the age of 1 when she started to suffer with gluten/soya allergies.

    Literally one day (it was that sudden) they both refused their royal canin food they’d been brought up on and we went on the “parent struggle” to find a dry and wet food both our raggies would eat.

    We found a dry food but not a wet (And raw was refused completely) so happily we let them just eat the dry food.
    For about 3 months they both happily ate the dry food and then Charlie started vomiting her food.
    We thought she might have hairballs but even with paste nothing significant happened.
    She’s a bit of a piggy and was gobbling her food so we restricted it in case she was eating too fast, we also monitored water intake knowing water and dry food can bloat a cat.
    Nothing worked so we knew it had to be the food.

    Purina had altered the ingredients in their well known “One” range of food and Charlie was allergic to the new addition of wheat grain and gluten (and possibly soya).

    From that day on we have grain, soya and wheat/gluten free dry food and wet foods that are made up of meat and natural juices only, their treats are the dried fish or chicken, with occasional hairball supplements.
    Both kitties are so much happier on this diet and no vomit in sight!

    The time with a poorly Charlie really opened my eyes to how much trash is put in animal food, either to help flavour, preserve or bulk it up.

    1. Laurie Hubik says:

      Clair, I am having similar issues with my Puff, who has been eating a low grain food, but recently had access to Purina One due to a new cat. Phasing that out as soon as I safely can, and would love to know what food you had success with!

      1. Clair Squires says:

        Hey Laurie,
        Wow it’s been a while I hope you and your floppycat family are well.

        There are a few good grain free dry foods out there (so many more than when Charlie was ill 6 years ago) and they come with varying success in our house!

        Applaws, Animonda, Feringa, Harrington’s, Iams for Vitality, James Wellbeloved, Purizon, Taste of the Wild or Wild Freedom.

        Out of all these (we’ve tried all of them) Iams, Harrington’s, and a Wild Freedom are the dry foods mine will eat without too much “huff and walk away!”

        I try to stick to fish and turkey and avoid fancy flavours, my two are stubborn and if suddenly I can’t get what they are used to I’d have a fluffy standoff on my hands!

        I also forgot to mention that I also use non bio detergents and sensitive skin products in my washing. I suffer with sensitive skin but so do my cats!

        Let me know how you and puff get on! X

      2. Laurie Hubik says:

        Thank you, Clair, for your time/knowledge! Turns out I don’t have access to these brands in the US, so am doing my research to find products that fit within the guidelines you have had success with.

  5. Joel Schmid says:

    Its great to see our Leo bud on Floppycats helping inform other Ragdoll owners about health issues !
    Thanks for posting this Jenny !

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