First Two Hours: My Cat is Having an Allergic Reaction

What to do if you suspect your feline friend is having an allergic reaction.

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Mar 19, 2024

Cats can develop allergies to various substances, ranging from pollen to household cleaners. Just like humans, they can experience allergic reactions, which can vary from mild to severe. It's crucial not to underestimate the seriousness of an allergic reaction in your pet.

So, what should you do if you suspect your cat is having an allergic reaction? The first few hours, and in some cases minutes, are crucial.

Within the first 30 minutes: Watch for Anaphylaxis

It's important to note that severe allergic reactions usually occur shortly after exposure to the allergen. These reactions typically affect the whole body after the allergen enters the bloodstream, often occurring after ingestion or contact with a particular substance.

If your cat displays any of the following signs, they may be experiencing an allergic reaction:

- Sneezing or coughing
- Itchy and/or watery eyes
- Swollen paws
- Vomiting or diarrhea

While these symptoms may not necessarily indicate an immediate need for medical attention, they should be closely monitored. However, if your cat exhibits any of the following symptoms, they could be suffering from a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis:

- Difficulty breathing
- Uncontrollable vomiting, bowel movements, and/or urination
- Collapse
- Lethargy (deep unresponsiveness)
- Seizure

If you suspect your cat is experiencing systemic anaphylaxis, take them to the nearest emergency veterinarian without delay. Time is critical, as a vet may be able to administer drugs like epinephrine or steroids to reverse the reaction and save their life.

30 minutes to 1 hour in: Call Your Vet

If you believe your cat's life is not in immediate danger, continue monitoring their symptoms for signs of deterioration and call your vet. They will assist you in determining whether your cat needs professional attention or can be observed closely as the reaction resolves.

Your vet may ask you to recall any potential exposures your cat may have had. Consider whether they ingested something new, encountered an insect outdoors, came into contact with a chemical, or began a new medication. Sometimes, cats develop allergies to substances they previously tolerated, and these allergies can become more severe over time with repeated exposure.

1 hour to 2 hours in: Observe Signs of Improvement

Most allergic reactions will begin to subside after a few hours. If your cat's condition doesn't improve or worsens, contact your vet again to discuss further steps.

Avoid administering any "human" medications to your cat without consulting your P&A veterinarian, as many can be harmful to pets. Instead, focus on creating a comfortable environment for your cat and ensuring they have access to plenty of water.

If your cat experiences frequent episodes of allergy symptoms that come and go, particularly if they affect the skin, such as swollen paws or a rash, they may be allergic to something in their environment. Consider changing environmental factors such as bedding, carpeting, or fabric softeners to alleviate the symptoms.