I think I've developed an allergy to my cats - kind of a crisis

My wife and I have had cats for a long time. Also dogs. Never had any allergy problems.

However, in the last week or so, I thought I was coming down with a general allergy from the normal sources, i.e. ragweed, etc. But then when I was at work or outside, I’d be fine. I’d go in the house, and suddenly I would be wheezing, coughing, etc. When I would try to sleep, my wheezing would keep me awake. A couple of days ago I came home from work for lunch, was OK, and our black cat sat next to me on the sofa and the wheezing/coughing started again.

Last night I didn’t sleep at all. The sound of my wheezing would keep me awake. I took a Zyrtec right before I went to sleep, but that clearly didn’t stop it. We’ve washed the sheets and covers, vacuumed the house, have an air cleaner running in the bedroom. I’m going to try to get into the doc to get tested for allergies next week.

Anyone else every have this issue? I don’t know what we’ll do if it really is an allergy to the cats. They’re older cats, we’re not about to drop them off at an animal shelter, don’t know anyone who can take them. But I can’t wheeze forever.

Indoor or outdoor cats? If outdoor, could they have gotten into something outside and brought it in?

I’d be surprised if you suddenly developed an allergy after years of not having one, but some suggestions:

use a damp cloth to wipe the cats down. Cat allergy is usually actually allergy to cat dander, and wiping them down and then washing the cloths can help remove a lot of the dead skin cells.

Scratching the cat also lifts that dander off of them and into the air, so avoid doing that.

Add fish oil to their food. That helps keep the skin healthy and reduces dander. There are several brands easy to find at pet food stores.

I have a very mild cat allergy myself, and I’ve had cats since I was a young lad. I just had to learn to not let them get up in my face, and to not scratch on them or carry them and then touch my eyes or nose. Your reaction sounds worse right now than just itchy eyes and a runny nose, but I also suspect something else is coming in besides cats that you’ve probably acclimated to years ago.


I am hoping it is not the cats, but the data sure seems to be heading that way. I will see how soon I can get in to see a doctor and get an allergy test.

We bought some of those cat wipes to reduce dander etc. The fish oil I’d not heard of, we’ll try that.

I have, in the recent past, had sneezing fits if I entered a room where we’d let too much cat hair build up on the sofa or chair (gross I know, but for example if a cat started sleeping in a chair in a room we rarely use.) But that’s about it. I would have thought after decades I would have built up a resistance to any allergy with the cats. But I slept about zero last night, wheezing all night. Gotta figure this out quickly.

Allergies can develop even late in life, but it is pretty rare. It is ragweed/pollen season right now. I am sneezing my brains out with my seasonal allergies right now. The timing is right that this could be seasonal allergies, being outside/inside doesn’t matter much, as the air in the house comes from outside. (unless you have a really good air filter, stuff gets in).

I would also check for mold in the house as well. That can cause allergies, and can be hard to spot.

Hopefully you could at least keep the cats out of your bedroom/off the bed.

The first house we bought nearly killed me. Turned out the ductwork hadn’t been cleaned since it was put in probably in the '60s or whatever. Dude who came in to clean it showed me…it was horrifying. 3+ inches of dust and shit streaming off of the inside surface of the duct. And my dust reaction is literally off the charts. Good times.

Picking up an unexpected and sudden allergy is not that uncommon. I say this because I’m developing an allergy to some ingredient in food that I haven’t been able to pin down. It shows up when I have a complex meal such as burrito and side salad; thought at first it was Cilantro but it isn’t. Get a scratchy swelling throat and a gurgling stomach, but not that bad or serious yet.

For cat allergies, I would suggest Zyrtec (or rather, the generic version, Cetirizine ). It works very well for me, and effectively eliminates my allergies.

Different folks react differently, so something else may work better for you. But it’s worth trying the off the shelf antihistamines, as they’re cheap, non harmful, and could likely get the job done.

I had an interesting reaction to Zyrtec that I finally puzzled out. I only take it at the height of allergy season, and then sporadically, but we had a particularly bad stretch where I took it for a couple of weeks. When I missed two days in a row my head nearly exploded in a sneezing and runny nose fit for 24 hours, like the worst cold/allergy attack I have ever had. Went back on it, and when I missed a couple of days again the same thing happened.

Eventually I figured out it was the Zyrtec withdrawl. So never again with that crap, I switched to an Allegra knockoff with no issues (so far). No idea how common/uncommon this is other than it has happened to other people, otherwise I might never have figured it out.

Just got back from the doctor; was not able to get into an allergist on such short notice. I had some kind of inflammation/swelling of the bronchial tubes, etc. and he could hear it pretty easily. He said I’ve let it get far enough the Zyrtec/Singulair would be ineffective until I get the swelling down (he really likes the singulair (sp?) in combination with Zyrtec, as they are complimentary in their function.) So a taper-down prescription for prednisone, which he said would take care of the wheezing, etc. immediately.

He also noted that we are at the peak ragweed allergy two weeks of the year. I’ll get in to see the allergist and see if it really is the cats or just everything. But step one is getting rid of the bronchial swelling.

In the meantime, picked up some natures miracle anti-allergen cat wipes, spray, and anti-allergen air and fabric spray. Already vacuumed and washed everything. Hopefully once I get this inflammation down the Zyrtec/Singulair will keep things manageable and this will be a temporary thing.

I’m going to suggest it might be capsicum. A lot of people get more sensitive to it as they get older (myself included, which absolutely sucks, because I live on peppers of all types).

Hmm, thanks for the tip and I might have a little of that actually, I’ve been finding raw green peppers just a bit off the last year or two to the point that I don’t want them. Still like hot peppers though :)

You will need to bathe your cats in the tub. Best to put them all in at the same time and scrub them down good.
Doing this will make your allergies seem mild by comparison.

But seriously, I hope it’s not your cats.
My sister had the reverse happen. When we were kids, she was horribly allergic to cats and dogs. But sometime in her 30’s, she “grew out of it” or something. Now she has no allergies at all. Very strange.

Then be surprised because your statement is bad mis-information

Half of new allergies happen in adults, most often in their early 40s.

Common culprits for adult-onset allergies include animal dander, pollen, dust mites, and mold.

Wanted to add for the OP that you might want to start taking a good OTC allergy medication to combat the symptoms until you can verify your situation with your doctor. You can get good generic versions of Claritin or Zyrtec quite inexpensively at Costco and similar places.

I hate to say it, it’s a hard decision, but your cats are going to have to drive you out somewhere in the woods, and drop you off.

You’re a human, right? You should be able to take care of yourself.

I currently suffer from something similar, and it started about three years ago or so. (I’m currently 44.) I get super congested and some days I struggle to breathe… taking a deep breath is difficult, and I never feel like I am getting enough air into my lungs. And then other days I feel mostly fine.

I started with my GP, who eliminated the usual causes for congestion. She did a chest x-ray (first one I’ve ever had, I think) and declared that I had a set of the healthiest lungs she’d ever seen. After doing everything she could think of to do, she sent me to an allergist.

The allergist did a full allergy panel, testing for all the most common allergens, and every single one came out negative. He then ran a second test, not generally covered under the usual tests… an Avian allergy panel. I was terrified that I had suddenly become allergic to my parrots. (As noted above, I was very aware that it is possible to develop allergies late in life.) Thankfully, that one came back negative as well.

He’s determined that I am not actually allergic to anything (unless there’s something extremely unusual in my environment that isn’t part of the common allergens test) and is currently treating me for Non-Allergic Rhinitus… essentially chronic Post Nasal Drip. Interestingly, after a conversation with my dad about the subject, he informed me that he’s pretty much dealt with something like that his entire life. I have always been vaguely aware of my dad’s chronic throat clearing–which drives my mother nuts, hehe-- but hadn’t really made the connection since I grew up with it. So it’s possible I’ve inherited this from my dad… thanks Dad. (Though he doesn’t have the breathing problems I get.)

I still don’t know what the trigger is (because surely there’s a reason I suddenly feel terrible). Some days I feel great, other days I’m exhausted because I spend the entire day trying to breathe. Sometimes I can go weeks feeling pretty good, and then suddenly I feel awful for several days in a row. The allergist prescribed a few nasal sprays to help with symptoms… the OTC versions being Flonase and Afrin. I also find Zyrtec helps on the days it’s super bad. I don’t take them every day, only when they symptoms start to get worse.

So it’s entirely possible you’re not actually allergic to anything… but it took me quite a while and a bunch of doctor visits to eliminate all the possibilities.

Well, day 3 on the steroid to get the swelling in my breathing tubes down, a 24 hour Zyrtec and Singulair, and I have the VERY slightest wheeze if I’m in a certain position laying down. Much better, actually sleeping now. Just some slight congestion that I barely notice, a slight cough now and then and it is getting better.

I do wonder on my diagnosis of the cat allergy simply because I got in my car (my cats are never in my car) after work the other day and started coughing the way I would at work. That and our pollen and ragweed levels are at their very peak.

The other piece of data: this had just started, and we went on a long trip. Stopped at a Hampton Inn, where we stay often. Laid down on the plushest pillow (they typically have 4 pillows on the bed, of a couple of types) and before long I had major wheezing and coughing. Now, when I was a child I had an allergy to feather, and any feather pillow would give me huge bouts of wheezing and athsma like symptoms. But I haven’t had that problem for probably 30 years and I sleep in Hampton Inns all the time. It is almost as if I had developed an allergy sensitivity.

We’ll see what happens when this gets under control from the current meds and then I stop the steroid, which will be pretty soon (it is a taper script, 2 per day for 2 days, 1.5 per day, 1 per day, etc.) I’ve also got an antiallergen spray for the fabrics in the house and wipes and sprays for the cats. I think I’ll get an appointment with the allergist, though I’m not entirely sure what that will tell me. I know that if the cats are shedding badly and we haven’t brushed them recently when one of them gets on me I’ll start sneezing, but as soon as I get away the sneezing stops and there is no residual effect.

Another option that recently became over the counter is Flonase (Fluticasone), which is a steroid spray for your nose. It works very well and doesn’t have the systemic effects of oral steroids, but it can reduce your sense of smell somewhat. It also takes about two weeks to really be effective, so you use it for seasons when you know allergies are coming, rather than on days when you are having allergy symptoms.