Are Springtime Allergies and Asthma the Reason for Your Cat’s Lethargy?
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on April 4, 2018
Posted in Cat Allergies
Cats are languid creatures by nature. For 12-16 hours each day, you’re liable to find yours basking in the sunlight, cozied up in a bed or snuggled warmly in a pile of blankets. Of course, when they’re awake, they’re prone to mischief! Most cat owners take just a little bit of comfort when they see their cat sleeping peacefully, because they’re not getting into anything they shouldn’t be!
But what happens when your cat starts to sleep for 16-20 hours a day, well above the norm? What does it mean when their wild side is replaced by sluggishness or general malaise? You might think nothing of it at first, but over time, it’s easy to become concerned—especially if your cat is normally friendly and energetic when it’s awake.
Despite a perception of lazy indifference, cats are alert, attentive and perceptive when they’re awake. If yours isn’t, it could be the first sign they’re dealing with a health issue. And, with springtime upon us, there’s a good chance a sudden decline in your feline is due to allergies.
Asthma and lethargy go hand in hand
Allergies can affect your cat in a variety of ways. One of the most common reactions to allergies cats have is also one that humans can relate to: trouble breathing. If you’re familiar with asthma induced by atopic allergies or respiratory infections caused by atopic triggers, you’ll be able to recognize these same signs in your cat:
- Trouble breathing
- Constant yawning
- Sedentary lifestyle change
- Constant coughing or hacking
- Prone to sleeping more
Basically, your cat will avoid any strenuous activity because it’ll be harder for them to breathe. This is why your once-energetic kitty might be spending more time sleeping or sitting idle.
The inability to breathe normally can also take a major toll on the energy your cat has. Even after sleeping for hours and hours, a cat with asthma can wake up feeling groggy and foggy. Because they’re unable to get a full level of oxygen that feeling will persist. This is often evident in cats who sit and stare seemingly at nothing, with their eyes half open. Your kitty isn’t tired—it’s lethargic.
The role of allergies and how to address them
Stimulating your cat with treats or toys may perk them up a little, but you’ll soon see that their playfulness is short-lived. Cats suffering from atopic asthma and lethargy will quickly become tired and may even experience a fit of coughing or wheezing before going back to resting. To restore their energy, you’ll first need to get to the bottom of their allergies.
Atopic allergies are triggered by the usual suspects: pollen, mold, fungus, hay, ragweed and other organic materials. In the spring and summer, mitigating these can be hard if your windows are open. There are, however, a few things you can do to pluck allergens out of the air being circulated in your home:
- Change the filter in your HVAC system to a high-efficiency, small particle filter.
- Add a dehumidifier to your home to reduce the moisture content in the air.
- Use an air filter or purifier in areas of the home your cat frequents.
- Vacuum and dust frequently, to prevent histamine buildups in the home.
The more you work to eliminate atopic triggers, the better chance you have of mitigating your cat’s asthma. If you have an outdoor cat, keeping them indoors during periods of heavy airborne allergies is also a smart idea.
In some rare cases, allergic reactions can cause severe inflammation in your cat’s airway. This may warrant special attention from a vet—usually an antihistamine or anti-inflammatory shot administered to address dangerous levels of swelling in the airway. For long-term relief, an immunosuppressant may be prescribed.
Help your cat breathe better
If you’re someone who experiences respiratory allergies during the spring and summer months, be aware that your cat might also be suffering. And while it’s easy for you to pop a prescribed antihistamine or decongestant, it’s not so easy for your cat to find relief. Don’t worry though, with some general care, your cat can breathe easier too. Just make sure your home’s air is clean and you’re doing your best to keep allergens out.
Keep a close eye on your cat’s asthma throughout the season and keep an open line of communication with your vet. If it gets worse or you’re unable to provide the comfort level your cat needs, seek help from your vet. Feline asthma can’t be cured, but it can be successfully managed. And, when managed effectively, your lethargic cat will be replaced by the little troublemaker you’ve been missing!
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan