It’s rare, but may explain those GI symptoms you’ve been suffering after eating a hearty breakfast featuring bacon.
As the name suggests, pork-cat syndrome occurs when an individual becomes allergic to pork products following sensitivity to cats and most often occurs in people who keep or have kept cats as pets.
When one is sensitized to cats, allergic symptoms may be triggered by airborne cat dander causing symptoms of allergic rhinitis, including itchy, red, watery eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, post-nasal drip, itchy throat and sinus pressure/headaches. Exposure to cats by sensitized individuals may also trigger or aggravate asthma leading to coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and/or shortness of breath.
Treatment for “classic” cat allergies includes exposure avoidance, medications to alleviate symptoms, and allergy immunotherapy.
Individuals allergic to cats are more likely to develop food allergies, especially to meat, and the most common meat they develop allergies to is pork, a condition identified as pork-cat syndrome.
Symptoms of the syndrome generally occur within an hour of ingesting pork and may include pruritis (generalized itching), urticaria (hives), abdominal cramping, nausea, and diarrhea. In rare instances, the reaction can progress to life-threatening anaphylaxis, including throat swelling, difficulty breathing, and a precipitous drop in blood pressure.
The only current option for those with pork-cat syndrome is avoidance of pork.
Cat-sensitized individuals are generally allergic to cat dander, skin cells that are usually shed by animals with fur or feathers. Those who go on to develop pork-cat syndrome are also sensitized to albumin, a protein synthesized by the liver in cats and many other animals including humans.
Albumins from different animals often share several common amino acids, so developing an allergy to one can cause sensitivity to another, known as cross-reactivity. Cross-reactivity between cat albumin and that found in pork causes pork-cat syndrome.
The syndrome should not be confused with alpha-gal syndrome, which is caused by a tick bite and results in allergies to mammalian (red) meat.
If you believe you may be suffering from pork-cat syndrome, seek the advice of an allergist, preferably one with prior knowledge of the syndrome.
You may be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector to be used in case of anaphylaxis. Always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors everywhere, every time. Be sure to administer one when you first suspect anaphylaxis and call emergency services.