Even though kittens are extremely cute, some people find that they are actually allergic to cats. Their immune system overreacts whenever a cat wanders nearby and they find they have to move away in order to prevent a host of miserable symptoms.
If this situation applies to you, then you might feel rather sad. After all, it’s rather difficult to bring a cat into your life, but what if you’ve already brought a cat into your home or moved into a house where a cat already lives? Are you going to be faced with some tough decisions or can a good cat brush and regular grooming do wonders?
Here we address these burning questions but, before we do, rest assured that you are certainly not alone. It is suggested that up to 20% of adults are allergic to cats (opens in a new tab) and, what is more, the number is increasing.
The problem seems to be more acute in people with respiratory allergies. You are also twice as likely to have a cat allergy than a dog allergy.
Symptoms of Cat Allergies
If you are allergic to cats, you may experience one or more symptoms. You won’t necessarily suffer much – symptoms can range from mild to moderate as well as severe – but you may find that they appear quickly whenever a cat is around.
The most common symptoms are:
- To sneeze
- Itchy, runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy roof or mouth or throat
- Red or itchy eyes
- Post-nasal secretions
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Hissing while exhaling
- Sleeping troubles
- Dry and itchy skin
- Skin rashes or hives
If you suffer from any of these symptoms when around cats, it may be worth talking to your doctor to be absolutely sure that moggies are the cause. It is possible to have skin or blood tests to confirm that you are allergic to cats.
What triggers a cat allergy?
Hair is often said to be the cause of a cat allergy and it’s easy to see why people think this is the case. This is because when cats shed their fur, they not only leave it on furniture, carpets and clothing, but they also send it flying. It is a reasonable assumption to believe that you may be breathing through your hair and therefore becoming ill.
But that’s not strictly true, and the hair itself isn’t really the issue. Instead, the problem lies with a protein called Fel d 1 which is produced in a cat’s mouth and skin. When cats lick themselves, they spread this protein and help send it airborne onto bits of dried skin. Since Fed d 1 is smaller and lighter than dust allergens, the molecules can stay suspended in the air for hours, allowing them to be breathed deep into your lungs, which is why the protein can cause breathing problems.
Moreover, the protein is also very sticky. Once in the air it will land on furniture, clothing and your skin and it can also take a few months before it finally breaks down. This means that coming into contact with a cat owner rather than the moggy itself can also be triggering. The protein is often found in public places where there are no cats because owners can transfer it there.
Can you live with cats if you are allergic?
Yes, absolutely, although a lot depends on the severity of your symptoms. If you really have a cat allergy, being around a moggy won’t make you happy, but if your symptoms are mild or moderate, there are a few simple steps you can try to narrow down the cause of the problem.
Using the best pet hair vacuums, for example, will help remove hair that may be coated with the Fed d 1 protein. You can also try different types of cat brushes to groom a cat and ensure that the more allergen-carrying hairs are shed.
You might want to do this outdoors rather than risk spreading the protein inside your home and it might be an idea to wear goggles and gloves if you think you are going to suffer. It’s also a good idea to make sure one or two rooms (including the bedroom) are cat-free.
You should also wash your hands if you touch a cat and make sure rooms are well ventilated. It’s also a good idea to regularly hot wash cat litter and wipe down surfaces in rooms where cats tend to roam. Consider anti-allergen mats and high-efficiency particulate air filters.
Can I develop a tolerance to cat allergies?
To be honest, if you’re dealing with an animal allergy, avoidance is the best cure. But talk to your doctor about immunotherapy, which involves small injections of the allergen every week for about six months, followed by monthly shots for up to five years. You can also get over-the-counter medications for temporary symptom relief.
How to stop being allergic to cats?
Developing a tolerance is one way, and if you take the steps outlined above, there’s a chance you can reduce symptoms. But there really isn’t a magic bullet, unfortunately, and it’s not even as simple as opting for hypoallergenic cat breeds since all cats produce allergens.
The advantage of these breeds is that they produce less allergens than others (they also shed less hair). Female cats also produce a lower level of allergens, so avoiding males may also help relieve your symptoms.