Allergic to Cats? Possible Ways to Reduce Problems and Still Own a Cat
While an estimated 10 percent of people are allergic to household pets, cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Symptoms of cat allergies are: itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, rash, hives, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, asthma and other breathing problems.
But, did you know it’s NOT the cat hair that causes the allergic reactions? Instead, it’s the dander. What is dander, you ask? It’s the cat’s dried skin that naturally flakes off and floats around. This dander, which is a type of protein (called Fel d 1), is found on cat skin, moves through the cat’s fur and goes everywhere. It’s so small you really can’t see it… like one-tenth the size of a dust allergen! Cat dander can even stay airborne for hours and easily enters our bodies when we breathe.
Unneutered male cats tend to produce more of this protein than females. And all cats produce this protein in their skin, some cats just more so than others. According to petMD, Siberian and Balinese breeds top the hypoallergenic cat breed list, since they produce lower levels of Fel d 1, followed by breeds like the Sphynx and shorthairs that create less dander and fur to transmit Fel d 1.
And, according to WebMD, the allergies are not just coming from the dander, but that problematic protein is also found in your cat’s saliva and urine!
A good number of people who are allergic to cats still can’t stop themselves from keeping one as a pet. Those people have usually found helpful solutions to combat the irritating symptoms of cat allergies… otherwise, they’d likely be living a miserable life and end up hating their cat and eventually getting rid of it.
If you are allergic to cats, and you still want to have one, eliminating ALL your allergy symptoms may be impossible. BUT, here are several effective strategies to reduce your allergy issues:
1) Make your bedroom into a cat-free area. Keep kitty out of there – which means close the door – and no letting them sneak in there. Ever. At least this will be ONE room in the entire house where the cat cannot casually stroll through. No cat access – no (or much less) dander being deposited on everything and less of it floating in the air. First, if the cat HAS had access to the bedroom, you’ll need to reduce the current allergens in there: washing everything that can be washed, or even replacing some things. Allergen-proof covers are available to buy, too.
2) If you have one of those cool outdoor cat enclosures, use it. Let your cat spend time outside, in the safety of the enclosure, and allow some of that dander to float away.
3) Brush your cat outdoors in nice weather. Some of the hair which holds dander will stay outside instead of flying around from indoor brushing.
4) Buy HEPA filters for your house’s furnace/air conditioner system. Vacuum cleaners even offer HEPA filters. These things help draw the allergens out of the air, giving you cleaner, healthier air to breathe, and less dander sucking into your lungs.
5) This next idea is more extreme and costly, but if you’re able to get rid of all the carpet in your house, that helps. Wood flooring (whatever type) doesn’t trap allergens like carpet and rugs. Any place you DO have carpeting, steam clean it as often as needed. FYI: Carpeting can accumulate 100 times as many allergens as hardwood floors.
6) Another extreme and costly option: get rid of upholstered furniture. Do the leather or fake leather thing. Same reasoning as for getting rid of carpeting. Allergen stick to upholstered furniture.
7) If you haven’t already, go to a doctor and get properly tested. It’s possible the CAT isn’t actually causing the allergies, or at least maybe not the root of ALL your problems, but allergies might also be coming from dust mites or pollen.
8) If you are seeing a doctor for allergies, be sure to take your medicine!! Or if you use over-the-counter drugs, then use them! Medicines won’t make allergies totally disappear, but they can greatly reduce the symptoms and make you feel a lot better. Allergy shots are also available and people have different reactions to them. Some people who get shots build up a resistance to the cat allergies (greatly helping them) and the number of shots they receive dwindles over time. Some people continue to need shots more often and some seem to not benefit from the shot, not getting any relief from their symptoms.
9) Use pet cleansing wipes daily on your cat. This helps wipe away dander and loose hair. Bathing can be helpful, but is very stressful on most cats. And a cat shouldn’t be bathed super frequently anyway. The wipes do the trick quickly and easily.
10) Keep the litter box clean. Use a dust-free or low-dust formula of cat litter. If possible, have someone else in your household clean and empty the litter box (someone who is NOT allergic to cats) so it keeps you away from breathing in any of the allergens… cat urine does have the problematic protein which can cause allergic reactions.
11) Anti-allergen sprays are available. They deactivate the allergens and are made from plant-based, non-toxic substances. One to look for: Allersearch ADMS. It can be sprayed throughout your house, helping make allergens harmless. The treatment lasts for weeks. You won’t have to worry if anyone comes in contact with the spray because it is perfectly safe for people, pets and the environment.