Cat allergy can be very
heartbreaking to a cat lover. Sneezing, tearing eyes, runny nose, sinus
headache, skin rash, and other symptoms can be mild and annoying or
severe and life threatening. In reality, if the symptoms are very severe
and the cause is tested and found to be cats, finding the cat a new home
might turn out to be the only solution. However if the symptoms are
moderate or mild, there is hope! There are methods to at least minimize
the discomforts of allergies and live with a cat, and immunotherapy
offers desensitization from an allergen.
Symptoms of allergy can take on many forms. Most
common are nose symptoms which can include itching, sneezing and
congestion. Eye symptoms can include redness, itching, swelling and
watering. Throat symptoms include post-nasal drip, itching or hoarseness
and the need to clear the throat often. Skin symptoms can involve an
itchy rash or hives. Ear symptoms can include itching, plugging or
popping in the ear. More serious symptoms involve the lungs. Symptoms
with the lungs can include coughing, wheezing, a tightness in the chest,
frequent bronchitis and a shortness of breath. Symptoms may be at their
worst when grooming the cat, cleaning the litterbox, vacuuming or
dusting. They may also be apparent on awakening in the morning if you
cat sleeps with you. These symptoms may occur with any allergy, however,
so it is highly recommended that testing be done to determine the cause
of the allergy and whether the allergen causing the problem is indeed
the cat. It may not be
the cat at all, but the litter you are using, dust particles cling to
the cat. If you are using a specific brand of litter for your cat, try
switching brands and washing the cat with a shampoo you KNOW you aren't
allergic to. Many people are allergic to the different kinds of perfumes
and deodorizers some brands of litter and shampoo use.
Unfortunately, some Doctors assume an allergy is a cat allergy if
their patient has a cat and has allergic dermatitis or conjunctivitis or
asthma. However, this is not always the case and only allergy tests can
tell for sure.
Allergies are caused by allergens. The most likely
allergen found in cats is in the sebum and is a protein called Fel d 1.
Sebum comes from the cat’s sebaceous glands. These are found under the
skin and are primarily located around the base of the tail. It is
believed that these aid in keeping proper skin and coat condition. This
sebum dries and flakes into tiny particles that are similar in size to
that of aerosol droplets. Because these particles are so small they can
adhere to pretty much anything including, carpet, furniture, walls and
clothes. They can easily be moved from one location to the next and are
often found in all environments including schools, doctor’s offices and
homes that don’t have cats. Fel d 1 can remain in the environment for
months and even years after the cat is removed.
There is no scientific data at all to
support the concept that one breed is less allergic than another.
Researchers studying ways to reduce cat allergenicity found some cats
consistently shed lower levels of allergen. Unfortunately, there's no
practical way to identify these "hypoallergenic" cats in advance. But an
even more important allergy predictor is hormones. It turns out male
cats shed substantially greater amounts of allergen than females. A
neutered male, on the other hand, sheds significantly less.
Cat allergen, the allergy causing
material from cats, is not cat hair, but rather a protein present in the
dander and saliva of cats. These allergens become airborne as
microscopic particles, which when inhaled into the nose or lungs can
produce allergic symptoms.
The reason why people can acquire a new pet and not experience any of
these symptoms until much later is due to the time required to produce
these antibodies. It can take anywhere from three weeks to three years
for the body to build up enough of the exact same antibody so that an
allergen can cross-link two identical antigens. This cross-linkage is
the signal to mast cells to spill their contents, resulting in typical
Unfortunately, if you are looking to buy a kitten, this doesn't help you
very much. All kittens have soft, supple skins. At this early age, an
allergic person can probably handle any one of them and not have much,
if any, of a reaction. It is as the skin ages and becomes less supple
and the sebaceous glands begin to produce more oils (sebum) that allergy
problems begin to appear.
Allergy desensitization shots or immunotherapy are an
obvious and very effective way to work around a cat allergy.
Immunotherapy will gradually make a person more and more resistant to
the allergens. The goal of immunotherapy is to increase the tolerance 10
times. This is one of the most effective treatments because it treats
the cause and doesn’t just hide the symptoms.
Have your pet spayed or neutered. It
has been found that the sebum produced by a cat is highest in unaltered
males and lowest in altered males. Having the cat neutered can help
reduce this production. Have someone else vacuum the house. Also it may
he helpful to have a vacuum with a HEPA filter and by using bags that
are extra thick and designed for those that suffer from allergies. It is
suggested that you reduce the areas that can trap the allergens.
Gradually replacing carpet with hardwood flooring and cover mattresses
and pillows with air-tight casings may also ameliorate the problem.
Since 1/3 of our life is spent sleeping, keeping the cat out of the
bedroom can help excessive exposure. So keep the cat out of your
bedroom! An air filtration system will reduce the amount of allergen
recirculated. Air filtration systems can vary in cost but can greatly
improve the air that you breathe. Consult your veterinarian about
products that you can bathe your cat in to help reduce the allergens.
There are also carpet powders now that claim to help reduce the
Treat your other allergies. Few individuals are allergic only to cats.
By controlling your allergies to pollens, molds and house dust, their
tolerance for cats may improve significantly. People also can have
varying degrees of sensitivities to different allergens. When someone is
allergic to animal dander and saliva, he's probably also allergic to
other substances found in and around the house. Dust, mold, mildew,
pollens, flowers, trees, paint, perfume, soaps, cosmetics, and other
substances can trigger allergic reactions. Whether a person has symptoms
or not depends on how many of these allergens are in his environment at
a particular time.
Allergies are cumulative. In other words, they build up. Every allergic
person has a tolerance level above which an acute reaction takes place.
This is often referred to as the "rain barrel" effect. Someone who is
allergic to animals, for instance, may have no noticeable symptoms when
his total exposure is below his allergy threshold (or the amount of a
substance needed to produce a reaction). But collect enough other
allergens in the same environment to exceed his allergy threshold limit,
his "rain barrel" will overflow and symptoms will pop up. One of the
most important goals in controlling allergies to pets is to minimize
exposure to other allergens, such as those mentioned above, that trigger
People are not allergic to their pet per se, but to products of their
pet. These include dander, hair or skin proteins, fur, saliva, blood,
and even urine from rodents. By using a
special pet shampoo, designed to
reduce the airborne allergens your pet produces on a regular basis, and
shampooing regularly, and by taking a few preventive measures to remove
or decrease other allergens in the home, an allergy sufferer should be
able to reduce many of the sensitivities to his pet.
It probably goes without saying, but consult your doctor and take your
medicine to control the symptoms. There are medications available such
as eye drops, antihistamines, and nasal sprays that can help with
itching, sneezing and inflammation. A good physician can help you with
this problem and refer you to a specialist if necessary. Find out from a
physician what your particular allergens are and try to reduce them in
the environment. In order to determine what exactly a person is allergic
to, see an allergy specialist. These allergists will perform prick,
scratch, or intradermal skin tests that examine reactivity to as many as
70-80 possible allergens. If you are allergic to six things, and can get
rid of three of them, you may drop below your child's allergic
threshold, and become symptom-free. Your physician may also be able to
prescribe medications to lessen the symptoms associated with allergies
or give you "allergy shots" to reduce their response to specific
allergens. Using air cleaners or filters is not a bad idea, either.
While all this may seem discouraging, the good news is that some people
can develop a lack of reactivity to the allergen following continued
exposure (which is the reason allergy shots can work), or through
allergen immunotherapy (desensitization).
It is our hope that everyone is aware that if their
health precludes keeping their loved furry friend, there are options
other than shelters and the streets available as evidenced by the many
Rescue groups which are listed on other Feline Rescue pages who will
take a cat in in such circumstances. It is unsafe and unfair for any
indoor cat to be turned out. As well as the diseases and illnesses that
can be caught out of doors, the indoor cat has no experience with
outdoor life & so is often unable to defend against cars, animals, and
other hazards or to effectively search for food.