Combatting Cat Allergies

Allergy to animal fur concept. Man in respirator holding his cat.Suffering with cat allergies is awful, and it’s especially terrible when you are a cat-lover. Luckily, there are many solutions to combat these pesky feline allergens, as well as complete solutions. It’s important to understand what allergies are and what causes them, so that you can figure out the best way to avoid them and hopefully add a feline friend to your life.

Check out our definitive guide to combatting cat allergies right here.

First thing’s first; What are allergies?

Allergies happen when your body’s immune system confuses harmless proteins with dangerous attackers. The allergic person’s hypersensitive immune system detects the allergen and begins to fight it off, just as it would a cold or any other bacteria or virus. This is why the resulting symptoms are similar to that of the common cold.

Common symptoms of allergies include:

Itchy eyes
Itchy nose
Itchy throat
Stuffy or runny nose
Nasal congestion

If you experience any or all of these symptoms while spending time with a cat, you may have cat allergies. If you experience extreme symptoms, you may want to consult with your doctor before spending time with a cat. Untreated cat allergies can actually cause asthma. Your doctor can help you figure out a short-term solution, and point you in the direction of their recommended allergy specialist.

Next, let’s talk solutions for those of you who have allergies that aren’t too extreme. This could mean that you only suffer from an itchy throat for the first few hours that you’re with a cat, or maybe you sneeze after you’ve pet a cat. Many cat-owners have reported that their bodies got used to a particular cat after spending enough time together, and that they no longer suffered from cat allergies.

If you think that you have slight cat allergies, the following practices may help you:

Child hand stroking head of white cat.Adopting an adult cat less likely to produce allergens: If you adopt a kitten, you may not show any symptoms of allergies until the cat grows up. This could be particularly traumatic, especially if you fall in love with your furbaby. If you adopt an adult cat, there will be no surprising changes in their dander. Light-colored cats produce less allergens than dark-colored cats. Female cats produce less allergens than male cats. Adopting a light-colored adult female cat may help with your allergies.

Regular brushing: Keeping your cat brushed will reduce the amount of fur spread throughout your home; therefore reducing the spread of dander. You, or a non-allergic member of your household, should try to brush your cat once a day, and discard the stray fur into the garbage can.

Vacuuming: Regular vacuuming can help keep pet dander at bay and out of the air. The proteins that bother your body can easily reside in carpet and furniture, so you’ll want to regularly vacuum, even if there isn’t a noticeable amount of cat hair. On this same note of cleanliness and keeping dander at bay, you’ll want to regularly wash and clean your cat’s toys and their resting spots.

Medication: If your allergies aren’t too severe, you may get by on just taking a daily allergy medication until your body becomes more resistant to your cat’s dander. Allergy medications cost roughly $2 per day, and can save you from sneezing, itchy eyes, and other symptoms of allergies. If your allergies don’t get better after a month of taking allergy medication, you should consult your doctor.

Adopting “hypoallergenic” breeds: No cat breeds are completely void of allergens; in this case “hypoallergenic” refers to cats that produce fewer allergens. You may find these types of cats with a breeder, or can keep an eye out at your local animal shelter for one.
Breeds that are considered hypoallergenic include:
Oriental Shorthair
Devon Rex
Cornish Rex

And now for some solutions for those of you who have more extreme allergies with symptoms such as hives, non-stop sneezing, and closing of the throat. If you have terrible allergies, you can look into:

doctor explaining diagnosis to his female patientAllergy test: You may want to get an allergy test done by a professional allergist to be sure that your allergies are from the cat and not another source, such as pollen or dust mites. Your general doctor can help recommend you an allergist in your area. An allergy test consists of a quick skin-prick test. A small amount of cat allergen will be placed on your skin, and then the skin is pricked with a sterile probe or needle that will allow the allergen to get under your skin. You will then be monitored for a reaction, whether it be sneezing, coughing, or swelling/redness of the skin. The test only takes 15 to 20 minutes, and can help you make the decision to look into immunotherapy or not.

Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy refers to the practice of getting injections intended to reduce your body’s reaction to certain allergens. Similar to a vaccine, you will be injected with gradually increasing doses of the allergen that you are trying to combat. Your body will get to know the allergen better, and reduce the allergic reaction. Treatment typically starts with doses once or twice a week for a few months, and eventually will lower down to once a month for a few years. Although this may be a more costly solution, it could potentially rid you of your allergies forever. If you try immunotherapy and there are no changes after a year, your doctor will likely recommend other solutions.

Foster before adopting: If you’ve gone through the processes of getting an allergy test and immunotherapy and feel ready to begin your cat journey, you may want to try fostering before adoption. You can look for one of the breeds mentioned previously that are supposed to be less allergenic, or “hypoallergenic,” and try fostering them before committing to adoption. This way, you can see first-hand how you and your body will react to the cat without the long-term commitment of officially adopting. If you have a reaction to one cat, you can adopt them out or return them to the shelter and try out a different breed. Fostering is ethical and helps to ensure that you and your pet will live in harmony.

Cat allergies are no laughing matter, but there are many ways to work around them. If you are dying to get a cat, but suffer with cat allergies, don’t give up hope. The time, work, and patience that it takes to find the perfect cat for your home will all be worth it in the end.