Cat allergies generally cause nose, eye, skin and respiratory symptoms. Nose and eye symptoms include red, or itchy eyes, itchy nose or throat, and sneezing. Skin symptoms might include rashes or hives, or dry, itchy skin, while respiratory symptoms are cough, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. In very rare cases, a severe reaction, anaphylaxis, can occur, leading to swelling, respiratory distress, shock, and death.(1)
The multiple allergens produced by cats are found in saliva, and on the skin and fur. Homes where there are multiple cats have higher levels of allergens. “Characteristics such as the length of a cat’s hair, its sex and the amount of time a cat spends indoors are not associated with cat allergen levels.”(2)
Some people who are allergic to cats can still have a cat as a pet. Here are some practical strategies to reduce allergen exposure:
- Keep your distance. Limit exposure to the cat. Certainly, another family member should take responsibility for the cat’s care and do things like cleaning the litter box.
- Restrict the cat to certain sections of the house. Don’t allow your cat to roam free. Keep the cat out of your bedroom at all times.
- Keep the cat outdoors as much as possible. That’s how some people get around their cat allergies. However, make sure your cat is safe outside.
- Clean rigorously and often. Cat dander gets everywhere. So you need to sweep and mop the floors, vacuum the rugs, and clean furniture regularly. Make sure to get a vacuum with a HEPA filter, because regular filters may not be fine enough to catch allergens. Get rid of carpets and drapes that can trap dander.
- Clear the air. A central air cleaner — as well as filters on the vents themselves — can help prevent cat dander from circulating through the house.
- Consider bathing your cat on a regular basis. Experts aren’t certain if bathing really helps reduce the amount of allergen. But if it doesn’t traumatize the cat too badly, you could try it and see if it reduces symptoms.(3)
There are a variety of medications used to improve symptoms, according to a major medical center. Antihistamines, which reduce the production of the chemical involved in the immune response in an allergic reaction, can reduce sneezing and runny nose. Corticosteroids in a nasal spray can reduce inflammation, and decongestants can help patients breathe through their nose.(4)
Allergy Immunotherapy (or allergy shots) is an effective way of treating cat allergies, by gradually building tolerance over time to the allergen.(2)
(1) Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Allergic to Your Cat? https://vet.osu.edu/
(2) American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, Pet Allergy, https://acaai.org/allergies/types/pet-allergy
(3) WebMD, Cat Allergies, https://www.webmd.com/allergies/cat-allergies
(4) Mayo Clinic, Pet Allergy, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pet-allergy/