The most common cause of cat allergies is a protein called Fel d 1 which is found in the cat’s saliva, urine, and other bodily secretions. When a cat grooms itself by licking its fur, Fel d 1 is transferred onto the cat’s skin where it dries into tiny little flakes called dander. The dander flakes off of the cat when dry skin flakes off and it sticks to other surfaces. Cat dander is very “sticky” and will remain on surfaces for a long period of time. Unneutered male cats are know to produce more Fel d 1 and can cause more reactions because they use it in their territorial markings. Of pollens and other animal danders, cat dander is the smallest particle. The small size of the particle allows it to remain airborne for 30 minutes or more once it is disturbed.
Note: If you think you might be allergic to cats, get tested by your doctor. Sometimes people who believe they are allergic to cats are actually allergic to allergens their outdoor cat brings into the home on its fur.
The Solutions to Cat Allergies
Unfortunately, many cats find themselves homeless because doctors tell people they have to get rid of their cat in order to have relief from their allergies. There are several allergists (and pet owners with allergies) that say that you don’t have to give up your cat. Before you decide to give Fluffy the boot, check out the following solutions.
Solution #1: Take steps to make your home more “allergy friendly.”
- Designate the bedroom of the allergic person as a “Cat Free Zone.” Always keep the door to this room shut. This will help you to be able to keep the person’s bed and clothing dander free.
- Get an air purifier. If you can afford it, get a commercial sized air purifier that can filter the whole house. Air Purifiers will help to eliminate the cat dander that is swirling around in the air in your home.
- Vacuum frequently. Vacuuming will help to keep cat dander from building up in your carpets and rugs.
- Switch from upholstered furniture to furniture with easier to clean surfaces. A leather sofa will be easier to keep dander free than an overstuffed material couch. Wood floors don’t build up the dander that carpet does. Venetian blinds don’t trap airborne dander the way that drapes do.
- Have a non-allergic person clean the litter box. If a non-allergic person is not available, buy a pollen mask to wear while you clean the litter box. Pour the litter slowly so that it doesn’t send a bunch of dust in the air. Use regular clay litter (no fragrances) that is dust free if possible.
- Bathe the cat every 6 weeks or so. Sound like a horrible experience? There are wipes that can be used on the cat to reduce dander. Make sure to use conditioners that reduce shedding and dry skin. Brushing the cat daily can also help to keep dander from building up.
- Keep the cat indoors. Outdoor cats pick up pollens and other allergens on their fur and track them back into your home. Allergies to these substances are sometimes mistaken for cat allergies.
- Keep and eye on the temperature regulation of your home. If it is a baby in your home that is allergic to cats, sudden changes in temperature can make their little immune systems more susceptible to allergy attacks.
Solution #2: Cat Allergy Medications
- Over the counter antihistamines and
econgestants. These work well for the temporary relief of mild to moderate allergy symptoms. Some examples of antihistamines are Benadryl, Tylenol Allergy, and the over-the-counter versions of Zyrtec and Claritin. Sudafed, Sudafed PE, and Afrin are all examples of decongestants.
- Prescription medications. If over-the-counter medications aren’t doing the trick, talk to your doctor about prescription allergy medications.
- Allergy shots. This is another option available to you through your doctor A series of these shots can help your immune system to “get used to” the allergens.
- Homeopathic allergy remedies. If you would like to stay away from pharmaceuticals, some people say that things like Vitamin C and Eucalyptus are helpful. One homeopathic concoction that gets good reviews is bioAllers.
Solution #3: Hypoallergenic Cats
Note: This is a HIGHLY controversial topic. Allergists maintain that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat.
- Choose a hypoallergenic breed. Some breeders say that certain breeds of cat cause less allergic reactions than others. There are differing explanations for this like that certain breeds of cat produce less Fel d 1, some cats shed less and therefore do not spread Fel d 1 as easily, and those that have less saliva in general. Breeds commonly listed in this grouping include the Russian Blue, Sphynx, Siamese, Balinese, and more.
- Genetically divergent cats from Allerca. Allerca claims to have bred the world’s first truly hypoallergenic cat. They say that through breeding genetically divergent cats who naturally have less Fel d 1, they have made a breed of cat that does not have the usual form of Fel d 1 in their genes. These hypoallergenic cats start at $6,950 and go as high as $27,950. Before you start taking out your check book, please click the link below to watch a video made by ABC News about Allerca.
- Wait for a genetically modified cat from Felix Pets. This is another company trying to create hypoallergenic cats. This company however is actually removing the Fel d 1 gene from a cat’s DNA before implanting the embryo into a female cat. They say that creating this breed of animal is difficult and may take some time.