At least 1 in 3 cat owners has allergies to feline companions (owner of Royally British Cattery included!). Yet, despite that statistic, cats are the most popular pet in America.
For many pet lovers, the benefits of animal companionship outweigh the drawbacks of allergy symptoms.
There are ways to co-exist with your fluffy allergen.
First, it is important to note that cat allergies are triggered by a protein in the cat’s skin, saliva and urine and not by the hair itself. That said, cats groom themselves several times during the day hence leaving tiny particles of this protein (called dander) on the fur. This becomes airborne when it dries, allowing it to be inhaled or stick to various surfaces in your home, including carpeting, furniture, walls and bedding. You may also find you are allergic to Siamese but not Persians, or orange tabbies but not black cats. Be aware that kittens often do not cause allergic reactions until they become adults. You should consult an allergist to determine if you are truly allergic to cats, and/or other allergens.
Ten Tips for Coping with Allergies to Cats
1. Always have a “safe” room where you can retreat, generally your bedroom. Do not allow the cat in this room. Do not let the cat sleep on your bed! Consider keeping an air purifier (ideally with a HEPA filter) in this room as well. Wash bedding in hot water (140F) at least twice a month. This will also kill off dust mites (another big allergen).
2. Thoroughly clean your home to remove cat allergens from carpets, drapes, upholstered furniture, walls. Vacuum often using a filter with a high allergy containment rating. You might want to consider replacing carpeting with hardwood flooring or not allowing kitty into carpeted rooms if possible.
3. Check with your veterinarian for products that can reduce dander. These can be wiped over the cat’s fur. If your cat is agreeable, you can try bathing your cat bi-weekly or sometimes wiping the cat with a cloth moistened with distilled water will do the trick.
4. If possible, have someone who is non-allergic do the bathing/grooming, and restrict the grooming to an easy to clean room.
5. Consult an allergist to help determine the most effective form of allergy control/treatment. Find a doctor who understands your commitment to your cat instead of simply suggesting to rehome your furry family member.
6. Place allergen-impermeable covers on mattresses, box springs and pillows to prevent previously accumulated allergens from escaping and from allowing more allergens to be captured.
7. Medications (over-the-counter and prescription).
8. Allergy shots (immunotherapy).
9. Ventilate the house frequently and keep furnaces, air ducts and air conditioner filters clean.
10. Wash your hands after handling the cat and do not touch your eyes.
While it may seem over the top, these housekeeping practices will reduce your exposure while maintaining a cleaner house overall! After all, generally people who are allergic to one thing are allergic to several things.