Up to 10% of Americans experience an allergic reaction to felines. But cat allergies are complicated because you can make a fuss of one cat without triggering an allergic reaction, but not others.
You’re allergic to your cat’s skin, not its fur. Dead skin cells (dander) get trapped under a cat’s fur. Cats shed their fur throughout the day, releasing dander into the air and causing allergies. Larger cats with longer fur release more dander and are more likely to trigger allergic reactions.
If you have a cat allergy, you will be allergic to all felines. Some cats release less dander, so you’ll experience less of a reaction. But with the appropriate management, you can work around your cat allergy and safely share your home with your feline companion.
- 1 What Causes an Allergic Reaction to Cats?
- 2 How Do I Know if I am Allergic to Cats?
- 3 Can You Be Allergic to One Cat but Not Another?
- 4 Can You Develop an Allergy to Cats?
- 5 Can You Recover from a Cat Allergy?
- 6 I’m Allergic to Cats, But I Want One
What Causes an Allergic Reaction to Cats?
Many people believe that their cat allergy is caused by fur. This is not the case. A cat rubbing against your leg will not cause an allergic reaction.
It’s what’s found under the fur that triggers the reaction. You’re sensitive to proteins found in her dead skin cells. Saliva and urine traces can also lead to a reaction.
As cats go about their daily business, they shed their fur. This releases skin cells, saliva, and urine into the air. As you breathe this in, your body will react. If you’re allergic, your body will assume that it’s under attack and overcompensate.
How Do I Know if I am Allergic to Cats?
The symptoms of a cat allergy are unmistakable. They vary in severity from person to person, and cat to cat. However, the signs of a feline allergy include:
- Itchy and runny eyes
- A blocked or runny nose
- Irritation of the nose, leading to sneezing
- Breakouts of hives or a rash on the skin
- Coughing and wheezing, leading to difficulty breathing
- Aggravation of asthma symptoms
These are generic allergy symptoms. They could relate to anything, not just cats. Before declaring felines the cause of the discomfort, ensure your allergy is not due to other sources. According to Live Science, weeds, mold, dust, pollen, and grass are all common reasons for allergies.
A cat may bring traces of these allergens home if she roams outdoors. This can lead to confusion as to the source of your discomfort. Your doctor can run tests to identify allergies, if necessary.
Can You Be Allergic to One Cat but Not Another?
It’s common for one feline to cause a reaction and others to fail to do so. In truth, an allergy to cats means just that. If you live with this problem, it is not unique and personalized to particular felines. However, the severity of your allergy will differ between animals.
A shorthaired cat, especially a hypoallergenic breed, will minimize the impact of allergies. The less fur a cat sheds, the less dander she’ll release. Longhaired cats will shed larger amounts of fur.
The size of a cat also influences the severity of allergies. A small munchkin cat has a smaller body mass and less opportunity to aggravate allergies. A larger cat, such as a Maine coon, will be more troublesome for someone with an allergy.
These are the only factors that affect feline allergies. Anything else that you may have noticed is just anecdotal. The color of a cat’s fur, for example, will have no bearing whatsoever.
Can You Develop an Allergy to Cats?
Many allergies begin during childhood through genetic inheritance. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for adults to develop allergies, though.
As ZocDoc explains, constant exposure to a new potential allergen can cause a reaction. Even if you lived with cats as a child, you could become allergic to cats several decades later.
This can be problematic if it happens unexpectedly. It’s possible to adopt a cat, only to find that you have an unexpected allergy.
The allergy may not be to cats. Different seasons bring about different plant life, and different pollens in the air. Your cat will be exposed to these whenever she goes outside.
Once this happens, a cat will bring home traces of these potential allergens in her fur. She will then release them into your home. If you have a sensitivity, this will lead to an allergic reaction.
Before accepting that your cat is the source of the problem, try keeping her home for a few days. If this stops the reactions, your pet is not the problem. If not, you’ll need ways to manage your allergy.
Can You Recover from a Cat Allergy?
If you’re allergic to cats, visiting family members can become a minefield if they have pets. Equally, your children may badger you for a feline friend, and you’re keen to indulge them.
The good news is that allergies to cats can be overcome. It may take time, and you’ll have to go through some awkward phases first. Expect to feel like you have a cold or flu for some time.
Overcoming allergies is not a fast or pleasant recovery process. If you’re sufficiently determined, you’ll be able to recover. Let’s take a look at how you can build up your immunity.
How to Build Immunity to Cat Allergies
Exposure therapy is the most effective way to enhance your immunity. Your body is mistaking the protein in cat dander for foreign invaders. Over time, your body will learn to accept these proteins. If you’re looking to build immunity to cats, spend time with other cats before adopting a cat.
Spend time with friends and family that have cats. Visit a shelter, maybe even try volunteering. Get involved in grooming a cat. It won’t be fun at first, but things will get better.
Different cats cause different reactions. If you plan to adopt a cat yourself, build up your immunity to that particular animal.
How to Get Fewer Cat Allergies
The Humane Society offers advice on creating an allergy-friendly home:
- Make at least one room a cat-free zone so that you have somewhere to escape.
- Keep a constant flow of air throughout your home to prevent dander from collecting.
- Wash your cat regularly to minimize the opportunity for dead skin to build up. Shampooing a cat is not easy, but it’s necessary if you have an allergy.
- Avoid soft furnishings as these will capture dander. Swop your fabric sofa and armchairs for leather, and replace your curtains with blinds. Consider switching carpets for hardwood floors too, if that’s an option.
- Vacuum regularly. The more fur you can collect, the less dander will linger.
- Pick a suitable breed of cat.
What is the Best Antihistamine for Cat Allergies?
There are antihistamines available to assist with cat allergies. Unless your problem is severe, there’s no need to see a doctor. An over-the-counter product should be suitable. Everyday antihistamines could be collected from any drugstore or supermarket. These include:
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- loratadine (Claritin)
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
You could use a nasal spray. Fluticasone is available under the brand name Flonase or you could use mometasone, sold as Nasonex. Any range of decongestant will also ease any symptoms.
If you prefer a more holistic approach, you could use a home remedy. Pour 8oz of mineral water and stir in 1/8 teaspoon of table salt. Once ready, use the solution to rinse out your nasal passages.
Cat Allergy Shots
For a more robust solution to your cat allergy, you could consider immunotherapy (injections).
A doctor will introduce small amounts of the offending proteins into your bloodstream. Gradually, the level of these exposures will be increased. Over time, you’ll develop enhanced immunity.
Anybody can undergo allergen immunotherapy, as long as they are older than 5. Once a treatment concludes, you’ll remain immune to feline allergies for up to five years.
I’m Allergic to Cats, But I Want One
Feline allergies do not necessarily preclude you from owning a cat. You’ll have to battle through some tricky symptoms initially, but you can make it work.
Once you’re ready to start considering a future with a feline companion, you should perform your own research on different breeds. Choosing the right breed can make all the difference.
Remember that everyone is different, though. This applies to humans and cats. Spend time with a potential pet before living together to ensure that you’re compatible.
Best Cats Breeds for People with Allergies
Hypoallergenic cats are a must for anybody that lives with a feline allergy. While all cats shed to an extent, these breeds are less likely to spark a reaction:
- Russian Blue
- Devon or Cornish Rex
- Oriental Shorthair
You’ll need to work through a difficult early period of adjustment. Once you develop immunity, you can forge a lasting bond together.
Worst Cat Breeds for Allergies
Many cats will aggravate an allergy, so avoid these breeds of feline. The process of immunization will be long, painful, and fruitless with these felines:
- Maine Coon
- British or Oriental Longhair
- Norwegian Forest Cat
- Exotic Shorthair
- Scottish Fold
- Turkish Van or Angola
You can get a cat if you have allergies, but think carefully about the breed that you adopt. Learn your triggers with regard to cat allergies and make the appropriate lifestyle adjustments.