Up to 10% of the U.S population will experience an allergic reaction to felines. Cat allergies are complicated, though, as you can pet one cat without triggering an allergic reaction, but not others.
If you have a cat allergy, you will be allergic to all felines. Some cats release less dander though, and you’ll experience less of a reaction. But with the appropriate management, you can work around your cat allergies and safely share your home with a beautiful 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 causes an allergic reaction. You’re sensitive to proteins found in their dead skin cells. Saliva and urine traces can also lead to an adverse 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 telltale 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
It’s important to know that these are generic allergy symptoms, however. 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. As Live Science explains, weeds, mold, dust, pollen, and grass are all widespread allergies.
A cat may bring traces of these allergens home if they roam outdoors. This can lead to confusion as to the source of your discomfort. Your doctor can run tests to pinpoint 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 so-called hypoallergenic breed, will minimize the impact of allergies — the less fur a cat sheds, the less dander they’ll release. Longhaired cats, however, will shed substantially 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 thus less opportunity to aggravate allergies. A larger cat, such as a Maine coon, will be a nightmare for somebody with an allergy.
These are the only factors that impact upon 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 manifest in childhood through genetic inheritance. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for adults to develop allergies though, seemingly at random.
As ZocDoc explains, constant exposure to a new potential allergen can spark a reaction. Even if you lived with cats as a child, you could become allergic decades later.
This can be problematic is 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 they go outside.
Once this happens, a cat will bring home traces of these potential allergens in their fur. They will then release them into your home. If you have a sensitivity, this will manifest as an allergic reaction.
Before writing off your cat as the source of your misery, try keeping them 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?
Allergies to cats can be problematic for various reasons. If you’re allergic to cats, visiting family 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 though, 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 process. If you’re sufficiently determined, however, you’ll make it. Let’s take a look at how you can build your immunity.
How to Build Immunity to Cat Allergies
Exposure therapy is the best way to build immunity. Remember, 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 others before adopting.
Spend time with friends and family that keep cats. Visit a shelter, maybe even volunteering. Roll your sleeves up and get involved in grooming a cat. It won’t be fun at first, but no pain, no gain.
It’s vital to remember is that 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
Once you’re ready to bring a cat into your home, you need to manage your allergies. It will take a long time to build complete immunity, after all.
The Humane Society offers some advice on building an allergy-friendly home. Some of the steps that you can take include:
- Make at least one room a cat-free zone, so you have somewhere to escape to. Your bedroom is the ideal location for this.
- Keep a constant flow of air throughout your home to prevent dander from collating.
- 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. Picking something up over the counter should be suitable.
The most popular and 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. This means that you’ll need to have a range of shots.
These injections will see a healthcare professional apply 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, do your research on different breeds. Choosing the right breed can make all the difference.
Remember that every individual 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, however, you can forge an incredible bond.
Worst Cat Breeds for Allergies
Many cats will aggravate an allergy. Avoid these breeds of feline. The process of immunization will be long, painful and potentially fruitless.
- Maine Coon
- British or Oriental Longhair
- Norwegian Forest Cat
- Exotic Shorthair
- Scottish Fold
- Turkish Van or Angola
Remember, this is not saying that you’re unable to get a cat if you have allergies. You need to think carefully about the breed that you adopt.
Learn your triggers when it comes to cat allergies, and react accordingly. With the right precautions, you can stop living in fear of felines.