Dander in Cats Explained

Dander in Cats Explained

Sadly, many people who love animals suffer from allergies making it hard for them to own pet. Cats too can cause people to have an allergic reaction because it is a known fact the dander they continuously shed is the culprit. However, this is only true to a certain extent because there is a little more to it than just that. There are other factors to consider when it comes to people suddenly having an allergic reaction to a cat which is explained below.

Dander is in actual fact, minute particles of a cat's dead skin which they shed constantly much as human and other mammals do. With this said, people suffer from an allergic reaction due to a glycoprotein which is called Felis Domesticus 1 or Fel D1. This protein is produced by sebaceous glands found under a cat’s skin and is also present in smaller amounts in their saliva. The protein can be found in a cat's urine too, albeit to a much lesser extent.

Cats Shed Dander & a Protein Called Fel D1

Cats continuously shed tiny particles of dander which contain Fel D1 protein which they also transfer through their saliva onto their coats every single time they groom themselves, as all cat owners know, their pets shed their fur constantly on various things throughout the home. However, the dander is minuscule which means it stays airborne for hours after a cat has shed it and it settles on carpets, furniture, walls and everywhere else in the home. In fact, cat dander can be found in places where cats have not even been!

In a home environment, cat dander is more usually found in soft furnishings, bedding and carpets. When a person breathes through their noses or mouths, they automatically breath in these minute particles which then results in them experiencing an allergic reaction if they are susceptible to allergies that is.

Anyone who has owned a cat for years can suddenly develop an allergy because it takes time for any sort of reaction to build up. As such a person may not have a reaction the first time they meet a cat but their allergy may develop afterwards. Studies have shown that around 50% of people who suffer from cat allergies never owned a cat in their lives.

Male Cats Produce More of the Protein than Their Female Counterparts

One interesting fact is that male cats actually produce more of the protein Fel D1 than their female counterparts. However, neutered males produce a lot lower levels of the protein. Some studies have also suggested that darker coloured cats could produce more of the protein than cats that boasts lighter coloured coats although this still needs to be researched more thoroughly.

Reducing Cat Dander in Your House

It is possible to reduce the amount of cat dander found in your home by doing the following things:

  • Neutering a male cat reduces the amount of Fel D1 protein they produceKeeping cats out of the bedroom is a good way of reducing dander
  • Get rid of carpets and replace them with wood flooring or tiles
  • Vacuum carpets as frequently as possible and steam clean them on a regular basis
  • If possible, use a vacuum cleaner that boasts HEPA filters
  • HEPA filters strategically placed around the home with reduce the levels of airborne cat dander
  • Litter trays should be placed well away from areas where people congregate in the home
  • Washing clothes on very high settings is a good way of getting rid of cat dander that might be on them

Breeds of Cat Considered to be Hypoallergenic

There are certain breeds of cat that are considered a better choice if a person is susceptible to cat allergies simply because they have less fur to shed. However, they do still shed dander which contains the culprit namely the protein responsible for setting off their allergic reactions. Rex and Sphynx cats are a popular choice but there are other breeds that produce less Fel D1 too. However, studies are still going on as to whether this is true or not, even though both breeders and many cat owners will confirm this to be the case.

Breeds of cat believed to be hypoallergenic include:

  • Bengal
  • Russian Blue
  • Balinese
  • Siberian cat
  • Rex cats – the Devon Rex and the Cornish Rex
  • Sphynx

The majority of cats lose their fur all year round with the heaviest amount shed being in the spring time. However, Siberian cats are known to shed less all year round and instead they just shed twice a year with many breeders claiming they are a great choice for allergy sufferers. It is also thought lighter coloured cats tend to produce less Fel D1 protein than darker coated cats, although again this has yet to be officially proven.

Signs You May Be Allergic to Cats

Typical symptoms of allergies to cats can include the following, although they do vary depending on just how severe a person's allergy actually is:

  • Watery, itchy and red eyes
  • A runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Hives
  • A tightness in the chest
  • Sneezing

If you think you may have an allergy to cats but are not absolutely certain, you should ask your doctor to carry out an allergy test on you which is a simple skin patch test or sometimes it could be a blood test. This will determine if you are having an allergic reaction to cat dander or something else.


Sadly, people who suffer from an allergy to cats would need to spend time with a breed that it's believed to be hypoallergenic before making the final decision to buy or adopt them. Many hypoallergenic cats find their way to shelters and rescue homes because people thought they would be okay living with them but found out differently to their dismay when they had their first allergic reaction. You have to remember, it is not the fur alone that causes an allergy but rather the dander a cat constantly sheds which is minuscule particles of their skin which contain the protein. These particles become airborne and can settle everywhere in the home which means you can have a reaction even if a cat is thought to be hypoallergenic.



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