If you are a huge fan of our feline companions but suffer from an allergy to cats and cat dander, you might despair of ever being able to own a cat, or spending any significant amount of time around them. This problem can be even worse if you suddenly find yourself suffering from a new allergy hypersensitivity, and your own cat appears to be one of your main triggers.
However, having a mild or recurrent cat allergy doesn’t mean that you will necessarily have to give up on the idea of ever having cats of your own; depending on how badly you are affected by allergies and how you go about managing them, you might find that sharing your home with a cat is not totally impossible.
Read on to learn more about managing allergies to cats, and steps that you can take to make yourself more comfortable.
Many cat owners suffer from a chronic or persistent allergy to cats, or their own cat, but don’t actually realise that the cat is the issue.
Symptoms that you might be allergic to cats in general, or some cats in particular, can include:
If you find that you reliably find yourself faced with any of these problems when you come into contact with cats in general, or some cats but not others, you may be suffering from a cat-triggered allergy!
Many people mistakenly assume that it is cat hair itself that causes an allergic reaction in people that are prone to them, but this is not entirely correct. The actual elements that can cause allergic reactions are comprised of protein compounds, which are present in cat saliva, skin, and protein from the glands. However, cat hair itself is a vector for allergic reactions, albeit not the cause in and of itself, as cat hair shed around the house will be covered in the protein compounds that cause allergies, which is why the presence of a moulting cat or a very hairy household can make allergies worse.
In order to reduce the likelihood that you will come out in an allergic reaction to a cat that you are affected by, minimising the amount of allergenic proteins within the environment itself is the key.
If you have lots of soft furnishings such as fabric sofas and carpets, these are exponentially more likely to pick up shed cat hair and dander and retain it than if you have leather sofas and hard flooring. Having a really good vacuum cleaner that is capable of picking up shed cat hair with ease is also a good way to reduce allergens, such as a vacuum that is particularly designed to retain cat hair. Regular hoovering and emptying the vacuum cleaner well away from the house can help to keep the indoor environment clear of lots of hair, and so, allergenic triggers.
As cats moult and shed their hair on an ongoing basis, regular brushing and grooming can help to pick up the hair before it is shed around the home, again, disposing of the hair outside of the house.
Not allowing your cat to sleep on the beds and soft furnishings used by people, and washing all of the bedding and fabric in the house regularly can help too. Ionizers that remove pollution and microscopic particles from the air may prove helpful for some people, as can taking a daily antihistamine tablet or other pill that helps to counteract allergies.
The key point to remember when seeking a cat for an allergy sufferer is that all cats are different, and the protein chains that they shed naturally will vary from cat to cat. This means that some people might be prone to having an allergic reaction to some cats but not others; in this case, simply “trying out” being around various different cats and finding one that they are not allergic to is the way forward.
It is also worth bearing in mind that neutered cats tend to produce less potent protein chains than un-neutered cats, and that females as a whole produce less than males.
There is not really any difference between long haired and short haired cats in terms of allergy triggers in general, as shorthaired cats shed hair at the same rate as longhaired cats, albeit each hair is a little shorter!
Many people think that the Sphynx cat, a hairless cat breed, is ideal for allergy sufferers, as they do not have hair to shed; but this simply means that their shed protein complexes remain on the skin, making contact with the cat itself potentially even more likely to trigger an allergy than contact with a furry cat.
However, allergies are individual, as are people and cats too; so it is important to try out several things to find a cat that is a good fit for an allergy sufferer, and this may mean considering hairless cats as well as their furry counterparts!