Do you find yourself crying out in agony rather than excitement when you interact with your feline companion? In addition to itchy, watery eyes, do you have a runny nose, rash, hives, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, asthma, or other breathing difficulties?
You, like an estimated 2% of the US population, are allergic to cats and, like around one-third of those people, have chosen to keep your cat companion. But at what cost?
Contrary to popular belief, cat hair is not allergenic. Cat allergies are caused by Fel d 1, a protein present in the sebaceous glands of cats.
When cats bathe, the protein adheres to dry skin, known as dander, which flakes off and floats through the air. Although you may never be able to entirely eliminate your allergy symptoms, these suggestions can help you deal with cat allergies.
Cat Allergy Treatments and Remedy
- Make your bedroom a no-cat zone. Begin by washing your bedding, drapes, and pillows. Instead, replace them. To prevent allergies from infiltrating your mattress and pillows, use plastic covers. Allergen-proof covers are available at medical supply stores. Don’t expect immediate results. Cat allergens are one-sixth the size of pollens, and significant decrease could take months.
- Restriction your cat’s access to certain areas of your home. Allow your cat to spend time outside if you have a secure outside enclosure where dander can blow away in the breeze. Brush your cat in the fresh-air enclosure to prevent loose, allergen-carrying hair from floating throughout the home.
- Get rid of allergy triggers like upholstered furniture and rugs. Carpet can collect up to 100 times the amount of cat allergies as hardwood flooring, so switching to wood can help keep allergens at bay. If you can’t rip up the carpet, get it steam cleaned on a regular basis.
- Vacuuming removes as many allergens as it removes; therefore, when vacuuming, use an allergen-proof vacuum cleaner bag or a vacuum cleaner with a high efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filter.
- Take a few deep breaths. Because heavily insulated homes trap allergies as well as heat, open the windows to improve circulation and use exhaust window fans. (However, always screen windows to keep your kitten safe inside.) Also, clean the air flow in your home. Although nothing will totally remove allergies, utilizing a HEPA-filtered air cleaner can help.
- Remove the dander. Bathing a cat is usually advocated as a way to reduce dander, although experts disagree on its effectiveness. “It was once thought that bathing a cat would be good,” says Dr. Robert Zuckerman, an allergy and asthma expert in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, “but the cat would have to be bathed nearly every day.” Instead, use daily products like Pal’s Quick Cleansing WipesTM to remove saliva and dander from your cat’s hair, which is less stressful for cats who prefer not to be rubbed in the tub.
- Allergens should be sprayed to remove them. Anti-allergen sprays are a quick and easy way to remove allergies, including pet allergies. Allersearch ADS, which is made from non-toxic plant-based chemicals, can be sprayed throughout the house to make allergens harmless.
- Empty the cat litter box. Cat allergens are found in urine and are left in litter boxes when your cat urinates. Use a less dusty brand of litter and have someone in the household who is not allergic clean the litter box to help reduce allergic reactions.
- Take your medication. Antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops, and aerosol inhalers, whether over-the-counter or prescribed, will alleviate symptoms but will not cure the allergy. Consider nettle tea, quercetin, or acupuncture for a more natural treatment. Antioxidants like Vitamins C and E have shown strong anti-allergen benefits in recent research.
- Take the test. A simple prick of the skin on your arm or back can help an allergy specialist pinpoint the source of your allergic responses.
- Consider the big picture. Because allergies are rarely packaged individually, other factors such as dust mites and pollen may also be producing symptoms. “A person rarely has a single allergy,” Zuckerman explains. “A cat owner may be able to withstand contact with the cat during the winter, but when spring approaches, the combination of allergies may prove unbearable.”
- Increase your resistance. There is no cure for cat allergy, although immunotherapy may help you gain tolerance. Immunotherapy consists of allergy shots administered once or twice weekly for up to six months, followed by monthly boosters for three to five years. Some people gain total immunity, while others require photos and still others have no relief at all.
Coping with a cat allergy is no laughing matter. It’s a big deal. After all, shelters acquire cats for this precise reason on a daily basis. Following these suggestions should make a significant effect.
Karen Commings is the author of “Manx Cats” (Barron’s, 1999), “The Shorthaired Cat” (Howell Book House, 1996), and “Shelter Cats” (Howell Book House, 1998). (Howell Book House, 1996 and 1998, respectively).
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