From this picture, you’d never know I was once allergic to cats.
Being immersed in the world of cat blogging and advocacy, I’ve heard just about every excuse there is from those that don’t have a cat but might want one, as to why they can’t. Having a dog ranks right up there, but the most common reason is because of cat allergies. As a happy pet parent to seven cats, coupled with the fact millions of cats are living in shelters, in need of a good home, I’d like to let you in on a couple secrets so you can adopt that adorable ball of fluff you’ve always wanted (or keep the sniffles to a minimum with the cat you already have)!
First off, for most of my life, I’ve lived in a home with both cats and dogs. At one point I had 5 dogs and 4 cats living together, so I can assure you, unless the circumstances are extreme, cats and dogs are able to get along if you’re willing to put the time and effort into making it work. My other secret – I’m allergic to cats. Or, I should say, I was allergic to cats. I made some lifestyle changes years ago and have been allergy-free ever since. The good news is, with some perseverance and preventative measures, most people that are allergic to cats can manage their symptoms too.
Contrary to popular belief, cat hair itself is not allergenic. Cat allergies are caused by the Fel d 1 protein emanating from sebum found in the sebaceous glands of cats. The protein attaches itself to dried skin, called dander, that flakes off and floats through the air when cats wash themselves. An allergy occurs when the body over-reacts to this substance and produces excessive amounts of histamine which leads to the irritating symptoms associated with cat-allergies – itchy eyes, sneezing, skin rash, etc.
Your cat might not always be the cause of your allergies – often it can be plant pollen or other substances in the air that are carried into your home that can trigger an allergy attack.
Ironically, it might not always be the cat that is the root cause of the allergy. Outside cats (and humans) can bring pollen, mold, and other allergens into the house, or there may be airborne allergens in the house from dust mites, carpet dust, mold spores, or pollen and chemicals in the environment that trigger allergies. Rather than assume it’s the cat, check that the cat is actually the source of the allergen by getting a skin test done by an allergist. Some sufferers are successfully treated for the symptoms with allergy shots or over the counter antihistamine tablets, nasal sprays or homeopathic remedies.
If a shot or medication doesn’t do the trick, here are some other tips:
1. Remove dander from the air with strategically placed ionizers and HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) purifying systems. These units come in a variety of sizes, prices, and styles to suit your needs, budget, and square footage.
2. Keep your cat out of any bedroom where the person is allergic and do not let them sleep on the bed. Provide other comfortable sleeping areas for him to nap and if you do allow him to sleep on the bed (for some cat lovers, it’s impossible to say no to them), wash all bedding in 140-degree hot water at least twice monthly. This will eliminate both dust mites and cat allergens and there are products available, such as DeMite, that can be used with the laundry detergent to kill harmful particles.
3. Keep towels and throw blankets on couches and furniture where your cat might nap so you can wash the linens frequently and change air conditioning filters on a regular basis, as they also catch a large amount of cat hair. You can also use an anti-allergen spray to deactivate allergens. Allersearch ADS, made from plant-based, non-toxic substances, can safely be sprayed throughout the house to take the sting out of household dust by rendering allergens harmless.
To keep your cat from depositing dander on your furniture, provide her with a comfortable throw blanket to nap on that can easily be washed.
4. Carpet is a magnet for allergens, so vacuum frequently with a high-grade HEPA vacuum. Use the hand tools to get into hard to reach spaces – cat allergen particles are very small and invasive, so you have to do a thorough job. This includes furniture, throw rugs, drapery, walls, under furniture, and more.
5. Hardwood and tile floors, especially in corners where cat hair tends to drift, should be swept frequently. If you find your allergies are being triggered while vacuuming or sweeping, wear a protective mask to cover your nose while doing these tasks. Damp mopping these surfaces (including walls) also helps to keep dander under control. Dust frequently and use liberal amounts of spray furniture polish, as this dramatically limits allergen particles from becoming airborne.
My house was once covered in wall-to-wall carpeting. After removing it and replacing it with tiles, any allergy symptoms I had due to my cats were substantially reduced.
6. For extra cleaning, use a vapor steam cleaner. They’re an effective method to provide a chemical-free way of cleaning and killing dust mites, bacteria, mold spores, and cat allergens.
7. Wash your hands after petting your cat and avoid rubbing your eyes. Rubbing your eyes can result in itchy eyes for hours and a strong anti-bacterial soap should be used. You should also avoid excessive hugging and snugging with your cat.
8. Clean your cat. Most cats would prefer NOT to be bathed and it’s effectiveness isn’t entirely conclusive. As an alternative, try Allerpet, a veterinary recommended, easy to use, non-toxic liquid you apply directly to your cat’s coat to reduce allergens.
9. Use a de-shedding tool like the FURminator to regularly brush and groom your cat. This highly effective tool gets deep into the undercoat of the cat fur and significantly reduces shedding. Groom in a well-ventilated area so the dander dissipates.
Not only do my cats love to be groomed with the FURminator de-shedding tool, but by doing it, it greatly reduces the amount of dander in the house.
10. Dust from cleaning litter boxes can trigger allergy attacks. Either find someone who is not allergic to do the cleaning, or use a protective nose mask to reduce the chances of allergens entering your body.
One, some, or all of the above methods might be needed to keep your allergies under control. But with time, effort, and experimenting, chances are that you and your cat can co-exist peacefully together in your home and you can enjoy a long and happy relationship with your cat. Or, now that you know some tips to making your house allergen-free, you can take the plunge and adopt that cat you always wanted, but didn’t think you could have…
ALL cats produce dandruff, though some cats produce less than others. No cat is allergen-free, not even hairless cats, although there are some studies that conclude Rex, Sphynx, and Siberian Cats are less likely to cause allergies than others. If you do decide to look into one of these breeds, please consider finding a breed specific rescue organization or contact Petfinder.com for adoptable cats in your area.