How to Deal With Cat Allergies
My Husband With Jo, Our Cat
My Motivation for This Article
The other night my husband asked me a question that went something like this, "how do you tell if you have cat allergies?" The thought of a cat allergy struck me with fear because we had three cats. All kinds of thoughts went through my mind. Would we have to get rid of the cats? It seemed like an impossible situation. After all, the cats were already a big part of our lives. What could we do?
So, feeling desperate, I started to do some research. These were my questions:
- What are the symptoms of a cat allergy?
- How do you know for sure that the cats are causing the reaction?
- And most importantly, what can you do about it?
In this article, I will answer each of these questions.
Cat Allergy Symptoms
Now, if you seldom visit a doctor's office and you don't have any willing cat ladies to take Garfield off your hands for a bit, just use common sense and your observation skills to deduce whether or not it is likely that you have cat allergies.
The symptoms of a cat allergy are very similar to other kinds of allergies, such as allergies to dust mites or certain plants. If you have these symptoms, and they started when you got a cat, there is a very good chance that you have cat allergies:
- Coughing and wheezing
- Red eyes
- Itching sensation in your eyes and nose
- Runny nose
- Skin conditions such as hives, redness, or rash
How to Diagnose a Cat Allergy
There are only two ways to know, for certain, if you have cat allergies. First, you must live without your cat for a few months and see if your allergies go away. This might work if you just happen to have a kind-hearted relative that is willing to "adopt" your cat for a while. If so, go for it! For the rest of us, we have to rely on less-than-perfect methods to determine if we have cat allergies.
The second method is simply to get an allergy test from your doctor. Does this mean that you still have to get a bunch of needles stuck in you? Yes. The test can be done via a skin prick or blood draw.
Understanding Cat Allergies
Well, back to my husband. He does have these symptoms. He sneezes, has a runny nose, and is always coughing. The question now is, what do we do about it? What can cat owners do that find out, too late, that they are allergic to felines?
Well, first of all, let's understand our enemy. The enemy, folks, is not the cat hair. It is the cat dander. Yes, most cats have dandruff and no, it doesn't make them social pariahs. In fact, it's perfectly normal. They get dander, those little white flakes from bathing themselves. The white stuff is actually hardened saliva. Yes, the infamous cat's obsession with grooming can cause us humans a lot of grief.
Cleaning Goes a Long Way!
What to Do If You Already Have a Cat
So now what? Here are some solutions and tips to help you cope with an allergy. First, here are some cleaning/household solutions. Next, I will cover things related to caring for the cat, and finally, solutions for you, personally.
- If possible, get rid of carpets and go with hardwood. Carpets trap cat hair profusely. Of course, we don't all have a few grand to replace our flooring, so if you can't do that, read on for advice on how to clean those carpets in the best way.
- Steam-clean your carpets as often as possible.
- Get a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter built-in. This kind of vacuum is much better for deep cleaning and getting rid of the particles in the carpets that are causing the allergies.
- Get a HEPA air filter. These are the best kinds of air filters to clean the air of any harmful particles. You can buy these as free-standing units or you can also get some that are attached to the air conditioner.
- Clean your house; often and thoroughly! It is a lot of work to get rid of cat hair on the furniture, floors, and walls.
- If you are in a room where the cats are, open the windows if possible. I know this hard when you are going through a heatwave, or if you are experiencing extremely cold temperatures.
- Wash any bedding in hot water once a week.
- Give your cats pet beds and wash them often.
- The litter box can also make your allergies worse. Try to keep the litter box away from your living area as much as possible.
No More Cats in the Bedroom!
Cat Care Solutions
- Brush your kitty outdoors once, or even two times a day.
- Keep the litter box clean. Use a clumping litter and scoop at least once a day. If you can manage two times a day, that is even better.
- Try to bathe your cat on a regular basis.
- Try to encourage your cat to shed less. This can be done by giving better quality foods and by adding oil to their diet
- Have specific "cat pillows" for your cat and don't allow your animals on the human pillows or chairs without the cat pillows coming down first.
- Put your cats outside as often as possible. I realize some people don't like to let their cats out, but if it is something that you believe in doing, it will help your allergies.
- Keep the cat out of the bedroom at all times. Having a cat-free zone where you sleep will help obtain relief from your cats. (Of course, as you can see from the pictures, this is easier said than done!)
- Use products designed to cut down on cat dander. You will have to read the instructions to see how to use each individual product.
Personal Care Solutions
- Wash your hands after petting the cats.
- Have a shower before going to bed and don't touch the cat after that. You have to create a separate zone for the bedroom and keep it!
- Use Vitamin C to help combat allergies.
- You can also use standard allergy medicines such as Reactine to help overcome the symptoms of a cat allergy.
- Refrain from holding the cat as much as possible. Now, this is hard if you love the cat, but if you do pet them, always wash your hands afterward.
For More on Cats . . .
- Cat Love: Do Cats Really Love?
Do cats feel real love? My stand is that they actually do. Living with cats and watching them everyday is good evidence that cat love is a real thing.
Do What Works for You
In conclusion, it is very difficult to deal with a cat allergy when you already own a cat or two . . . or three. I think you have to decide how far you will go to deal with the problem. Some people may be willing to get rid of their cats. For others, they may choose to use a filter and maintain their close relationship with the cat. This article gives you several options to help tackle the problem.
It is a personal decision and you have to find what works for you. Ultimately, it comes down to what you are willing to live with. As for us, I plan to get an air filter, do more extensive cleaning, and try to keep the cats out of the bedroom!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.