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How to Deal With Cat Allergies

Sharilee and her husband, Vern, live with two cats. Due to Vern's cat allergies, she has done extensive research on the subject.

My husband and our cat, Jo.  A love-hate relationship?

My husband and our cat, Jo. A love-hate relationship?

My Motivation for This Article

Recently, 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:

  • Sneezing
  • 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.

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.

Household Solutions

  • 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!

Our cats absolutely love our king-sized bed and it's been hard to keep them out of here! Here is a shot of our two cats, Jo and Shiloh, sleeping on our bed.

Our cats absolutely love our king-sized bed and it's been hard to keep them out of here! Here is a shot of our two cats, Jo and Shiloh, sleeping on our bed.

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.

© 2012 Sharilee Swaity


Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on January 30, 2016:

@Besarin, thanks for the compliment ... I am glad you enjoyed the hub, even if it didn't exactly apply to you personally. I learned how to do those dividers, using a free photo program, similar to PhotoShop, and they are actually pretty easy to do! Thanks for the great comment, and I am so sorry about the delayed response.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on August 08, 2015:

@CASE1WORKER, it actually makes sense. I find the same thing with our cats. Two of the cats set my husband off, while the other one does not. It has to do with the amount of dander the cat gives off. I find the shorter-haired one gives a lot less dander.

Thank you so much for your comment, and I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. I have been away from Hubpages for quite some time now. Take care and have a wonderful night.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on August 08, 2015:

@Elias Rufus, you make an excellent point. I agree that a visit to the allergist is very good, to confirm if you have an allergy. My article is aimed at people who tend to self-diagnose (like me!) and look for other clues as to what is wrong with them. Have a wonderful day.

Besarien from South Florida on April 16, 2015:

Luckily I don't suffer cat allergies. I still enjoyed reading this hub. You have presented a lot of sound advice. I think your dividers are beautiful. I may have to rip off your idea but will credit you for it!

CASE1WORKER from UNITED KINGDOM on April 10, 2015:

We have two cats- yet only one of them sets my daughters boyfriend off sneezing- when he visits he has a maximum of half an hour with us before he retreats into the garden or up into the attic room where the cat does not go- the other cat does not seem to affect him- strange?

Elias Rufus on March 09, 2015:

A few years back my neighbor's son had a cat allergy. He was showing the normal symptoms that you pointed out, mainly sneezing, coughing, and dry, red eyes. When they went through the ordeal, they found out they didn't need to get rid of the cat. Like you said, the hairballs and hair sheds were all over the house, the just needed to stay on top of the cleaning. It would seem that an allergist can easily pinpoint ones allergies nowadays. I would recommend having them do a test before making any drastic life changes.

Chad Young from Corona, CA on January 15, 2015:

I love cats but unfortunately my wife has allergies to them. I'm going to have her try some of the remedies while watching the neighbors cat for a few days and we'll see how it goes. Great information, thank you.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on February 16, 2013:

Torri, thanks for the comment. I am glad to get the information out there for people. Have a wonderful night!

torrilynn on February 10, 2013:

Nice hub. It is very informational on cat allergies and on how to figure out the signs. Thanks. Voted up.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on December 18, 2012:

Vespa, thanks for the comment. Yes, we are in the midst now of trying different products so we don't have to lose the cats. Perhaps I will post another hub telling of our experiences. Have a wonderful day!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on December 10, 2012:

It would be sad for a cat owner to develop an allergy to their beloved pets! I do have a cat allergy, and I really appreciate the tips you offer as alternatives to getting rid of the cats. I didn't realize there are products on the market to reduce cat dander. Washing hands is important, too. I'd never thought of bathing a cat. Thanks!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on September 23, 2012:

DDE, thank you so much for the comment. I did quite a bit of research for this one, to get all the facts straight. Take care!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 18, 2012:

You have explained very well in detail, I don't have cats but definitely a helpful Hub to those who do. Thanks.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on August 09, 2012:

SS, I hear you! When you love your cats so much, they are part of the family. Thanks for the comment and take care!

Sharon Smith from Northeast Ohio USA on August 08, 2012:

Oh thank goodness there are remedies that work cuz if I came up with an allergy to cats, no way could I let my girls go. I love your pics PP and the divider with the eyes is adorable too.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 25, 2012:

Helena, I am sorry to hear about your asthma attack when you were a kid. That's great that have been able to build up an immunity to cats in recent years.

My grandmother has asthma and never even considered having animals inside but when two gray cats named Big Gray and Little Gray came into her life, she let them in the house and the rest is history! She has had cats inside ever since.

That's great that you were able to compromise with a cat that caused less problems for you. Thanks for the great comment and have a good day!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 25, 2012:

@Ak, I hear you about your spouse not liking cats. My husband didn't like cats to start with, either, but he has now become very fond of them. It sounds like your husband had a pretty severe reaction to the animals and that's too bad for you, as a cat lover.

They are such wonderful animals but seem to cause reactions in quite a few people, unfortunately. Thanks so much for adding your comment to the hub and for such kind words. Have a wonderful day!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 25, 2012:

@Ann, I appreciate the heads up. That is an excellent suggestion for helping cut down on allergy symptoms. And we are a crazy bunch; we would do anything for our cats! Take care.

@Teaches, I am not as familiar with dog allergies but from what I did research, dog allergies are quite similar to cat allergies.

Helena Ricketts from Indiana on July 24, 2012:

My parents discovered my cat allergy when I was 4 years old. I also had childhood asthma and anytime I went anywhere where there was a cat, I ended up having an asthma attack. It was AWFUL! It's not as bad now as it was then. In fact, I actually discovered that if I kept a smaller breed cat in my home that my allergies weren't as bad. My son is also very allergic to cats just like I was.

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on July 24, 2012:

Sharilee - people who are allergic usually hate cats - my husband is one of those people...sigh. I love cats but haven't been able to have one since we married and he kept sneezing and swelling up in the face. I figured it probably wasn't fair to make him go through that~

Surprisingly, our malamute fur reminds me a lot of cat fur but he isn't allergic to that so it must be the dander indeed. As a child, I was only allergic to cats if I touched them and then touched my eyes - otherwise I was fine. Our son on the other hand, goes into wheezing from cats if he is exposed too long.

Great information and I love your dividers~ How clever!!

Dianna Mendez on July 24, 2012:

Great advice and very useful for those who suffer from cat allergies. Do you have any advice on dogs? I have family with this problem and it would be great to know how to deal with it. Voted up.

Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on July 24, 2012:

prairie, I thought of something else yesterday. They make a 99% dust free scoopable cat litter which I use. It really cuts down on the dust when you add it to the cat litter box.

Always love cat people - we're as crazy as our cats!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 23, 2012:

@Deborah, yes, I know what you mean. We've got three cats, too, and I can't imagine living without them. I am glad that your sneezing is only a temporary problem. Thanks for coming by!

@Ann, that's so cute -- they have their own bedroom! Not spoiled at all, nope! And I also like your idea about the curtains, too. Certain types don't hold the particles as much, I believe. Thanks so much for stopping by. Nice to meet a fellow cat lover!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 23, 2012:

@Deborah, that must have been a terrible feeling for you! I am glad you were able to get help from your doctor and find a solution that is good for both of you. Thanks for the comment and nice to meet a fellow cat lover!

@Lucky Cats, it's nice to hear from a cat expert like yourself. Yes, it is the cat dander itself that causes the problems and that is hard to get rid of. With our cats, they always lick each other and bathe each other, so it's even worse. Yes, for cat lovers ,we definitely need options! Thanks for the comment.

Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on July 23, 2012:

I have 4 cats, so I get a lot of cat hair! I was having allergy problems a few years back and the doctor told me the same thing you mentioned in your hub - keep them out of the bedroom. When we recently moved, we moved into a mobile home and now they have their own bedroom, and they aren't the least bit spoiled! Of course during the day, the door to it stays open. The only time I put them in there is at night and when we go somewhere. I don't work, so I'm home with them most of the time. Good points you made on the carpet, too. People with severe allergies might also consider different types of drapes - ones that can be washed.

Great information - voted up.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on July 23, 2012:

Great tips for cat lovers, Sharilee! I have three cats myself and every once in a great while, find myself with itchy eyes after petting one of them, particularly during shedding season. But nothing too bad. It would take a lot for me to give up my cats!

Kathy from Independence, Kansas on July 23, 2012:

Hi there PrairiePrincess! What a comprehensive hub! Every question asked, all information given and many solutions suggested. And the dander vs cat fur very true! Many still think it's the hair...which can land on one's nose and cause a little tickling/itching...this isn't the same thing. You've really given lots of options for those who cannot bear the thought of parting w/their beloved felines. Thank GOODNESS! I am not allergic...I'd probably have to live in a bubble! Thank you so much for sharing this excellent article! UP Useful Awesome and Interesting.

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on July 23, 2012:

I have cats and I love cats but I have become allergic to them.. I didn't use to be like I went to the doctor and got medicine and try to keep as clean as possible.. etc. Now I can breathe again.

I love your hub