Tips on Owning a Cat for People with Cat Allergies

Updated on September 27, 2012

Cat Allergies?

Tiger, a Maine Coon mix
Tiger, a Maine Coon mix | Source

Allergic to Cats

You might think that a person allergic to cats would just never choose a cat as a pet. But, sometimes life is complicated. The girl of your dreams has two cats that she absolutely adores. Every year, your child's birthday wish list contains only one word - CAT. Sometimes, the cat finds and adopts you. Or you just may find cats irresistible, despite your allergy.

The good news is that there are some ways around the cat allergy. There are cat products that help with allergies, certain types of hypoallergenic cats, and if you are like me, your allergy may disappear or diminish with long term exposure.

Cat Allergy Symptoms

  • itchy, watering eyes that may turn red
  • stuffy, itchy nose
  • scratchy throat
  • hives or rash on the face
  • itchy skin
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • wheezing

Cat Allergy

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Cat Allergy Disappears

Growing up, we always had dogs, so I wasn't aware of my cat allergy until I was a teenager. If I was near a cat, or even a person who had been around a cat, my face would break out in hives, my eyes would itch and water, and I would start sneezing. I could enter a home and know right away whether or not the family had a pet cat. As I grew older, I started to carry an antihistamine with me at all times in case I encountered a cat, or a cat lover.

When I was in my late thirties, a neighbor's orange long-haired cat, Tiger, started hanging around our house. Since I homeschooled my kids, we were always home, and the cat preferred to hang out with us. We eventually adopted Tiger. I could pet him, but always washed my hands right away to avoid "contamination." Over the years, he has become an inside/outside cat. Three years ago, we adopted a stray short-haired black cat that now sleeps in a cat bed in my room. I have not had an allergic reaction to cats in five years.

What Causes Cat Allergies?

Cats produce a protein called Fel D1 that is found in its saliva, urine, and dander. When the cat cleans, the allergen is spread further to its fur and can become airborne. So, cats with long hair and several layers of fur typically will have more allergens. There are some long-haired cats, though, that produce less of the protein, and therefore are more hypoallergenic.

Choosing a Cat

But, there is no guarantee that you will get used to cats and beat the allergy. In fact, long term exposure to cats may even make allergies worse for some people. If you are looking to adopt a cat, keep in mind that the following types of cats are less likely to cause an allergic reaction:

  • females
  • neutered males
  • light-colored cats
  • kittens

There are also several breeds known for being hypoallergenic, or less likely to cause allergies. See the chart below. Remember, though, that you will not know for sure if you are allergic unless you have spent some time with the cat.

Hypoallergenic Cats

Breed
Coat
Size
Temperament
Balinese
long-hair
small to medium
loving, needy, involved
Bengal
short-hair
medium
rowdy, vocal, smart, craves attention
Burmese
short-hair
medium
friendly, playful, loving
Cornish Rex
short-hair
small to medium
agile, playful, loving
Devon Rex
short-hair
medium
gentle, loving, acrobatic, needy
Javanese
long-hair
medium
smart, soft voice but talkative
Ocicat
short-hair
medium to large
friendly, outgoing, craves attention
Oriental Shorthair
short-hair
small to medium
curious, smart, vocal, craves attention
Russian Blue
short-hair
small to medium
gentle, quiet, shy, devoted, craves attention
Siamese
short-hair
small to medium
very social, talkative
Siberian
long-hair
medium to large
smart, friendly, loving
Sphynx
short-hair
medium
agile, playful, smart

Allerpet Cat Allergy Products

Cat Products for Allergies

If you already have the cat, there are some products that may help alleviate your allergies. The goal of these products is to remove or neutralize the cat allergens.

  • Shampoos - Most cat allergy shampoos are actually serums or cleansers that are applied to a wet cloth. You just wipe down the cat, making sure to part the hair and get to the skin.
  • Wipes - Pre-moistened wipes make the job a little easier. Wipe down the cat's coat, also making sure to reach the skin.
  • Sprays - There are sprays that break down and neutralize the allergens in the air and on surfaces such as furniture and cat bedding.

Most shampoos and wipes need to be used 2-3 times a week for best results.

Other Tips for Cat Allergies

To keep your allergies at bay, you also may want to consider these tips:

  • Wash your hands immediately after petting the cat.
  • Make sure someone brushes the cat regularly to remove excess fur and dander.
  • Limit the cat's roaming area of the house.
  • Wash cat bedding and toys often.
  • Use a vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter.
  • Use an air purifier in your home.
  • Be sure to have an antihistamine on hand in case your symptoms flare up.

Sources

Harper, Lee and White, Joyce L. The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Cats. New York: Metro Books, 2008.

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.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • CASE1WORKER profile image

        CASE1WORKER 

        3 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

        I feel so sorry for people who are allergic to any type of animal I really cannot imagine how awful it must be

      • innerspin profile image

        Kim Kennedy 

        6 years ago from uk

        Really useful hub here. My husband and younger son both have cat allergies, but love the creatures. A cat decided to live here last year, and through gradual introduction and restricting where she goes, we've been able to have Kitty in the house. She mainly sleeps outdoors, but can now have a cuddle-sleep with the menfolk, which both parties enjoy. We didn't dare buy a cat in case it didn't work out, but happily, life took over.

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