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Here's What You Need to Do to Combat Cat Allergies
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Here's What You Need to Do to Combat Cat Allergies

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Jul 6, 2022

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If you're here because you think this article is about cats and their allergies, and you have no allergies to speak of, congratulations. You're a superior breed of pet owner, and those of us with watery eyes, scratchy throats, and sniffly noses are green with cat-loving envy. But if you currently look like something the cat dragged in and want to know how to limit the misery-inducing symptoms, you've come to the right place. From bathing your cat weekly to using high temperatures during laundry, here's what you've got to do.

1

What causes cat allergies?

woman suffering from allergies to cat's fur and sneezes Kiwis / Getty Images

Cat allergies are super common, with millions of Americans suffering through symptoms. They're more familiar than dog allergies because they're twice as prevalent. Cat hair isn't the only source of the problem—cat saliva, urine, and dander particles cause allergies too. And FEL d1 is at the root of it all. This protein contains molecules that stick to many surfaces in your home and quickly enter the respiratory system. Male cats, especially those that haven't been neutered, have a higher level of allergens. Symptoms occur when your immune system sees the allergen and goes into overdrive.

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2

Do you have a cat allergy?

Skin prick allergy test AlexRaths / Getty Images

Most pet owners instinctively know whether their fur babies are to blame for their affliction. But there are a few formal methods to confirm whether you have a cat allergy. Skin prick tests and intradermal skin tests are popular because they're quick and more affordable than blood tests, although the latter presents no additional risk. With a skin prick test, a doctor exposes you to tiny amounts of various allergens and notes where each is administered. There'll be a visible reaction within 15 minutes if you're allergic to one or more substances. Intradermal tests involve injections. If you react badly to an allergen, the allergist can respond immediately with meds.

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3

Cat allergy symptoms

Allergic woman to cats. BSIP/UIG / Getty Images

Achoo! It's easy to dismiss cat allergens as tolerable and not so bad, but they can make life downright unpleasant and are dangerous enough to put some cat parents in the hospital. The allergic response may not be instant—it can occur hours or even days after contact with a cat. Symptoms of cat allergens include but are not limited to the following:

  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sneezing
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Rashes on your face and chest
  • Eye inflammation
  • Itchiness around mucous membranes
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath

Cat allergies can trigger chronic asthma, so as soon as you start noticing a reaction, you'll need to chat to your GP about the best options for you.

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4

Cat allergy treatment

A woman holds a medicinal spray in her hands, a pack of pills and a handkerchief Elena Shevchuk / Getty Images

When you have a cat for a long time, the thought of giving it away because of allergy flare-ups is unthinkable. So, what can you do if you can't avoid the trigger? Well, a whole lot, it turns out, starting with minimizing your symptoms. Over-the-counter gels can help, as can decongestant sprays and antihistamines. There are also immunotherapy shots you can take. It's a commitment, but you might be willing to visit your doctor for three shots every second week. Chat with your GP about the best options for you.

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5

Clean up operation

vacuum cleaner on the carpet in the living room, next to the cat Svetlana Sultanaeva / Getty Images

If your feline is going nowhere, you'll need to switch things up at home. Can carpets make way for wooden floors or tiles? If you don't have the budget to replace flooring right now, you'll need to steam clean or hoover your carpets. After all, the cat sat on the mat—everybody knows that. Cat hair can get on your walls, too, so wear a mask and get wiping. And wash your pet bedding often, and yours while you're at it.

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6

Air your rooms

Close up of a Fluffy Cat Sitting Next to Air Purifier

Investing in a HEPA air filter is worth your while. These come as stand-alone units; they're also included in vacuums and ACs. Without an air filter, you'll need to push your windows open regardless of the season, particularly if you and your little bestie spend a lot of time together in the same space.

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7

Set boundaries

cat relaxing at home on pet bed csakisti / Getty Images

Don't let your cat sleep in the bed with you for your own sake. It might be an old habit that dies hard, but it will significantly aid your woes. You might argue that you can't sleep without your snuggly, warm cat. How about trying a stuffed animal or, you know, another human being? Rather than hamper your love life, your allergies could give it an unexpected boost.

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8

Cat controls

Senior man brushing cat lying on stone floor Westend61 / Getty Images

Although it's not unusual to refer to cats and dogs as hypoallergenic, it's not technically accurate. All cats come with allergens, but the amount produced varies. To begin with, have your cat spayed or neutered. Make sure to brush its hair daily and do so outside, and clean the clumping litter-filled box just as frequently. Your vet may advise you to change your cat's diet so it sheds less. And specific kinds of kibble are marketed for cat allergy sufferers. You could also adopt a cat that hates being touched if you create a solid cleaning routine.

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9

Prevention is better than cure

Tabby Cat watches a man wash his hands in the bathroom michellegibson / Getty Images

Be mindful about washing your hands every time you interact with your kitty, and change your clothes, too, if your cat sits on you. Take a vitamin C supplement or eat foods high in vitamin c to give your body the ammo it needs to fight allergens with little drama. It's a good idea to shower just before you hop in bed so you can have a restful night's sleep.

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10

A last resort

woman giving cat to another person

In some cases of asthma, your cat allergies can send you to the emergency room. Severe allergies may mean you have no choice but to give your cat away. Giving your cat up, heartbreaking as it is, is easier when you know the new owners will give your fur baby lots of love and a forever home. If friends or family members adopt Chuckles, maybe you'll be able to take precautions and sneak a visit in once in a while. And remember, just because you're allergic to one type of animal doesn't mean you'll be allergic to another, although it does increase the odds. Try fostering other animals until you find a fit.

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