Allergy to cats is extremely common, occurring in up to 25% of people with allergies.
Studies have shown that the material that is responsible for causing the allergic reaction (allergen) is concentrated in cat dander and saliva. All cats produce allergens; it is identical in different breeds of cats.
Cat allergen particle size allows it to remain airborne for several hours. Cat allergy symptoms result when dander is inhaled into the nose or lungs of sensitive individuals. Cat allergen is extremely difficult to remove from an area once present. Studies have demonstrated the presence of cat dander in public places and cat-free private homes, so cat allergen is everywhere. It’s easily transported on clothing. Indirect contact with cat allergen in schools and workplaces can cause significant symptoms.
Symptoms of cat allergy range from mild to severe and depend on sensitivity and level of exposure to cat allergen. Symptoms may include the following:
- Runny, Stuffy Nose
- Cough, Chest Congestion, Shortness of Breath, Wheezing
- Watery, Red or Itchy Eyes
- Rash or Hives
Cat Allergy Treatment
- Avoidance is best; cat sensitive individuals with severe allergies or asthma should remove cats from their homes.
- After a cat has been removed from a home, it takes 6 months or longer for cat allergen to dissipate. A trial of cat avoidance for its effect on symptom relief must be a minimum of 6 months in length or one may get the false impression that they are not allergic to cats. Cat allergen has been found to accumulate in carpeting and mattresses where it has been detected as long as 5 years after a cat has been removed from a home!
- Limit cats to a single area of the home and keep strictly out of the bedroom.
- Remove carpeting, rugs and upholstered furniture which can trap pet dander, especially in the bedroom.
- Allergy encasings should be used on the pillows, box spring and mattress.
- Wash bedding weekly.
- Wash hands and change clothing after contact with a cat.
- Use of a high efficiency vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter can decrease allergen levels.
- A room HEPA filter that runs continuously can decrease airborne cat allergen concentration by 50% (in rooms without carpeting and cat not allowed in that room).
- Bathing the cat at least weekly can decrease airborne cat allergen.
Medications such as antihistamines, nasal sprays and bronchodilators can help relieve symptoms.
Allergy shots or drops (immunotherapy) are a very effective treatment option for cat sensitive individuals.