If you find yourself with itchy, red eyes or a runny nose every time you play with your cat, you're not alone. Nearly 15 percent of the population is allergic to pets -- and many of these individuals still keep cats or dogs in their homes. Although cat allergies are frustrating, they don't necessarily mean you have to give your feline friend up for adoption. Solutions are available to provide relief, and in many cases, symptoms can be reduced enough that you can live with your cat without serious discomfort.
Why Am I Allergic to My Cat?
Allergies to cats are primarily caused by their saliva, which contains a protein called Fel d1. The protein is left on a cat's fur when they clean themselves and is then transferred to you when you touch or pet them. This allergen accounts for approximately 90 percent of cat allergies.
6 Simple Tips for Reducing Cat Allergies
Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce the amount of cat allergens in your home or the degree of your symptoms.
Consider an Allergen Reducing Cat Diet
There's a chance you could minimize your cat's allergen production from the inside out. Researchers discovered that an immunoglobulin in the egg yolks of chickens exposed to cats actually reduced Fel d1 levels. Purina used these findings to create a special diet formula. Pro Plan LiveClear Allergen Reducing Cat Food reportedly reduced Fel d1 levels by 47 percent after just a few weeks. If you're willing to invest the money and time needed to see changes, this might be a great option to minimize your allergies.
A plethora of antihistamines are available to help with allergies. You could rely on these as needed when your symptoms are especially bad, or take them regularly. Some pet owners are forced to take daily medication in an effort to make their symptoms manageable. But always consult with your physician before starting a new drug.
If over-the-counter products won't suffice, you can ask your doctor about prescription options. These might include stronger oral antihistamines, nasal sprays, or even an inhaler.
Manage Allergens in Your Environment
Even if you don't pet your cat often, you can still be exposed to allergens in your environment. Clean your home and your cat's bedding frequently. Vacuum, dust, and mop even those areas where your cat doesn't spend time, because allergens can spread far and wide. Fel d1 has been found in homes without pets as well as other pet-free establishments, such as hospitals or schools.
Consider a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifier or filter to remove particles from the air in your home. What makes HEPA so special is that it actually removes smaller particles than typical filters will, so more dander is removed from the environment. You can even buy vacuum cleaners that come equipped with a HEPA filter.
With the help of an allergist, you can minimize cat allergy symptoms long-term with a series of shots. Your doctor will first perform testing to determine exactly what you're allergic to, then formulate a unique shot targeted to whatever triggers your allergies.
The goal is to train your body to get used to the cat allergens, so it produces a reduced reaction over time. Although your allergies may never fully resolve, your symptoms will likely lessen. If you choose to go this route, you can expect to visit your allergist weekly throughout the "build up" phase, then monthly for up to several years to achieve optimal results.
Unfortunately, for those allergy sufferers whose symptoms are challenging to manage even with medical intervention, you may need to limit contact with your beloved cat. Keep your bedroom door closed to prevent them from sleeping on your bed or pillow. Consider removing all carpets, drapes, and other fabrics where allergens might hide.
Always be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after playing with or handling your cat. Don't touch your face or your eyes until after you have washed your hands. If you're able to resist nuzzling your face in their fur, it may be possible to live comfortably with a feline friend.
Manage Allergens on Your Cat
You can limit your exposure to cat allergens by removing them from the source -- your cat. Bathing your cat is the best way to reduce the amount of Fel d1 on their skin and fur. If your cat will tolerate it, you can bathe them as frequently as once every week. Be sure to use a gentle, cat-safe shampoo.
Since most cats do not like baths, try getting the same effect by wiping them down with a damp cloth or use a pet wipe product. This will help reduce the saliva on their fur, although it likely won't remove it completely. You can do this daily. Dry shampoos are another option for felines who are not up for a bath.
Frequent grooming with a brush will help get rid of excess hair and dander, as these also contain allergens. Because brushing can cause particles to fly into the air, it might be wise to wear protective eye wear or a mask while you do this. This is particularly important if you experience respiratory allergic signs.
Bathing Your Cat
If you're up for the challenge, you can try giving your cat a full bath. If you've never attempted this before, the task might seem daunting. Follow these detailed instructions to create a positive and safe experience for everyone involved.
Items You Will Need
Gather these essential items before you begin.
- Brush: This can be used before the bath to remove excess hair and tangles.
- Two towels: One towel is for drying your cat off after the bath, and the other is to put on the bottom of the sink or bathtub to keep your cat from slipping.
- Mild shampoo suitable for a cat: It is important that you don't use a human shampoo, as these contain ingredients that are not safe for pets. Make sure that the shampoo is suitable for use on a cat. If you aren't sure which product to use, check with your vet for suggestions.
- Conditioner suitable for a cat: Yes, they make conditioners for cat hair. You probably won't need this if you have a short-haired cat, but it is a good idea to have around if you have a long-haired cat who is prone to tangles or mats.
- Several containers of warm water: Some cats are frightened by the sound of running water, so you can eliminate the need for the tap by having prepared vessels of warm water. If you have several containers ready for wetting down and rinsing off, you will be ahead of the game.
How to Proceed
Now that you have all necessary supplies, you can proceed to bathe your cat.
- Get the room you have chosen to bathe the cat in ready before you start. It's best to do this in a bathroom sink or a room that has doors you can close. This way, if your cat gets away, you won't have a trail of suds around the house to clean up. You can bathe your cat in the bathtub, but if you have a sink at waist height or higher, this will give you more control.
- Fold up one of the towels and put it in the bottom of the sink, making sure to cover the porcelain that your cat could slip on. The towel will also give the cat something to sink their claws into, so you aren't the recipient. Take your brush and groom their hair coat gently. This gives you a chance to find any mats and remove them before they become painful.
- Dampen your cat's coat thoroughly. You can do this by gently pouring warm water from your container onto their back, chest, and underside. Avoid getting their head wet, as any moisture in their ears could spur an ear infection.
- Take a small amount of shampoo and lather up. Remember, your cat is quite a bit smaller than you are, so you don't need very much shampoo -- try a dime-sized amount, then add more if you need it.
- After they're lathered, rinse the suds out. The rule of thumb for rinsing is to rinse five minutes for every minute of washing. This ensures that you get all the shampoo out of your cat's hair coat.
- If you opt to use a conditioner, this is the time to apply it. Make sure that you have rinsed all the shampoo out of the coat first. After applying the conditioner, rinse, rinse, and rinse again.
- Dry your cat well after bathing. Use a clean towel to remove as much water as you can from their fur. This is also a good time to clean your cat's ears.
Which Cat Breeds Are Hypoallergenic?
Unfortunately, there are no truly hypoallergenic cats, though some breeds may possess lower levels of Fel d1 than others. Hairless cats, such as the Sphynx, reportedly have the lowest levels, followed by Siberians, who have significantly more hair than most cats.
Interestingly, sex could play a role in allergens. Male cats may have higher levels of Fel d1 than female cats, with intact males possessing the most and spayed females with the lowest levels. Regardless of the breed or gender, it's impossible to find a cat who does not produce any Fel d1, the key allergen that causes reactions.
Stop Suffering From Cat Allergies
Your relationship with your cat doesn't have to bring you to tears -- not from sadness or joy, but as a result of allergies. By attempting one or all of these easy techniques, you can enjoy many years of sniffle-free snuggles with your feline friend.