How to Treat your Cat Allergy Symptoms and Live Comfortably and Happily with your Cat!
Do you or a loved one have cat allergy symptoms? Is your baby allergic to cats? Wait, don’t throw the cat out with the bath water!
Over the course of my 20 years of practice, I have too often received a call from a cat owner telling me that a family member has just been diagnosed with a cat allergy and the dermatologist has told them that in order to control their cat allergy symptoms they have to get rid of the cat. Of course, cat allergies in children are often the inciting cause – it’s scary as a parent to be told the cat has to go or your child is in danger.
I’m not a pediatrician and I’m not telling you to absolutely ignore what your pediatric dermatologist tells you. However, I have long been bothered by some dermatologists attitude towards cats because I have seen many cat owners with allergies to cats and fairly severe cat allergy symptoms learn to live very comfortably with their pets.
While it is true that the most effective method of treating any allergy is avoidance, many cat owners find that method extremely objectionable. Indeed, many cat owners with an allergy to cats do not follow their dermatologist’s orders when told to get rid of the cat. They would rather suffer with their allergies than give up their favorite feline.
Having witnessed these allergic cat owners, as well as some of my own employees, friends and relatives, continue to live with their cats, I have come to know that there are cat allergies treatment measures an allergic cat owner can take to live happily and comfortably with their cat. This assumes, obviously, that your cat allergy symptoms are not life-threatening.
Why Are People Allergic to Cats?
Before understanding what measures you can take to be able to live with your cat if you have allergies to cats, it is important to understand what cause allergies to cats. Historically, people have believed that their allergy is to the cat’s hair. That myth is still common, even today.
However, that’s just what it is – a myth. You could sleep on a pillow made of cat hair and never have cat allergy symptoms even though you are allergic to cats …IF …a specific protein found in cat saliva, urine, and dander (dead skin) was not on the hair. It’s this protein that causes allergies to cats – NOT the cat’s actual hair.
The Perfect Cat for People with Allergies?
A protein found in cat saliva, urine, and dander is the cause of people’s allergies to cats – NOT the cat’s hair. That’s why there are no true allergy free cats or hypo-allergenic breeds of cats. All cats carry these proteins regardless of the length of their hair or the amount of it. Even “hairless” breeds carry this protein. There is no “best cat for allergies”.
So How Can I Live With My Cat
If I Am Allergic to Cats?
Feline Allergy Treatment:
Many of the steps you can take to live comfortably with your cat, even if you are allergic to cats, are well known:
(1) Keep your cat out of your bedroom.
(2) Try to avoid hugging and kissing your cat – not easy I know, but can be very helpful.
(3) Vacuum carpets often or, better yet, replace your carpet with tile, linoleum, or hardwood floors.
(4) Cover upholstered furniture with couch covers or towels and sheets that can be washed regularly.
(5) Avoid cloth curtains and blinds.
(6) Vacuum and mop frequently and thoroughly. Use a double or micro-filter vacuum cleaner bag to decrease the amount of cat allergen present in carpeting that leaks back into the room air.
(7) Frequently wash anything that is washable such as pillow covers, couch covers, curtains, pet beds, etc.
(8) Use a HEPA air purifier/filter which is very helpful in trapping undesirable dander particles from the air.
(9) If you are allergic to cats and think that all of your cat allergy symptoms are caused by your cat, be aware that you may very well be allergic to other things. Your treatment for cat allergy includes concentrating on treating all the causes of your allergies, not just your allergy to cats.
(10) Over-the-counter allergy medications such as antihistamines can be useful for acute flare-ups of your cat allergy symptoms. Of course, check with your doctor.
(11) An effective long-term treatment is immunotherapy (allergy shots for cat allergies). Be sure and find an allergist who is sympathetic to your desire to continue to live with your cat. Cat allergy shots can be very helpful, but you will do even better if you also follow the environmental changes we describe in this article.
Although it is not the cat’s hair that a cat-allergic person is allergic to, the protein found in dander, saliva, and urine clings to the cat’s fur. Therefore, contact with cat hair means contact with the allergen. Being the obsessive self-groomers cats are, they are constantly depositing the protein from their saliva onto their hair as well their skin. Cat hair also attracts and collects mold spores, pollen, and other indoor and outdoor allergens.
As your cat sheds hair into the environment, the protein from the cat’s saliva, as well as any dry skin (dander), ends up on the carpet, on furniture, anywhere and everywhere in your home. The problem is amplified if your cat is shedding excessive hair or has dry skin. That’s why vacuuming frequently and using air filters and all of the methods mentioned above can help with your allergy to cats. If there’s less protein-contaminated hair and skin in the environment, there are fewer allergens to cause your cat allergy symptoms.
But what if we could decrease, in fact, practically prevent, the dander/protein-containing hair and dander itself from falling off the cat into the environment? Obviously, that would be a huge help. Well, we can! Shedding less dander-holding hair and skin will mean less is present in your home.
Treatment for Cat Allergies: Decrease Your Cat’s Hair Loss and Reduce Your Cat Allergy Symptoms
If a person who is allergic to cats isn’t allergic to cat hair, but is allergic to a protein found in dander (dead skin), saliva, and urine, then decreasing the amount of that protein in the environment would, no doubt, be desirable. AND ...just as preventing hairballs by using a FURminator to deshed your cat is much better than treating the hairballs after they occur, preventing the loss of so much protein into the environment is better than trying to just rely on cleaning it up once it’s already there.
Prevent cat allergies? How Can That Be Done?
Deshedding your cat regularly will reduce the amount of hair shed in your home and therefore reduce the level of allergens in your environment. Remember, the hair itself isn’t a problem, but the saliva-contaminated hair and dander-contaminated hair IS a problem since the protein found in saliva and dander are the allergens that cause your allergic reaction.
Have someone who doesn't have allergies brush your cat regularly—preferably in the garage or basement or other area you don’t use. In my experience, the only tool to use for this is the FURminator, which is by far the most effective de-shedder we have ever found.
• Bathe your cat every week as part of your cat allergy treatment. Studies have shown significant reductions in the amount of allergens with weekly bathing of cats. FURminator has some great SAFE and effective shampoos for cats and kittens.
The shampoos made by FURminator (and manufactured in the USA) contain no parabens, artificial colors or chemical dyes and are approved for topical use on dogs and cats over 6 weeks old.
Now, you may be asking yourself, What if my cat absolutely will not let me bathe him? For many cat owners, the idea of bathing a cat is overwhelming, despite how desperate one may be to reduce their allergic reactions to cats. For those owners, FURminator has created a line of waterless sprays with similar features and ingredients.
Visit the FURminator website for a complete list of all of their shampoos and conditioners for use in cats.
Creating the Ultimate Cat Allergen Reduction Plan
(1) Bathing and conditioning your cat’s hair and skin once a week can lessen the degree of dander and protein-contaminated hair in your environment and therefore help reduce your cat allergy symptoms. Believe it or not, most cats will let you bathe them (with a little persuasion). Be sure and use a shampoo that is clearly marked that it is safe for cats. Be especially careful if you are bathing a kitten - check the label carefully to see if it approved for use on kittens.
(2) After your cat is completely dry from the bath, deshedding with a FURminator brush is recommended to help remove any undercoat not released during the bath.
(3) It is also helpful, and healthy for your cat, to feed a well-balanced diet, rich in omega fatty acids, which can further help to keep a cat’s skin and coat healthy. The proper diet can prevent dry skin and reduce the amount of dander and hair shed into the environment.
In addition, follow the 11 suggestions at the beginning of the article for maximum success.
Treating cat allergies may seem like a lot of work, but there are many ways to help reduce your allergies to cats. And remember, whatever tools you are able to implement will help your situation significantly, even if you can’t do everything. Even bathing your cat once monthly, brushing and deshedding with a FURminator several times a week, and/or changing your cat’s diet will help reduce the cat-related allergens in your home to a degree, and depending on the severity of your cat allergy symptoms, can provide some relief from your symptoms.
Cat lovers, don’t despair!
Before you let your dermatologist win the “get rid of the cat” battle, try some of the many great options available to help reduce the degree of cat allergens in your environment so you and your cat can live happily and comfortably together.