Love Cats, Hate Allergies? Unraveling the Mystery & Finding Your Purrfect Solution!

Curious cat gazes skyward, captivated by a tiny wonder above.

Cat allergies are very common, affecting around twice as many people as dog allergies. Contact with cats can cause allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes in people who are allergic. If you or someone in your household suffers from cat allergies, this guide will help you understand the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments for cat allergies. We'll be providing helpful tips and strategies for managing cat allergies, so you can continue to enjoy the cuddles and purrs without the sniffles and sneezes. 

What Causes Cat Allergies?

Cat allergies are caused by proteins found in cat dander (dried flakes of skin), saliva, and urine. These proteins trigger an allergic response and reaction in people who are allergic when they come into contact with them. The specific protein that most people are allergic to is called Fel d 1, which is abundantly found in cat skin and saliva. 

People can develop allergies to cats at any time in their lives, even if they have never been allergic before. Allergies also tend to get worse with continued exposure. This means that even if you only had mild cat allergy symptoms before, they may worsen over time with ongoing contact with cats.

Close-up of a Maine Coon cat perched on a sofa.


What Are the Symptoms of Cat Allergies?

Common symptoms of cat allergies include:

  • Sneezing, runny nose
  • Red, itchy, watery eyes
  • Wheezing, trouble breathing
  • Coughing
  • Postnasal drip
  • Facial pressure and pain 
  • Swollen nasal passages
  • Itchy nose, throat, mouth, ears
  • Rash, hives, itchy skin

Cat allergy symptoms typically begin within 15 to 20 minutes after exposure to a cat or cat allergen. However, symptoms can occasionally be delayed for hours. Cat allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe. In rarer cases, severe cat allergies can trigger an asthmatic reaction or anaphylaxis.

What’s the Best Way to Diagnose a Cat Allergy?

If you suspect you may be allergic to cats, it’s important to talk to an allergist and be tested. Common diagnostic tests for cat allergies include:

Skin Prick Testing

This test involves pricking your skin with tiny amounts of suspected allergens, like cat dander extract, to see if they trigger an allergic response. Skin prick testing is very accurate in diagnosing cat allergies.

Blood Tests

A doctor can order a blood test that checks for IgE antibodies to cat dander. This can help confirm a cat allergy diagnosis.

Once properly diagnosed, your allergist can advise you on treatments and management strategies for your cat allergy.

What Are the Best Treatments for Cat Allergies?

Avoiding cats altogether is the most effective “treatment” for cat allergies." But for die-hard cat lovers, management strategies and medications can help reduce symptoms.

Allergy Medications

Antihistamines like Zyrtec, nasal sprays like Nasacort, and eye drops can help relieve allergy symptoms. Your doctor may also prescribe corticosteroid nasal sprays or even immunotherapy allergy shots.

Allergy-Proof Your Home  

You’ll want to take steps to reduce cat allergens at home. Some tips include: 

  • Keeping your cat out of the bedroom
  • Bathing your cat weekly 
  • Using HEPA air filters 
  • Washing hands after petting cats
  • Not allowing cats on upholstered furniture
  • Washing bedding regularly in hot water
  • Vacuum frequently, at least twice a week, using a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner to capture allergens trapped in carpets and furniture. 
  • Minimize clutter where dust and dander can accumulate. 

While you can’t eliminate all allergens, reducing exposure can help minimize symptoms. Talk to an allergist for personalized advice catered to your unique situation and sensitivities.

Relaxed Maine Coon cat being held by its owner on a living room sofa.

Can Hypoallergenic Cats Help with Allergies?

While no cat is 100% hypoallergenic, some cat breeds produce lower levels of Fel d 1 protein. "Hypoallergenic" cat breeds like the Balinese, Russian Blue, and Siberian may cause fewer allergy issues for some people. 

However, individuals can react differently based on their specific allergen sensitivity. What causes mild symptoms in one person may still trigger severe reactions in another. It's important to meet with different cat breeds first before deciding to bring one home.

 Purebred Cat enjoying a playful interaction with its loving owner.

Key Takeaways on Cat Allergies:

  • Cat allergies are caused by allergens found in cat skin, saliva, and urine - most commonly a protein called Fel d 1.
  • Symptoms include sneezing, coughing, runny nose, watery eyes, and trouble breathing.
  • Allergies can be diagnosed through skin or blood testing to identify cat allergen sensitivity.  
  • Allergy medications, allergen avoidance, and cleaning strategies can minimize exposure and control symptoms.
  • Some cat breeds may produce fewer allergens, but reactions vary individually based on allergen sensitivity.

While cat allergies can be frustrating, understanding the causes and options for symptom management can help those afflicted still enjoy time with their furry companions. Talk to an allergist to explore personalized treatment plans that suit your needs. With some adjustments, you may still be able to have cats in your life despite allergies.

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