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Cat allergies: symptoms & treatment

Cats, despite generally being ferociously independent and seriously stubborn, make just as great companions as their canine counterparts. However, people often don’t realise that they’re allergic to cats until you’ve brought your feline friend home, so it’s important to make sure that you’re prepared for that eventuality!

Here are the top allergies related to cats, and ways to help you enjoy the company of your feline friend without feeling rotten.

Cat allergy symptoms…

It’s likely that, if you’ve ever stroked a cat and soon after your eyes have started watering, you’ve become wheezy or your nose has become blocked, you’ve got a cat allergy. Of course, it’s all well and good if you’ve gone through that experience, but what if you only clock you might be allergic to cats once you’ve brought one home?

Some of the main signs and symptoms of a cat allergy include a runny or congested nose, coughing and chest tightness, wheezing, and watery or itchy eyes.

What causes the symptoms? Have a dander at this…

You may have heard about how cat dander (or, to give it its scientific name, Fel d 1) causes allergic reactions in some people. But what exactly is Fel d 1? Fel d 1 is a protein in cats which is produced mainly in their saliva and sebaceous glands (glands in the skin that produce an oily, waxy matter called sebum).

Research performed by Cambridge University, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and the University of Massachusetts, has demonstrated how allergic responses to cats are caused by this process. So if you’re sniffling right now as your cat’s sat next to you, you can probably thank Fel d 1 for that!

Fel d 1 is incredibly light and sticky, which means – as your cat sheds fur and Fel d 1 is produced – it will first spend time suspended in the air before descending and covering all things in sight. Which is why you need to be especially careful if you know you suffer from a cat allergy and you’re welcoming a new feline friend home!

a cat playing on the sofa

Do some cats give you worse symptoms than others?

The simple answer is, yes! Female cats produce a lower number of allergens than males, and neutered males produce less than males who haven’t been neutered. This is to do with the amount of Fel d 1 each type of cat produces.

But it’s not all down to the sex of the cat. Surprisingly, light-coloured cats (think of your white or tortoise-shell cats) produce less Fel d 1 than darker cats. That’s certainly something to think about!

Is there a cat allergy treatment?

Although there’s no cure for cat allergies yet, there are ways you can lessen the impact of these symptoms on your daily life. These include:

  • Ensure the cat is neutered
  • Bathing the cat once a week (good luck with this!)
  • Washing your hands after touching your pet
  • Restrict the cat’s access to the bedroom
  • Vacuum frequently with a HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner
  • Washing anything a cat has touched frequently
  • Regularly launder all bedding and curtains
  • Occasionally steam cleaning all carpets/furniture to prevent build-up
  • Taking a course of antihistamine medication
  • Changing carpeted areas to hard flooring, as this retains less hair and dander

It’s important to remember that people rarely have only one allergy – so you shouldn’t necessarily blame your feline friend every time you sneeze or have watery eyes! There could be any number of causes for your symptoms, including hay fever or a dust mite allergy. So your cat allergy could be the least of your worries…

Just because you’re allergic to cats doesn’t mean you can’t have a feline best friend. Taking all the necessary steps to help prevent or alleviate the symptoms of your allergy should mean you can enjoy the company of your cat without having to worry about getting the sniffles!

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