Allergies are a pain. They’re uncomfortable, keep you from living your best life, and can even be potentially lethal. According to the 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 67% (84.9 million) households in the United States own a pet, and around half of that number (42.7 million) own a cat.
When you think about how an estimated 12% of Americans are allergic to cats, one has to wonder how so many people with allergies still live with cats. So what exactly are cat allergies?
What are Cat Allergies?
Allergens, which cause allergic reactions in humans, are found in cat cells, saliva, sweat, or excrements. Also, many owners of long-haired cat breeds think their allergies are due to cat hair. However, it is more often than not caused by dander.
Cat dander is an allergen that is difficult to manage because of its size and ability to remain in the air for a long time. Unfortunately, dander is present in all cats. With this, those with cat allergies are often not limited to specific breeds but allergic to cats in general.
Cat allergic people may experience an inflammatory response once allergens enter the human body. Your immune system produces antibodies designed to protect you from possible harm. Here are some of the symptoms you should expect if you suspect that you are allergic to cats:
Cat Allergy Symptoms
While there is still no proof why humans become allergic to cats, most people only exhibit mild to moderate symptoms. Depending on the type of allergen you have come into contact with, your symptoms and severity may vary. Here are a few common symptoms of cat allergies:
- Respiratory symptoms (difficulty breathing, coughing, sneezing, or stuffy nose)
- Facial pressure of pain
- Red, itchy, or watery eyes
- Skin reactions such as eczema, itchiness, or rashes
- Trouble sleeping
However, some unlucky people may be prone to severe allergic reactions like asthma attacks and anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can be potentially lethal. Not only does anaphylaxis cause difficulty breathing, but it causes low blood pressure that may lead to shock.
5 Things You Should Do if You Suspect You Are Allergic to Your Cat
For first time cat owners who may have experienced symptoms of allergies for the first time, here are some things you can do if you suspect that you may be allergic to your cat:
1. Find a temporary home for your cat.
While rare, severe allergic reactions can put you in danger. It is best not to risk if you are not sure. If you are not sure about how dangerous your potential cat allergy is, it is best to send your cat over to a friend or relative until you have determined the best course of action.
2. Do an allergy test to confirm your cat is the real source of your symptoms.
With so many types of allergens in the world, people often confuse one with another. Some allergens can simply be coincidental with your cat’s arrival into your home. For example, your allergies may have been due to the change of weather or new laundry detergent.
To be sure that you are actually allergic to your cat, it is best to talk to a doctor and get an allergy test to confirm your suspicions. There are two types of allergy tests – skin prick tests and blood tests. Skin prick tests look at reactions from small amounts of cat allergens pricked under the skin, while blood tests check for specific immune substances associated with cats.
3. Determine the severity of your allergy.
After confirming with a medical professional that you are allergic to cats, the next step is to determine whether your cat allergy symptoms are manageable. You may examine the severity of your cat allergy by exposing yourself to your cat in small doses and observing your body’s reaction. Be sure to have anti-allergy medication on-hand just in case you encounter any issues.
If your allergic reaction is severe, you may need to re-home your cat for their happiness and your safety. Should you not have the heart to give away your cat, you may want to consider anti-allergy treatment.
4. Get anti-allergy treatment.
Your doctor can help advise on the appropriate treatment that may vary depending on your allergic reaction. Treatment can come in the form of managing your symptoms like drinking anti-allergy medicine, keeping an inhaler for asthma on-hand, and an epinephrine injection pen (EpiPen) if you are prone to severe reactions.
Alternatively, you may also opt for immunotherapy with allergy shots. With these, your immune system will be exposed to small amounts of allergens over time, gradually reducing the severity of your reactions.
4. Treat your home.
One way to limit your allergic reactions is to make sure to keep cat allergens minimal in your home. Keep your cats out of specific areas that may trap their furs - your bed, office chairs, or couches.
If possible, remove any carpet, rugs, or thick curtains that may trap allergens. You may also invest in UV filtering vacuums with micro-filters and HEPA air conditioners to help remove allergens in your surroundings.
Cat Allergies Don’t Mean No Cats Forever
Just because you have cat allergies, it doesn’t mean you will never be able to feel the warmth of a loving cat. Unfortunately, there are no truly hypoallergenic cat breeds. However, several cat breeds have less dander, making them great pets for allergy-prone people like the Sphinx, Bengal, and Russian Blue.
Even if you only experience mild reactions to cat allergens, it is always best to be careful with your exposure. Immunotherapy is a great option to achieve lifelong relief from cat allergies. Alternatively, you may also take preventive medication, bathe your cat frequently, and make sure that your home is free of allergens as much as possible.
At the end of the day, it is best to consult with a medical professional. Confirm your suspicions and for the best treatment for your cat allergy. It’s a small price to pay if it means you can spend the rest of your days with your furry friend in peace.