Cat Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments and Reducing Exposure
The major cat allergen, called Fel d 1, is found in cat saliva, dander from sebaceous glands in the skin, fur, and anal sebaceous glands. Other cat allergens, including albumin, are found in the urine, saliva, and blood.Allergy to cats is extremely common, occurring in up to 25 percent of people with allergies. Cat allergy is more common than allergy to dog dander, which may be related to the potency of cat hair and dander as an allergen as well as the fact that cats are not generally bathed.
Why Cat Allergy Is Such a Problem
Cat allergen is produced in large amounts, particularly by male non-neutered cats as the allergen is partially under hormonal control. The dander is constantly airborne, sticky, and found in public places, even where there are no cats. This is due to the dander being carried on the clothing of people who have cats, then shed in public places. Therefore, cat allergen is a component of house dust, even in homes where a cat has never lived.The size of the cat dander particles is extremely small and is inhaled deep into the lungs. Cat dander is, therefore, a common cause of allergic asthma, and cat owners who are allergic to cats are more prone to the development of asthma symptoms.
How to Control Symptoms
For people with cat allergy, avoidance of cats is the mainstay of therapy. Allergy medications are likely to help control symptoms, but in many instances, symptoms may persist if the person owns one or more indoor cats. Allergy shots may also be a good treatment option for people who are allergic to their pet cats.Cat owners may not want to part with their pets, despite the symptoms they endure. Short of getting rid of the cat, here are some ways to decrease cat allergen exposure for cat owners:
- Ensure the cat is neutered
- Bathing the cat at least once or twice a week
- Wiping the cat with a wet cloth or hand towel daily
- Remove the cat from the bedroom, close the bedroom door and air vents to the bedroom
- Keep the cat outside or in the garage, or in a part of the home with an uncarpeted floor
- Vacuum frequently with a HEPA-equipped vacuum cleaner
- Purchase a HEPA room air cleaner for use in the bedroom and/or other parts of the home (it is best to keep the HEPA filter off of the floor so as to not stir up more dust)
- Follow house dust mite avoidance precautions
- If the above measures do not help to reduce allergic symptoms, getting rid of the pet cats may be needed, particularly for people with uncontrolled asthma.
- Cat dander will persist for months to years in the home even if the cat is gone – therefore it is important to clean thoroughly
- steam clean all carpets and upholstered furniture
- launder or dry clean all bedding and curtains
- vacuum all hard floors
- wipe down all hard surfaces and furniture
- replace any air conditioner and heater vent filters