Complete Cat Allergy Guide: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments for Reducing Allergies to Cats

Cat Allergies

For people with cat allergies, it can feel like a never-ending battle against the dreaded swollen, itchy eyes and running nose. These symptoms can have you running from furry felines of every shape size and color!

Well, run no more.

This guide will discuss cat allergy symptoms, the causes of these symptoms, treatments and practical ways of reducing allergies to cats.

Table of Contents

Answers to Your Questions

As the great Dwight Schrute would say, “FACT!”

There are too many allergies in the world. You have the same chance of being left handed as you do having cat allergies!

That’s ten percent of the world’s population. Quelle cat-as-trophe!

You’ve heard all kinds of rumours about cat allergies and how to cope with feline allergy symptoms.

Well, today we’ll learn the ins and outs of cat and kitten allergies and how to tackle them like the NFL’s finest. The allergies, not the cats.

We’ll dig deep answering common questions like:

  • Why am I allergic to cats?
  • Are kitten allergies less severe than cat allergies?
  • Are certain cats better for allergy sufferers?
  • What kind of symptoms are common with cat allergies?
  • Is there medication that can help my allergic reactions?
  • How can I keep my cat even if I’m allergic?

Fortunately, allergy sufferers, we have the answers to your burning questions.

But first: Let’s learn about cat allergy symptoms!

Common Symptoms of Cat Allergies

Sneezing, nasal congestion, constant runny or itchy nose

Itchy, watery, swollen, irritated, and or red eyes

Hives, rash, redness or irritation on the skin

Chronic sore or itchy throat, coughing or wheezing - may cause an asthmatic reaction

If you have a fever, nausea or other more extreme reactions you should see a doctor, these symptoms are not related to feline allergies.

Be sure to get a Cat Allergy Test from a health practitioner before assuming you have feline allergies.

Causes of Feline Allergies

Allergies to cats and kittens begin with the proteins in the skin, saliva, and urine. The specific proteins are identified as Fel d 1 and Fel d 4.

So why does everyone seem to think it’s cat hair that’s the problem?

Well, in short, cat hair is the Uber for allergy proteins. (Yuck, two stars.) Especially when a cat self-grooms, saliva and the proteins in it are transferred to the cat’s hair. When a cat sheds, that hair and the proteins on it are dispersed all over the house.

Why does that matter?

It means shaving your cat or buying a hairless one will not always help your allergies, but getting one that sheds less may lessen the effects for allergies if you take the right steps.

Know you’ve got allergies but still want a cat? Check out our complete guide on hypoallergenic cats which offers a list of allergy-friendly breeds to choose from.

Treatment for Cat Allergy Symptoms

Breathing free

We’ve got solutions people! These are the common ways that people cope with cat allergies.

Be sure to consult your doctor before taking any medications or bringing a cat into an allergic family.

Over the Counter Cat Allergy Medications

We’ve all seen (and likely scoffed at) those “rolling in the freshly cut grass with kittens and flowers” commercials. Not an allergy in sight!

The so-called secret? Antihistamines.

Some doctors recommend typical over-the-counter antihistamines, like the brands Benadryl, Claritan, Allegra, Zyrtec, and Astelin. These allergy medications are designed to block histamines.

What are histamines?

They are the bits of your body that tell your brain to swell or become irritated in response to a threat. Simply put, antihistamines reduce cat allergy symptoms like stuffy nose, watery eyes or hives.

In case you’re looking for the off-brand make, you want antihistamine medication to include one of the following; diphenhydramine, loratadine, fexofenadine, azelastine.

Decongestant or Nasal Sprays

Other sniffling allergy sufferers opt for the decongestion or nasal spray options.

These allergy medications work to tackle the swollen blood vessels in your extra swollen and congested nose. They work to shrink them to normal size again.

Brands that make decongestant medications you may be familiar with include; Sudafed, Allegra-D, Claritin-D or Zyrtec. For nasal sprays, Rhinocort, Flonase, Nasacort Allergy 24hr.

The main drugs used for decongestion medications typically include oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine. As for the nasal steroid sprays, the medicinal ones require any of the following drugs; budesonide, fluticasone, triamcinolone. Try saying those three times fast.

Some cat allergy sufferers choose to use doctor-recommended combinations of these medications for multiple symptom reactions.

Check in with your doctor if your symptoms are persistent or if they are severe and require immediate medical attention.

Feline Allergy Shots

For You

Allergy shots have been developed for people with cat allergies as well as other common allergies. The idea is to give your body small doses of the allergen, increasing with time to create a tolerance within your system until your body no longer reacts adversely.

You may have seen the same approach attempted by your spouse with your mother-in-law. (Not nearly as effective.)

Feline allergy shots work for some people who are over the age of five and have the patience to continue treatments over the course of years. The process involves multiple visits over time and the results differ person to person.

Some have found real success with this method of dealing with their allergies, even claiming that they no longer have allergies at all!

For Your Cat

A vaccine has been developed to reduce the Fel d 1 allergen protein in your cat’s body; right now it’s testing safe for cats.

It creates antibodies for the Fel d 1 protein so that your allergic reaction is not triggered. This vaccine is expected to hit the market around 2022 after testing is complete. No use has yet been discovered for the Fel d 1 protein in cats.

More research over time will determine how important Fel d 1 protein is to your cat. For more info check out this article from Forbes.

Practical Ways to Reduce Cat Allergies in the Home

Air Filter Options to Reduce Feline Allergies

HEPA Air Filters for Cat Allergy Sufferers

Many people have found HEPA filters in their homes to help with cat allergies.

HEPA filters are said to remove 99.97% of the impurities from the air and reduce allergies, illness and dust in your home. Breathe easy.

This product should improve the air quality in your home and help you reduce your cat allergy symptoms to Fluffy the feline.

Standard Air Filters: Still Effective for Allergy Sufferers?

Standard air filters may also work for you. Just be sure to change the filter more often than recommended and this method should decrease your sneeze-fests.

It’s also generally a more cost-effective option though may not trap as many different types of airborne allergens.

A/C and HVAC Filters

You may also consider switching out your air conditioner and furnace filters regularly to trap allergens. You can get rid of allergens in your home’s air before they can build up and cause problems.

Having filters on your vents, and vacuuming your air ducts can further reduce the presence of cat allergens in the home.

Cat Allergens Found on Textiles in Your Home

Regular vacuuming is essential

It may not surprise you, but carpets and rugs trap cat fur and dander. Retaining cat allergens, a little like the bearded man’s save-a-snack-for-later idea; still gross.

Wherever possible, switch out carpet flooring for smooth options like hardwood, tile, laminate etc. If you can’t control the type of flooring and you’re stuck with carpet, be sure to vacuum more than the average Joe, and get your carpets shampooed often. Same goes for those rugs and runners in your home.

Upholstered furniture is also not your friend. Couches and other upholstered furniture with fabric will trap dander. It may help to get washable covers that you can vacuum and throw in the washer once a week. Smooth options like leather, faux leather etc, can be wiped and washed but still may hold dander in the difficult to reach areas.

Don’t forget your cat’s stuff! Those cat trees, can beds, and hideaways will have the highest concentration of feline dander, be sure to include them in your cleaning routine.

Cleaning Up Cat Allergens

Clean the house

Regular vacuuming with a device built to handle pet hair and dander is sure to help stop the build up of allergens in your home. Also stay on top of wiping down surfaces and pay special attention to areas your cat spends the majority of its time.

Laundry Cleaning Habits

It has been proven that the hotter the water, the more dust mites and allergens are killed.

If your clothes can take it, crank the heat for the wash cycle. If not, wash with warm water and rinse twice with cold water afterwards and you should have a similar effect.

When shampooing furniture or carpets be sure to use the hottest water possible.

Clean the Cleaners

Vacuums accumulate dander and should be cleaned out by someone who is not allergic or at least while wearing gloves and a mask.

Washing your cleaning rags in hot water will help to kill the cat allergen proteins and help to reduce your allergic reactions while cleaning your home. The same can be said for mop heads and washable dusting tools.

Handling Your Cat

Gentle combing to remove excess hair

Clean the cat - How? The Do’s and Don'ts

Grooming your cat will reduce the proteins transferred to your cat’s fur when it licks itself. It will also loosen and remove any hairs that were about to fall out and would otherwise end up in your home.

Do– Bring your cat monthly to a groomer you know and trust to get a full bath, brush and dry. You could likely have this done bi-weekly if needed if your cat tolerates it, however be sure to watch your cat’s skin and behaviour in case it becomes too much for it. Mentally or physically.

Skip – We don’t recommend dunking your cat in a bathtub yourself, especially if you have never washed your cat before. Some cats are safely bathed at home, however, wet cats tend to shake their fur, and drying cats send fur flying all over. Defeating the point of bathing your cat in the first place.

Litter Box Woes

Litter cleaning is the part most cat owners dread the most.

Well, cat allergy sufferers, I hate to break it to you, but those feline allergy causing proteins exist in the urine in high concentration. Many cat allergy sufferers have a non-allergic member of the family take care of this unpleasant task. Others have resorted to using gloves and masks while cleaning the kitty litter box.

For lovers of the Jetsons, there’s also a robot for that now. Self cleaning litter boxes are about the coolest thing since Munchkin cats; they come in many shapes and sizes.

Also worth a Youtube search, ‘toilet training your cat’. Revolutionary or weird, you be the judge.

Banishing from the Bedroom

Want a restful sleep knowing you can breathe clearly throughout? It’s important to have clean air and dander free surfaces in your private sanctuary – your room.

This might be a tough one, but we definitely recommended that cat allergy sufferers do not allow their cats in their bedroom. This is the best way to limit the amount of dander found on your clothes, bed, pillow and other surfaces you touch frequently.

If cat dander builds on your bed or surrounding areas, you will probably notice more allergy flare ups and difficulty sleeping. Exposure to those cat allergens overnight can cause more severe reactions than for instance, petting your cat on your lap and then washing your hands afterward.

Experimental Cat Foods to Reduce Allergens

There is work being done to create cat foods that assist in reducing Fel d 1 proteins in cats. Researchers claim that their foods do not change the production of feline hormones or affect the cat in any other way.

Interesting science for sure. For more information be sure to check out this article by Purina on their work in this field of study.

What About Your Cat?

Reduce cat allergy triggers starting with Garfield himself.

Not only can you choose a hypoallergenic cat breed which is less likely to cause allergy flare ups, you can also consider the following:

Females and neutered males tend to produce less of the Fel d 1 protein resulting in less allergic responses.

Some breeds are known to groom less than others and some breeds have less Fel d 1 protein naturally.

Keeping your cat or kitten healthy and fit will also limit the amount of unnecessary grooming and oil production in the skin.

Cats who suffer from skin allergies will naturally lick or ‘groom’ more often, so managing your cat’s allergies can help limit yours.

Kittens have less Fel d 1 proteins present on them because they’re brand new! They haven’t had enough time to secrete the oils or groom themselves yet.

We hope this article helped you whether you have a cat and are looking to reduce the feline allergens in your home, or if you like to host friends with cat allergies.

We wish you happy tails, and remember, always research and talk to your doctor before adopting a new furry family member or taking medication!

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