Allergies are a growing problem in the US. Many people are diagnosed with allergies and others diagnose themselves based on articles or pamphlets. Too often people with allergies are advised to give up their animals. The truth is that most people with allergies can keep their cats and their health by taking a few simple steps. When we consider how many cats die in shelters each year, just for the lack of a home, it’s obvious that we owe it to ourselves and our cats to try to live with allergies.
What is a cat allergy?
Allergies to cats are caused by a protein (Fel d-I) in the cat’s saliva. This protein will collect on the cat’s fur when she grooms herself, or flake off and contribute to household dust. For this reason there are no hypo-allergenic breeds or colors of cats. Even hairless cats can cause allergies.
Fight Your Allergy
- Wash your hands immediately after you touch your cat to avoid transferring allergens directly from your cat to your eyes, mouth, or skin.
- Clean. Allergens accumulate and it takes a large amount to produce a reaction in most people, so cleaning and dusting your home every week will reduce your symptoms. Try using a hypo-allergenic dusting cloth, which uses static electricity to trap dust particles, instead of dispersing them into the air the way a feather duster would.
- Brush your cat to remove loose hair and dried saliva. Remove the hair from the brush immediately and put it into a closed trash can. While some cats will resist brushing, others enjoy it. Try to make this a pleasant ritual for your cat by rewarding her after brushing and by speaking softly and reassuringly as you brush her. Begin with her neck and chin and slowly work out to the rest of her body.
- Bathe your cat. If you begin bathing your cat as a kitten and use only very gentle shampoos designed for cats, she may learn to tolerate it.
- Wipe your cat every week. If your cat cannot tolerate being bathed, then try wiping her down with a special hypo-allergenic dust cloth or a specially-designed “pet wipe” in order to remove dried saliva and loose hair. Use a very gentle petting or scratching motion
- Get rid of your carpet. Carpets can hold allergens for years. Hardwood floors, tile, and linoleum are much more allergy-friendly. Also wooden and metal furniture is much easier to clean and keep dust free than plush couches and chairs. You can try tie-on washable chair cushions, and toss them into the wash every couple weeks.
- Buy washable curtains and blinds, and wash them on a regular basis. If these items are fabric simply dusting them will not eliminate the problem, they must be washed with soap and water.
- Place filters or cheese cloths over all vents, and then wash or replace them frequently.
- Buy an air purifier. Everyone, whether they are allergic to cats or not, can benefit from the addition of an air filter to their home. These filters will remove allergen particles from the air. Many people who share their homes with multiple cats recommend HEPA air filters.
If you’ve tried the previous steps and still find that you are having problems, here are some further suggestions.
- Get allergy tested by your doctor. You may have multiple allergies which need to treated. Common allergens include pollen, flowers, hay, dust, dust mites, and a variety of molds.
- Shut the cats out of your bedroom. Allergens may collect in and around the bed where you can inhale them as you sleep.
- Hire someone else to clean your home or ask a non-allergic family member to dust and sweep. Some allergy sufferers find that they have reactions while cleaning, or that they are simply too busy to clean as well as they should.
- Try allergy-reducing pet sprays (LoShed and Allerpet). These are new products and so there aren’t many reports or articles on their effectiveness, but they are supposed to reduce dander and shedding, which in turn reduces the number of allergens released into the air.
- Look into allergy treatments. There are a variety of over the counter and prescription medicines on the market for allergies. Many people report that these medications work well for them, and this has the added benefit of treating all of your allergies at once. You can also get allergy shots from your doctor, but the shots must be administered frequently in the beginning.
Did you know:
Some scientists theorize that exposing your child to common allergens may actually decrease his risk of developing allergies and asthma later in life? Studies suggest that children who grow up on farms, with high exposure to animals, hay, pollen, and molds, have fewer allergies and lower rates of asthma than urban children. Perhaps your cat will make your child grow into a healthier adult. And if not, he’ll undoubtedly enjoy the companionship and love the cat will provide. Some evidence suggests that over time you can become immune to allergens from your own cat.
*The above information provided by Alley Cat Rescue at http://www.saveacat.org/allergiesandcats.html
Have a grrrrreat Thursday night!