Pet allergies are some of the most common allergies in the world. Cats are even more likely to cause allergies than other pets. It can be an awful feeling to realize that a beloved family furball could have been the cause of all the sneezing, coughing, itching, and wheezing, but do not panic. Through the right combination of life-style changes, medical advice, and allergy management techniques, it can be fairly easy to live with these allergies. What causes allergies to cats? Most people who are allergic to cats are not actually responding to fur or hair. Instead, the most common cause for these allergies is dander. Dander is a layer of dead skin cells that can linger on the coats of cats and other pets. It can be released into the air or transferred to other surfaces such as carpets or furniture. It is important to note that long-haired cats are more likely to carry dander in their fur. Symptoms People who are allergic to cats may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Skin reactions: like hives or contact dermatitis (an itchy, red rash that develops after direct contact with an allergen). These may appear after touching a cat or coming into contact with furniture or fabrics that a cat has recently been around.
  • Respiratory reactions: such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, or tightness in the chest.

Testing Pet allergies are very common, and are easy to test for. Allergists will likely use a simple skin panel test to either confirm or negate the presence of an allergy to cats or other pets. Other possible tests include elimination testing, where it may be necessary to remove the cat from the home environment for a few days or weeks to monitor symptoms and determine the severity of the allergy. Does Fluffy Have To Go? The short answer is probably not. There are usually steps that can be taken to manage the allergy without having to send anyone to the pound.

  • Weekly cleaning routines: Keeping up with housework can be a pain. However, there are a few simple things that, if done weekly, will help rid the house of pet dander and other allergens. Try to vacuum on a regular basis, especially in homes with carpeting. Dander can linger in carpets and other upholsteries. Use a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. These will eliminate most allergens instead of re-circulating them through the house. Although it can be difficult, try to keep cats off of couches and other furniture. Or, if push comes to shove, try a washable slip cover. Also, develop a schedule for dusting and try to stick to it. Dust buildup accounts for a large percentage of chronic asthma or hay fever symptoms.
  • Keep Cats Well-Groomed: Cat owners may laugh at this statement. Nobody wants to be the one to bathe the cat, and in all honesty, it is not always the best idea to do so. Stick to a simple brushing routine at home, and take cats to professional groomers once every few months. This may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it can make a huge difference for allergy sufferers. Ungroomed pets are also more likely to drag in pollen or plant parts from the outside, which can also contribute to seasonal allergies or asthma.
  • Long-Term Antihistamines: These are the most commonly recognized types of allergy medicines. They can be taken over long periods of time, even indefinitely, and can provide serious relief for people who suffer from conditions like chronic dog allergies. These are slow-release medications that will not cause the same levels of drowsiness as harder doses. Although these can be found at most pharmacies and do not require a prescription, it is still a good idea to consult with a doctor before starting any kind of medical routine.

These simple and fairly cost-effective methods can make it easier to live with an allergy to cats. Hopefully, it should not be necessary to get rid of cats or other pets, unless the reaction is chronic and severe. Medical professionals like allergists can help to provide other tips and techniques for living with this type of allergy, and may have very helpful suggestions to help manage symptoms.