Wednesday, March 25

Allergies to Cats: You Are Not Alone

Allergies to cats are not fun. Individually, symptoms do vary but they often mimic a cold with sneezing, sniffling, coughing, wheezing, and watery, itchy eyes. Many people also develop redness on their skin where a cat has licked, or hives, a rash or welts on their chest and face. Alas, if you live with a cat and have an allergy to your feline friend, this may well be a never-ending misery.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, allergies are the most widespread chronic condition in the world. In fact, allergies affect almost every household and nearly everyone either has an allergy or knows someone that has an allergy.

The most common forms are allergies to cats. Between 10 and 15% of the population are allergic to pets, with feline allergies the most common. The number of people with this chronic condition has multiplied in the last decades, possibly because more singles and families now have a household feline pet. In fact, cats are slightly more popular than dogs. Allergy to dogs is much less common at perhaps 3 to 4% of the population, which is somewhat higher than those allergic to horses.

What Causes The Allergy

Contrary to popular belief, it is not feline fur that is the allergen (the cause of the allergy). The real culprits are:

  • Proteins in cat saliva, which is often on their fur,

  • Urine, which can be on their fur as well as the kitty litter, and

  • Dander, which are dried flakes of skin which is often on their fur.

However, the fur itself is not an allergen.

Unfortunately, cats can aggravate other human allergies by carrying in outdoor allergens into the house. This is why some people with asthma will have a flare-up a short time after coming in contact with a cat. It is not the cat but what the cat has picked up from outside journeys and is carrying in its fur.

What To Do

If you have allergies to cats, there are steps you can take inside the home to reduce allergen exposure. This takes the form of two strategies:

  • The first is essentially: 1) clean the cat, 2) clean the house, and 3) clean the air in the house.

  • The second is by limiting exposure to their cat.

Some people are successful in minimizing allergenic reactions by having a cleaning program in coordination with limiting their exposure to their cat.

There are specific ways and some tips and tricks to get both of these strategies to work which I write about in the article, Cat Allergy Solutions: 14 Ways You Can Avoid or Decrease Your Allergenic Reaction to a Cat. However, by whatever methods, the removal of allergens is always the first thing to do and it is the most desirable approach to allergy control.

For some people, this may not be enough. For them, there is medication that may help, including over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants as well as prescription medication. Do not self-medicate. Your doctor can advise you what is appropriate in your case.

You can also have immunization shots, however this is an involved and time-consuming procedure, it is expensive and it is too often not successful.


Although allergies to cats are not fun, for most people allergenic reactions to our feline friends is controllable with an organized cleaning regiment, and/or reducing their exposure to their cat. Perhaps you may draw comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone in your desire to have or keep a cat, and you are not alone in your desire to find a way to make it work.