Many people are allergic to cats. It was once thought that these people were allergic only to dander and cat hair, however, it is now believed that these people might actually be allergic to protein particles that are found in various body fluids such as saliva, sweat (and yes, cats can sweat) and urine. Researchers have found that the protein molecules in question are the Fel d 1 protein and feline albumin. Since the protein is in the cat’s saliva virtually anything the cat licks will have protein on it and may cause an allergic reaction in humans. For example when a cat cleans herself she is putting protein on her fur, even when she licks you, protein can be deposited on you and your clothing. And to compound the matter the protein itself can become airborne and thus become deposited all over your home. And to make it worse this protein can last years in the environment, so if you are extremely allergic to cats you may even have a reaction to an new rented apartment were a cat lived in years ago! This is also why your friend may have an allergic reaction even though all of your cats are out of the room!
If you are allergic to cats yet want to have a cat as a pet, are going to live in a home with cats, or are going to be visiting a home with cats there are things you can do to not have such a strong allergic reaction to cats.
- Try to adopt a female cat, females produce less protein than males
- Take antihistamines (use non-drowsy formula)
- Make sure your home has good ventilation
- Keep your bedroom off-limits to all cats
- Use an air cleaner to remove allergens (HEPA filters work well)
- Keep cats off upholstered furniture which is harder to remove allergens from
- Have someone else do vacuuming and sweeping in the house as this may stir up allergens
- Keep your home clean and as free as possible of cat hair and dander, as well as to try to remove any protein
- Don’t brush the cats yourself, have someone else do all grooming
- Make sure the cat is groomed often to minimize shedding
- Consider bathing your cat or wiping your cat down with water at least once a month (if you are very allergic you may want to have someone do this for you)
- If you do pet or play with your cat make sure to wash your hands before touching your eyes or face
- Consult your doctor about possible drug therapies that might work for you
If you are allergic to cats the best thing to do is to talk to your primary care physician and ask him for advice on dealing with your allergies. Researchers are currently working on new medications that may help allergy sufferers to coexist with cats!