Every week I have cat lovers that come in to see me that confide they are allergic to their cat. I can relate- I am allergic to cats and I have been a cat only veterinarian for 25 years! Here are some tips to keep you and your favorite kitty together while reducing the sneezing and wheezing you experience. Most people react to the cat saliva and dander more than the fur itself, so even cats with little fur such as the Cornish Rex and the Sphinx can cause reactions in sensitive people. Of course, if your cat allergies are severe or cause life threatening issues such as asthma, please seek the advice of your physician!
- Invest in a HEPA filter unit attached to your furnace and air conditioner or free standing room HEPA filters. These filters remove cat dander, dust, dust mites and other small particles from the air and reduce the amount that you breathed in. Change the filter as directed to keep it working well.
- If at all possible, keep your bedroom a cat free zone. Most people spend a third of their life in bed. Keeping your kitty out of the room can help you wake out breathing freely rather than congested. I cannot say I always practice what I preach with this rule, but for many people it can make a big difference. Wash your bedding frequently in hot water if your cat does sleep with you.
- Since many people that are allergic to cats are also allergic to pollens (hay fever), keeping the windows closed and the air conditioner on during the spring summer and fall can reduce pollens in the house. Allergy symptoms are often additive- your cat allergy may be seem worse when the pollen counts are high or when the house is dusty, so minimize all allergens as much as possible.
- Bathing your cat weekly in warm water to remove the dander and saliva from its coat. Shampoo is not usually needed but if used it should be a gentle cat shampoo not a human shampoo. There are also sponge on or wipe type products available to help remove cat dander form the cat’s skin. Most of these products however have not been clinically tested and can actually in some cases cause irritation of the cat’s skin.
- Have a washable sheet or towel where your cat sleeps and wash it weekly in hot water to remove the cat dander.
- Vacuum the carpet frequently using a vacuum with a filter to limit dust in the house. Keep the house as dust free as possible and encase pillow and mattresses with dust mite covers. Choosing hard surface flooring rather than carpet can help with cleaning and dander control.
- Anti- histamines and allergy shots can help control allergic symptoms for many people. My own cat allergies have responded well to allergy shots along with anti-histamines as needed. Researchers are working on breeding non allergenic cats, but until then, give these suggestions a try!
- Finally, a little extra good news- a recent study came out showing that children are less likely to develop allergies in households with pets- hopefully this means our cat loving children will not need to worry about cat allergies unlike their parents!