If you live with a cat, you know that the shedding and excess hair on your furniture is one of the things you learn to love when you have a cat. While the shedding may not bother you, it may be a hassle when a friend or family member comes for a visit and complains that he or she is allergic to cats. Some people with cat allergies are easygoing and go with the flow, while others aren’t afraid to express their dislike for the animal that causes sneezing, itching, coughing, and hives.
As a cat owner, you may question the legitimacy of your friend’s allergy claim, but learning a few things about cat allergies may help you understand cat allergies a little bit better.
Myth #1: People are Allergic to Cat Hair
If you are allergic to cats, just the sight of a pile of cat hair might have you reaching for a handful of tissues and a bottle of eyedrops. Although a shedding cat can cause allergies to flare up, it’s not the hair itself but rather the dander (dead skin cells) that clings to the hair that causes people to sniffle and sneeze.
In addition to cat dander being a culprit, people with cat allergies are also allergic to the protein, Fel d 1, produced in your cat’s saliva and urine. While all cats produce Fel d 1 differently, female cats reportedly make less of the protein than males, and light-colored cats may produce less of the allergy-inducing protein than dark-colored cats.
Contrary to the assumption that long-haired cats may be more “allergic” than short-haired cats, cats with long hair may give off fewer allergens as it stays in the hair more than cats with short hair.
Myth #2: Cat Allergies Will Get Better with More Exposure
Many cat lovers, who are also allergic to cats, will find that this is challenging. Some allergy sufferers become convinced that the longer they expose themselves to their allergy trigger, the less severe it will become over time. Unfortunately, this typically is not the case, and in many cases, the allergies remain the same or even worsen with continued exposure.
On the other hand, some people who are allergic to cats may have severe reactions to one cat, while another may trigger nothing more than a sniffle. While doctors haven’t pinpointed why this can happen, it could have something to do with the amount of protein (as previously mentioned) released into the atmosphere.
By no means, should you adopt a cat as some type of an “allergy treatment.” Living with a cat, which makes you allergic, and keeping him or her at a distance is not fair to a furry feline.
Myth #3: You Can’t Live with Your Cat if You’re Allergic
When you have a cat and are allergic, does that mean you can’t coexist? Not necessarily. For many people, it all comes down to personal preference, understanding your allergy to cats, and taking control of your allergy. If you have severe, life-threatening reactions when coming in contact with a cat, you should certainly seek out other options for yourself and the happiness of your cat.
If you suffer from minor symptoms, which are easy to manage, you might be okay cohabitating with your feline friend. Talk with your doctor for advice and take proper steps to making your home allergen free.
Keeping your home free of cat allergens can be tricky, particularly when your cat spends the day happily perched on a sunny window sill, but it is possible. With regular vacuuming, wiping down surfaces to get rid of the “sticky” cat dander, having high-quality air filters, and creating a cat-free zone are a few ways to make your home less of an allergen trap.
Myth #4: There are Allergen-free Cats
Technically, there are hypo-allergenic cats, but there is no cat that is completely free from allergy-producing proteins. Hypoallergenic cats are usually a better option for individuals who want to live with a cat but are allergic. Keep in mind these breeds may still cause you to cough, sneeze, and wheeze.
Myth #5: You are Safe from Cat Allergies When Outside of the Home
Have you ever gone to a friend’s house for a party and upon entering the front door, your eyes started watering, and you needed your inhaler? Assuming they have a cat, you asked about it as politely as you could, but were surprised when they said, “no.”
Cat allergens are “sticky,” which means that they have a tendency to travel on clothing and other surfaces. If you had an allergic reaction in a cat-free environment, it’s likely that you came in contact with someone who had cat dander on his or her clothing. Again, it all comes down to you knowing the severity of your allergy and how to manage the symptoms; there’s no need to bow out of your favorite social activities.
Making Your Home More Inviting for Cat Allergy Sufferers
If you live with a cat, you probably don’t suffer from a severe cat allergy, but approximately 30% of Americans are allergic to cats and dogs. Do you like to host events or have visitors from out of town? If your visitors are allergic to cats, it may mess up your plans. Although you may encounter some people who simply won’t visit because you have a cat, try not to take it personal (even though it hurts a bit).
If you want to make your home more inviting for friends and family with cat allergies, you can designate a few spaces to be cat-free and do frequent cleaning throughout your home.
You may even feel so inclined to stock up on OTC allergy medication or put your cat in a separate room when you have visitors, but don’t bend over backward to please your guests; they probably don’t expect you to accommodate to their allergies. Besides, if they suffer from severe allergies, your efforts may be pointless.