5 Myths of Cat Allergies

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.


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20 comments on “5 Myths of Cat Allergies

  1. Kyle Knappenberger on

    Hi There,
    I am so glad that I came across this post as I myself am doing research on this subject and found it to be a valuable resource. I am so glad that you have taken the time to debunk some of these rumors and myths that are surrounding cats and cat allergies.

    To help expand on your post the question at hand is will cat dander severely impact your health? For the most part no. Mainly pet dander becomes more of an annoyance with allergy symptoms such as coughing, itchy eyes, and runny noses. There are some circumstances where people are highly affected by cat dander like those who suffer from asthma and respiratory issues. These danders are very small, small enough to find its way into the lungs which could lead to breathing difficulties. But if you are someone who already is affected by asthma, these pet dander could lead to a severe attack. Having a strong defense to these pesky cat dander will help to protect you and your home from these potential health risks.

    I hope this helps those that are on the fence about getting a cat here are some additional resources you may check out https://www.odorklenz.com/cats-dander-impacting-your-health

  2. Barbarab on

    Most of this is true except the myth about immunity, which i just a few moments ago read about. U actually can become immune to cat allergies with exposure. There have been many documentations of people becoming more immune to completely immune by adopting a cat and becoming frequently n contact with it, to the point of completely stopping all medications with no reactions at all. Some tho may have some minor reaction to others cats but n most cases i read a person can build a complete immunity to cat allergies with exposure

    • Drew on

      My wife developed an immunity with exposure with my cat. After a year or so we noticed she doesnt get the symptoms anymore. Not a myth at all

      • Allie on

        I myself gained the immunity from having cats. I used to be severely allergic to them but my mom didnt get rid of her cat and over time i gained immunity to cats. now they are all I own.

        • Edie on

          Hi Allie! I’’ve always been pretty allergic to kitties, also suffer from seasonal allergies. Oddly, I had one kitten before the one I have now, he was an in tact male of 5 mo. so a brief period. He had to be put down due to FIP. I was crushed and now have a female relative of his from the cat colony outside around 5mo. also. We got her fixed, but I’m feeling way more allergic to her (tightness in chest, difficult breathing and runny nose, slight cough). I keep my bedroom cat free and she’s only primarily hanging out in her safe room. I don’t want to find her a new home but tonight after playing with her and having an awesome cuddle love session, I’m feeling pretty bad. We have a hepa air filter in our hvac system and a bedroom air purifier. We wipe her daily and clean pretty well. I’m trying to have a baby so not trying to take drying allergy meds either. Any advice from people besides what I’m doing now would be appreciated!

  3. Madelyn Bach on

    I’m very glad I seen this it helped me. I don’t know if I’m allergic to cats . I have two cats and every time I pick up one of them I start coughing and sniffing. So I was wondering if I could be allergic to one cat and not other cats. If anyone knows this answer or may have a guess please reply

    • Joelle on

      I’m not a health expert but I have owned cats for 50 years and feed the strays in the neighborhood and my answer would be yes. Out of hundreds of cats I have encountered I have been severely allergic to two of them. 1 was a friends but the other was my favorite cat when I was 17. She was a female calico long hair and made me sneeze, my nose run, and my eyes red watery and severely itchy every time I came in contact with her. I am going to be 50 years old and have never had another problem with any other cat and I always reside with kitties. Good luck!

  4. lfelton on

    You probably are only allergic to one. I am allergic to some cats but other ones don’t bother me. If your symptoms start as soon as you pick up the cat, you are more than likely allergic.

  5. allergic cat lover on

    I’m staying with my in-laws until a few days after Christmas. They have a cat who won’t leave people alone – she follows me everywhere, especially if I am in the kitchen, and jumps up on the counter or table to check out my food. She sticks her face into my water cup so I have to get a fresh cup and more water, only to have her do it again or go to another room. I just had to re-home a kitten who only lived with us for a week, because I was extremely allergic. The allergies got worse, not better, as stated in the article about the myth that exposure would help allergies. I was just starting to really feel better, but now it’s starting all over again.

    My M-I-L gave me a water bottle to spray the cat with if she bothers me. I have a small air purifier that I run in whatever room I’m in during our stay. We keep the door in the bedroom and the den closed so I can be in there cat-free, but it’s unavoidable to be in the kitchen or living room some of the time, especially during the holidays. I don’t want to be rude and ask my in-laws to clean the whole house and keep the cat shut in one room, but I’m really suffering, even with allergy meds. I get this flu-like haze and have asthma flare-ups when I’m around cats that I’m allergic to for more than a few days.

    Does anyone have advice on what I could do? I’m thinking I may have to get a hotel room if this keeps up. And during Christmas, I doubt that will be cheap.

  6. Joelle on

    I’m not a health expert but I have owned cats for 50 years and feed the strays in the neighborhood and my answer would be yes. Out of hundreds of cats I have encountered I have been severely allergic to two of them. 1 was a friends but the other was my favorite cat when I was 17. She was a female calico long hair and made me sneeze, my nose run, and my eyes red watery and severely itchy every time I came in contact with her. I am going to be 50 years old and have never had another problem with any other cat and I always reside with kitties. Good luck!

  7. Courtney on

    I dont know if i believe the part where it says consistent exposure to cats will reduce your allergic reactions. My whole life cats made me break out in hives, gave me watery eyes and made me sneeze and wheeze. It was horrible. I didnt go to houses that had cats. But i got a really good job and the office had 2 office cats that stayed there and for some reason loved me and my office area and now I can hold cats and pet them and have them next to my face and not even sneeze!! Its a miracle because i have always loved cats but couldnt come near. Now im thinking of adopting my own.

  8. Evelyn Moor on

    The truth about allergies is, you CAN build a tolerance to the allergens, BUT that does not mean the allergy is gone, Your body has produced the antibodies in reaction to the allergen, and those have a tendency to stay with you, SO repeated exposure can make your body less sensetive to, and thus not even react to a certain amount of exposure to that allergen. This is why allergy shots are effective for some people. Some people on the other hand, they reapeated exposure can turn the reactions from mild to severe. Take myself for instance, I had cats forever growing up. During my 2nd pregnancy I began experiencing allergic reactions to felines, They were very mild, sneezing, and runny nose mostly. Then i had to move into a house with about 8 indoor/outdoor cats, The allergy grew, coughing, itchy ears and eyes. Here I am 10 years later and holding a cat gives me hives, my eyes will swell almost shut if I’m in a home with cats too long, even with antihistamines, and it has also began triggering asthma attacks for me. I’ve had asthma for 20 years, only in the last 3 exposures have I started having attacks. It’s best to discuss with a doctor I presume before you try to home desensitize yourself.

  9. Melani on

    My neighbor has her kitty potty area in a nook in our shared wall that backs up to my bedroom, better into my headboard. I have a rare disease requiring chemo, and plenty of bed rest. I can not get restful rest as I also have itchy eyes, nose bleeds headache, itchy face, blisters on my mouth from forced mouth breathing severe cat allergies. PLEASE HELP! I have gently brought to her attention this is a problem but to no avail. She is elderly and does not keep up with cleaning the litter self admidtlly also calls it really stinky. We each have 1 bedroom tiny condos, if I could have moved my bed I would have. I’m trying air purifiers today seems to be worse in spreading allergies to more area, tried cleaning nothing to clean on my side, tried fresheners that are organic with enzymes most effective for 30min or less, smell not allergy. Hoping someone has the answer to this terrible problem. I do not want to be unkind or rude, but my health is declining I have tried all I can come up with. I need help.


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