About 10 percent of the U.S. population suffers from allergies to pets. Cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies, and nearly 30 percent of cat owners are allergic to their cats. What can you do if you’re allergic to the pet you love? Read on for some tips on how to build immunity to cat allergies and deal with the sneeze!
Hot weather may mean more time spent indoors, avoiding the sun for both people and pets. It’s also the time of year for pollen, mold, and dust, so allergy sufferers double up on the dose of misery. Dogs also suffer from allergies, but when humans are allergic to a beloved pet, it raises all kinds of issues. Even if you aren’t directly allergic to your cat or dog, they act like furry dust mops that trap and hold allergens that do set you off.
Sensitive people don’t react to the pet hair at all. Instead, a specialized protein found in the saliva and skin causes the reaction. Any pet may provoke an allergic reaction–there’s no such thing as a “hypoallergenic” pet, despite marketing claims you may hear.
SYMPTOMS OF PET ALLERGIES
Symptoms vary between individuals. They can happen within minutes or take several hours to develop after contact with a cat or dog. About 20-30 percent of people with allergic asthma develop signs after contact with a cat. They can include any single one or a combination of the following symptoms:
- itchy red eyes
- wheezing (asthma signs)
- rash or hives, often on the face or chest
- cold-like symptoms of runny, itchy, stopped up nose
- skin redness where a cat has licked, scratched or bitten you
LIVING WITH PET ALLERGIES
Your medical doctor offers the best options for treating allergy symptoms. Often these include prescriptions for antihistamines, decongestants, or sometimes allergy shots. There is some evidence that children exposed as infants to pets have a lower risk of developing allergies to cats and dogs.
Washing the pet weekly in plain water dramatically reduces allergic reactions by rinsing away the dander. Your dog may welcome dowsing with the hose to cool off in this hot weather. For cats, use a wet washcloth and wipe them down, since they tend to object to dunking. Your own physician can guide you about human health concerns. But there are steps pet owners can take to feel better, without having to give up their special cat or dog.
Create a “pet-free zone” such as the bedroom, and make it off-limits to the cat or dog. That gives you eight or more hours a day of reduced exposure.
Brush and/or comb your pets thoroughly to get rid of hair otherwise shed in the house. Have a non-allergic family member take care of this duty. I love the Furminator grooming tool. It pulls off 90 percent or more loose fur, and with a German shepherd, I know from shedding! It works on the cat, too. Different sizes are available at pet products stores.
Cat people may react more to the dusty litter than to the cat. This is a great excuse to have one of the kids take on pet potty cleaning duties, so the allergy sufferers avoid exposure.
HELPFUL PET ALLERGY PRODUCTS
Allerpet® can help by cleaning a pet’s coat of dander and other allergens such as dried urine and saliva, common irritants that trigger human reactions. After a thorough brushing to extract dead hair, Allerpet is applied to the animal’s coat and does not harm the pet or leave a residue on furniture or clothing. The product is a gentle emollient that is non-toxic and safe for use around small children, plants, and animals.
Allerpet®/D is designed for dogs. Allerpet®/C is designed for cats, but can also be used on ferrets, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice and other furry critters. Both products are available over the counter at pet products stores.
Air cleaning devices that include HEPA filters can be helpful to remove allergens from the air. This can also help reduce dust and other sneeze-prompting issues, so you may more readily tolerate your pet.
NEW DIET TO REDUCE CAT ALLERGIES?
Yes, you read that right! In 2019, the Purina Institute announced a diet for cats that reduces the amount of Fel D1 the kitties produce. Purina Proplan LiveClear could be a game-changer for cat lovers who suffer from feline allergies. You can read more about the research about the potential cat allergy diet at the Purina Institute.
All cats and dogs may cause an allergic reaction in sensitive people. The hairless dogs and cats also produce dander that causes reactions. Curly-coated pets like Rex kitties and Poodle-type dogs may not shed as often, but their fur still serves as a reservoir for allergens.
There are some individual cats that may be less “allergenic.” Siberian cats, for example, are known to produce less of the Fel D1 protein that people react to. There also are specially bred felines said to be less allergenic (for a high purchase cost!), but you may do as well adopting the rescue kitty at the local shelter. Many folks discover that they’re able to tolerate one particular cat while reacting to others–and that’s impossible to predict.
How do you manage your pet allergies? Maybe having someone else groom the cat or scoop the litter (the dust can set you off, too!) may mean you can tolerate more close encounters of the kitty kind. Please share your experiences. What would say/do if a human loved one became allergic and the doctor said, “get rid of Fluffy.”
Not gonna happen in MY world, what about yours?
Here’s a video that got a lot of response when it aired (FYI, those kittens are now adults living with loving families).
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!