Are You Allergic to Your Cat?


Are You Allergic to Your Cat?

You can become allergic to cats even though you haven’t been before. The good news is that there are some excellent treatments out there to help you out.

How do You Get Cat Allergies

Of the 10% of Americans who deal with pet allergies, an overwhelming majority are allergic to cats. If you live with cats despite an allergy, the symptoms you experience are most likely irritating but not life threatening. It can be as simple as a never ending cold. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases estimates that between six and ten million Americans suffer from an allergic response to animals.

What causes Cat Allergies?

What you are allergic to is the saliva, the dander, and the urine of a cat. Specifically, it is a substance named Fel d 1 that is the culprit. Being around cats and people who were around cats can cause symptoms. Feeding, grooming, or changing your cat’s litter box will usually make it worse. What happens is your immune system is thinking that these proteins from your cats are dangerous so it attacks them.

Symptoms of Cat Allergies

Mild symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • coughing
  • mild wheezing
  • Red, itchy skin
  • hives or rashes, especially on the face and/or chest.
  • Stuffy, runny, and itchy nose.
  • Itchy and bloodshot eyes.
  • If a cat bites, scratches or licks someone with an allergy the affected skin can turn red, become swollen, and might itch or hurt.

Serious symptoms:

  • If you have allergic asthma you’ll have the worst symptoms resulting in an inability to breathe ranging from mild to life threatening. About 20-30% of those with allergic asthma will have severe reactions to cats. You can have serious shortness of breath and inability to breathe.
  • Rapid breathing and tightness in the chest are also serious symptoms of a cat allergy and need to be addressed with quick medical care.

Cat Allergy Treatments

Before we move on to treatments, Heather Loesner wants you to know about some hypoallergenic cats that could help decrease your allergy symptoms. The emergency veterinarian says there are a lot of beautiful hypoallergenic cats such as the Balinese, Oriental Shorthair, and Javanese. These three are all similar to the Siamese cat. Some hypoallergenic cats with short, wavy coats are Devon Rex and Cornish Rex. Last, but not least, is the Sphynx, a hairless cat. These cats won’t be the complete solution to your cat allergies, but it’s an option.

Over the Counter Medications

Fortunately, there are now over the counter medications such as Zyrtec and Claritin that work well and won’t make you drowsy. The best part is that you’ll only have to take one a day. Benadryl is a great over the counter medicine you should have on hand, but it will make you sleepy. Keep it around for emergencies and nighttime allergies.

The best treatment for cat allergies is allergy shots, or immunotherapy. This treats the cause of the allergies while medications only treat the symptoms. Make an appointment with a local allergy specialist. The doctor will give you an allergy test to see what you are allergic to and to what extent. After his assessment he will have vials made up just for you with the allergens you are most allergic to. You’ll start by going once or twice a week for shots for a few months. Eventually, you’ll only need to go once a week, then bi-weekly, and then monthly. In a few years you can be done and not need any over the counter medication at all.

So, don’t get rid of your cat just because you have become allergic. There are medications and immunotherapy that will get rid of the symptoms and the cause. Enjoy your cat without allergies.

Photo: Thinkstock

Are you allergic to your cat?

Nicky LaMarco has been a freelance writer since 2001. Nicky is an experienced ghostwriter and copywriter. She also writes for a variety of magazines. Nicky lives in Maine with her husband, two daughters, and two cats. Learn more about her at