Allergic Reactions to Cats

Allergic reactions to cats occur in humans and approximately 10% of cat owners are allergic to their own pet. The allergic reactions to cats range from sneezing, skin rashes and itchy skin to severe coughing and anaphylaxis.

The Allergen in Cats

The main allergen is not hair, as most people think, but dander. There is a protein in the cat dander that causes the allergy symptoms. The cat glycoprotein Fel d1 is the allergen and is produced by the sebaceous glands. The glycoprotein may also be present in lower amounts in cat saliva, urine and on the surface of the cat’s skin.

Allergies are a reaction of the immune system. This is why people with a suppressed immunity, children or elderly people are more likely to develop allergies.

Allergic Reactions to Cats

When in contact with the allergen protein, humans will display a wide range of symptoms. The degree of severity of symptoms depends on each person in part. Some people will have light symptoms; while others will have severe reactions that may need an immediate epinephrine shot to reduce the swelling and the irritation.

The typical symptoms of allergies to cats include:

  • Irritated eyes with watery discharges
  • Runny and itchy nose
  • Frequent sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Congested nose
  • Skin rashes
  • Wheezing
  • Swollen extremities or in rare cases the swelling of air ways
  • Sore or scratchy throat

These symptoms are present after direct contact with cats or while inhaling airborne dander. Cat dander can be everywhere in a home with cats. Cats shed dander and this may gather in couches, carpets, pillows, drapes or furniture.

Reducing Cat Allergy Symptoms

The cat allergy symptoms may be reduced by cleaning the home to reduce the amount of dander. Try using some air purifiers in your home; these will clean the air and reduce the amount of airborne dander.

Maintaining your cat’s coat and skin clean will also reduce the amount of dander that is shed. Use special hypoallergenic sprays or powders on your cat.

Keeping your bedroom cat free may significantly reduce your allergic symptoms. Lock your bedroom during the day and don’t allow your cat in, so the room and bedding will be completely free of cat dander.

Treating Allergic Reactions to Cats

Allergic reactions to cats may be managed with drugs or allergy shots.

The most common drugs are the antihistamines and steroids. The antihistamines will inhibit the productions of histamines, which are secreted as a reaction of the immune system to cat dander. One type of antihistamines can be administered for 3 to 4 months and alternated with other antihistamines to avoid the buildup of immunity to the drug components.

Steroids can be prescribed as short term treatment, as they cause severe side effects including liver damage.

Allergy shots can be chosen as long term treatment. You will receive shots containing the allergen protein. The shots must be administered on a monthly basis and if the allergy symptoms are eliminated, periodical boosters will be recommended.

Note that all cats shed dander, so hairless cats cause allergic symptoms as well. Allergies to felines can be controlled with medication and some cleaning tips, so you can own a cat even if you are allergic to cat dander.