Cat Allergies Explained

If you are among the seven percent of the United States population that suffers from cat allergies, you probably avoid cats at all costs. Cat allergies are not a disease, but rather an exaggerated automatic immune response that originates in your own body. An allergy is caused by an over-sensitive immune system that fails to distinguish between a dangerous virus or bacterium and a harmless particle that enters the body through the respiratory or digestive systems.

People are twice as likely to be allergic to cats as they are to dogs, and contrary to popular belief, it is not the hair that most people with cat allergies respond negatively to. It's a protein in the cat's skin that causes the allergic reaction. People most often become exposed to this protein through the animal's dander, or dried flakes of skin that fall out from between the hairs and possibly become airborne. There are also proteins in cats' urine and saliva that cause allergic reactions in many humans, but people are less likely to have extended contact with these substances, so they generally cause less of a problem.

Hypoallergenic Cats

Some people believe that hypoallergenic cats will not cause allergic reactions in people. However, all cats naturally make these proteins, and there is no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic cat. Some diehard cat lovers who suffer from this allergy find that hairless cats don't produce as strong of an allergic reaction. This is because, having no fur, there is nowhere for dander to collect on the cat's body. The tiny skin particles simply fall off before they get a chance to clump together into larger dander particles.


If you are not sure whether or not you are allergic to your cat, there are a few specific symptoms you can look for, including:

  • Wheezing
  • Dry, red eyes
  • Hives or rashes
  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Red, swollen areas around where the cat has bitten or scratches you

Remember that since allergies are an immune response, many different allergic triggers can cause the same or similar symptoms. It's possible for people to mistakenly assume that they are allergic to their cat, when in fact it is something on the cat's fur, such as pollen or dust. Your doctor can give you a skin or blood test to determine exactly what substances your body is allergic to.


There are options for people who are allergic to their cat but love the animal too much to part with it. Drugs are available over the counter in pill form that can help with any allergic reaction, and some extended shot treatments can have a significant permanent effect.

Cat allergies affect many people nationwide, and this unfortunate condition comes between many people and their pets. Being aware of pet allergies before you choose your animal can help you to avoid a heartbreaking separation in the future.