In the meantime, find out what exactly causes cat allergies and how to reduce your symptoms.
Cat Allergy Basics
If you’re allergic to cats, you are not alone. Between 15 and 30 percent of people with allergies are allergic to pets, and cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies. “Cat tends to be a very allergic type of protein,” says Julie McNairn, MD, an allergist and immunologist in Cincinnati. While some people have an allergy to only certain breeds of dogs, it is different with cats. "If you have a cat allergy, you will probably be reactive to all cats,” says Dr. McNairn.
Many people believe that cat hair causes the allergy, but the offensive allergen is a protein shed from a cat's skin or hair and also contained in its saliva and urine. This allergen can be transmitted from the cat to other surfaces, including your clothing and the walls, and can even be present in the air. In fact, studies show that cat allergen can be found practically everywhere.
"Even if a cat has never lived in a room, you can find" cat allergen, says McNairn. Some people who have a cat allergy will show symptoms of a reaction — stuffy nose, inflamed eyes, for example — almost immediately after entering an area where cat allergen is present. Others will not show symptoms until days after coming into contact with the cat.
Allergy reactions vary, from sinus symptoms to a skin rash to a severe asthma attack. Having a cat allergy can even make you more likely to develop chronic asthma.
10 Tips to Reduce Your Cat Allergy Symptoms
If you think you have a cat allergy, the best way to avoid reactions is to live in a cat-free home. But if you can't bear the thought of living without your cat, try the following steps:
- Don’t let your cat come into your bedroom.
- Keep your bedroom door closed and thoroughly clean your bedroom on a regular basis.
- Keep your home de-cluttered and clean.
- Replace carpeting with solid surface floors.
- If you have carpets or rugs, steam clean or wash them on a regular basis.
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, and wear a dust mask when you vacuum.
- Consider adding an air cleaner with a HEPA filter to your air conditioning/heating unit and use the cleaner for four hours or more each day.
- Have your cat cleaned and groomed weekly.
- Assign the brushing of the cat and cleaning of the cat's litter box to someone in the household who is not allergic.