Cats and Allergies - FamilyEducation

Cats and Allergies

Read tips on dealing with cat allergies.

Many people are allergic to proteins in the cat's saliva (not to hair or dander, as commonly thought). Can you have a cat if you or a member of your household is allergic to them? Possibly! Of course, it would be unfair to the cat to bring him home and then send him away again, so take some time to be sure you can manage the allergy before you get the cat.

First, see an allergist and explain that you want a cat. Ask up front whether the doctor is willing to work with you to find a way for you to live with a cat before you pay for an appointment. I don't know about you, but I expect my physicians to understand that my pets are important to me.

Purrfect Words

An allergen is a substance that some people's immune systems perceive as “foreign” or “dangerous,” causing an allergic reaction, while in most people it causes no response.

Next, explore types and breeds of cats that are less likely to produce allergens. When you find a breed you may be interested in, arrange to visit breeders or people who own the breed and only this breed. Explain that you'd like to spend at least 2 hours around the cats to see if you can tolerate the exposure. If you find a generous and willing person, you might spring for lunch or bring a plate of cookies. Exploring your allergies probably isn't anyone else's top priority.

Once you bring a cat into your home, a regular routine of allergen control can help keep reactions at bay. Among the most effective environmental precautions are the following:

  • Minimize fabric-covered furniture that holds dander.
  • Cover sofas and chairs, and wash the covers regularly.
  • Replace curtains and drapes with blinds.
  • Replace carpets with hardwood, tile, or vinyl flooring, and use washable throw rugs.
  • Vacuum frequently with a system designed to control allergens.
  • Wipe down flat surfaces regularly.
  • Install a good-quality air purification system.

You can also do a few things to control allergen output directly:

  • Bathe your cat regularly to remove saliva and dander from the coat. Studies have shown that even a quick rinse or wipe-down with plain water can help.
  • Ask your veterinarian about sprays that reduce dander.
  • Avoid letting your cat rub against your face.
  • Wash your hands when you finish handling the cat.
  • Keep your bedroom as a “cat-free” zone.