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Cat Allergies: Are You Allergic to Your Cat and Don't Know It?

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Owning a cat comes with some incredible rewards.

We're talking about the super cuddly bonding moments, the cute moody ones, and the sweet and funny memories that you'll prize for years.

With all of these cat parenting pleasures, there are people that don’t realize that they’re allergic to their feline friends. Even when they’re aware, it’s still hard to accept that their beloved cat is causing us or someone in the family health issues.

Cat allergies are quite common. In fact, allergies to dogs and cats affect 10%–20% of the population worldwide and are a growing public health concern as these rates increase, according to the Allergy Asthma Immunol Research.

Read on to learn about the signs and symptoms of cat allergy and what you can do to prevent them.

How Can You Tell If You're Allergic to Cats?

If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you may have a cat allergy.

  • Fatigue
  • Redness on your skin, itchy rash, bumps, and even hives on areas of your skin that have had contact with your cat.
  • Short/ labored breathing, coughing, sneezing or wheezing.
  • Watery, red, dry, or itchy eyes when or after you're around cats, especially if you pet them or hold them and touch your eyes.
  • Stuffy, congested, or runny nose when you're around a cat, even from a distance.
  • Face feels foggy, swollen & slightly painful.
  • Fevers, chills, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Constant itchy /sore throat or persistent cold.
  • Asthma Attacks - Being around a cat can trigger a severe asthma attack in up to three in 10 people with asthma, according to the AAFA.

Pro Tip: Symptoms of a cat allergy might develop immediately or take hours to appear. If your symptoms persist or intensify, see your doctor.

What Causes Cat Allergy?

Contrary to common belief, cat allergies aren't caused by cat hair or fur. Instead, people with cat allergies are highly allergic to proteins found in the cat's saliva, urine, and dander (dried dead flakes of skin).

Such people have extremely sensitive immune systems that mistake cat proteins from dander, saliva, or urine for a harmful substance to the body. In response, their bodies attack those proteins as they would harmful bacteria or viruses, prompting various symptoms as side effects.

Notably, even if you don't suffer from cat allergies, your cat can indirectly intensify your other allergies. Specifically, outdoor cats can carry along pollen, mold, and other allergens on their fur.

Pro Tip: Every cat, regardless of the breed, hair length, or how much it sheds, can trigger allergies. Even those considered hypoallergenic, like the sphinx, can also cause allergy problems. If any of your family members are allergic to cats, you're more likely to experience allergies.

Treating Cat Allergies

Your doctor may suggest one or more of the following treatments:

  • Antihistamine medicines
  • Steroid nasal sprays
  • Immunotherapy
  • Leukotriene inhibitors etc.

Pro Tip: Avoid prescribing yourself or anyone medication unless advised by your doctor.

Tips To Prevent Cat Allergies

Since kitty is an esteemed family member, the thought of giving them up isn't an option. Here's how you can live harmoniously while preventing the worsening of the symptoms.

  • Limit the cat's presence to only one room in the house. If possible, maintain a dedicated room for your cat inside or outside the house.
  • Keep the cat away from bedroom areas or rooms where your family spends most of their time.
  • Use allergen blockers on your pillows, mattress, and sheets.
  • Use easily washable materials.
  • Everyone should wash their hands with soap and water every time they touch the cat.
  • Use a double or a microfilter bag vacuum cleaner.
  • Use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners to remove allergens from the air.
  • Open windows for ventilation.
  • If possible, bath your cat at least once a week.

Bottom Line

Cat allergies can and are manageable, but you'll need to make some lifestyle adjustments. You'll also need to be especially alert for allergy symptoms because they may get worse with exposure. We also recommend that you see your doctor and get tested to confirm if you're allergic to your cat.

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