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What Causes Cat Allergies?

Tips For Pet Parents With Cat Allergies

By Jesse Feldman. December 12, 2013 | See Comments

  • expert or vet photo
    vet verified

    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

    DVM

small girl holding a gray kitten

It's hard to resist that little cat in the window isn't it? Even if you have cat allergies. Although cat allergies are more common than dog allergies, it is still quite possible to get them under control.

It’s a sad fact that even pet parents and animal lovers can have cat allergies. An estimated 10 percent of the US population suffers from pet allergies, with cat allergies about twice as common as dog allergies. Untreated cat allergies can be uncomfortable for sufferers at best, but in some cases can also trigger serious asthma attacks.

What Are Signs of a Cat Allergy?

Allergic reactions can range from mild cold symptoms to coughing and serious breathing problems. You may notice some of these common symptoms during an allergic reaction to a cat:

  • Runny or itchy nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Watery, red eyes
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Asthma attacks
  • Rash or hives

What Causes a Cat Allergy?

Contrary to popular belief, cat hair itself does not cause cat allergies. Cat dander, a skin particle, is what commonly triggers an allergic reaction. Allergies can also be triggered by a protein in cat saliva and urine. Allergic reactions happen when the oversensitive body mounts an immune response to a perceived threat.

The cat allergen has been described as “sticky,” which means it is difficult to remove from a home completely. Pet dander can be carried on people’s clothing and cling to walls and fabrics. This is why a regular cat-grooming and house-cleaning routine is vital to keeping allergy symptoms manageable.

Managing Cat Allergies

If you have an allergy, there are lifestyle changes and medications that can help you to live more comfortably with a cat. Being proactive is key with allergies because it’s easier to keep the reaction from beginning than it is to stop an allergy attack once symptoms begin.

Unfortunately, although dog allergies can be breed-specific, cat allergies tend to be triggered by all breeds. There are some cats we call “hypoallergenic,” but this really just means that they produce fewer allergens than other cats. No breed will be completely non-allergenic. In general, female cats, and cat breeds with single coats or who shed less are better choices for the household of someone with allergies. Visit our complete guide to hypoallergenic cats.

More on Allergies

Dogs That Don't Shed
Cats That Don't Shed

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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