Why Are Some People Allergic to Cats?
It is a common misconception to think that being allergic to cats is all about the fur. In reality, cat hair has little to do with allergic reactions. It is a particular type of protein contained in feline saliva, urine or dander which is to blame. This protein is either called Fel d 1 or Fel d 4.
For my family, saying goodbye to our cat was impossible, so we got a special air purifier for pets. But I’ve learned over time that that should only be one of the measures taken to be able to keeping your cat.
How does the cat protein spread?
The problem begins when cats start to clean themselves which, of course, they learn to do from a very early age. As they clean, they spread their saliva all over their bodies. This also spreads the protein and then, when the cat moults, the potential irritant is distributed throughout the domestic environment.
For most people, allergies are a common problem, because it is usually the case that a person has a specific level of tolerance to all irritants. This means that becoming exposed to small volumes of a lot of different allergens will have the same impact as being exposed to a large volume of one allergen.
If this sounds a little complicated, imagine that the level of tolerance is measured by the size of a box. It can only contain a limited number of allergens. If any are added or taken away, tolerance for all the other allergens will be changed.
If you don’t have a cat yet: non allergenic cats
Fortunately, you can adopt specially bred hypoallergenic cats. They are not 100% free of allergens, but they are a good choice for families who struggle with allergic responses. This is definitely something I would have done if I had known my daughter was extremely allergic. But look at that face...
And if you do not have the money for a special breed, make sure to have everyone in your family cuddle with a potential pet before buying. Trust me, it will save you a lot of headache!
The following breeds are known to be (almost) allergy free cats:
The Best Cats for Allergy Sufferers
The Sphynx breed has one very obvious advantage over other types of cat. It actually has no fur at all. The funny thing is that it does not create a lower amount of the irritating protein. However, because it is hairless, the protein is not able to make its way around the home and “stick” on furnishings.
It stays attached to the skin of the cat, which can be washed regularly to lower the risk of an allergic response. The Sphynx breed is a good choice for households with allergies because it is practical, easy to care for, and simple to maintain.
Russian Blue Cats
The Russian Blue is easily identified by its gorgeous blue and silver fur, which is very dense and soft. The breed is quite reserved, but it is very clever and usually very affectionate towards its owner. There is only a little bit of scientific evidence to prove that these animals are good for allergy sufferers, however, so bear this in mind when making a decision.
The Russian Blue is known to produce less of the Feld 1 protein, but it is clear exactly how much of a difference there is between this breed and others. It may also trap allergens within its dense, short, fluffy fur.
This breed generates a lower volume of that harmful protein, so it is a common choice for households which struggle with allergies. The Siberian is a fairly big cat, with medium length fur. It comes in a range of different tones and it is a notoriously skilled jumper.
The age old belief about Siberian cats is that they are more like dogs than felines. This breed has been known to wait patiently for its owners, at the front door, when they are due home from work. Some Siberians will also respond if you call their name.
Alternative Strategies for Dealing with Cat Allergies
The following techniques can be used to lower the risk of allergic responses to contact with domestic cats.
Use an Air Purifier for Pets
This can be quite a pricey thing to invest in, but it does make a huge difference. The HEPA filters are great at eliminating irritants in the air. They are not only effective for cat allergies, because they can also pick up things like pollen and dust mites. Air purifiers make the air inside a home healthier all round, so the chance of an allergic response is significantly lower.
If you do decide to purchase an air purifier, you need to think carefully about how much you want to pay, what kind of features you require, and which brands offer the most quality. Generally, it is worth paying a little more for a top quality product, because premium air purifiers are very effective.
When my daughter turned out to be allergic to our cat, we chose the Austin Air Pet Machine, and are still very happy with it! There are not that many in stock anymore, so you might want to research some newer, more advanced models (check out my reviews on air purifier for pets here).
Keep One ‘Safe’ Room
If you are having problems with a cat allergy and need a temporary solution, you can limit the areas in which your pet is allowed to play or sleep. For example, keep the bedrooms off limits to cats, so that this space, at least, offers a comfortable environment for sufferers.
They can spend time in this area during the day if they begin to feel stuffy and they are guaranteed a restful sleep in the evening. You must prevent pets (and particularly cats) from entering your ‘safe’ space. Vacuum often and dust regularly to eliminate irritants.
Install Wood Flooring
When it comes time to update your flooring, opt for hardwood or laminate, instead of carpet. Soft materials collect allergens and trap them between the fibres. This makes them much harder to keep clean and irritant free than non-porous surfaces.
Installing wood flooring can be a costly solution, but it might be worth swapping your carpets for wood or laminate in your ‘safe’ pet free rooms. You won’t have to put as much work into keeping them clean, because the dust and allergens will settle on the surface, rather than embed themselves in the material.
Wash Your Cat Regularly
While this might sound a little strange at first – after all, cats are usually left to wash themselves – it is the components in the saliva that are causing the problem. So, to reduce the amount of Feld 1 and Feld 4 present on the body of your cat, you need to gently wash it. If you do this carefully, no harm will come to your pet and the risk of an allergic reaction will be smaller.
However, it can be very tricky to get adult cats to cooperate with manual cleaning. If you want to use this technique, it is best to start with a kitten and familiarise it with the sensations at a very young age. That way, by the time it is fully grown, regular washing will be a normal and expected part of its life.
Here's a great video how to survive a cat wash :)
Provide a Healthy Diet
If you have tried all of the strategies outlined above and your cat is still giving you nasty allergic reactions, it could be time to try a change of diet. You can actually buy special anti-inflammatory ingredients designed to help your furry friend eat better, stay stronger, and shed less fur throughout the year.
Try to make sure that your feline is getting a lot of essential fatty acids, because they are really effective at minimising dander loss. Or, alternatively, you can take bromelain supplements to help reduce the severity of reactions. Bromelain is a special enzyme that increases the compounds in your body that fight inflammation.
So, no worries if you or a family member are allergic to your cat. Just make a plan and make sure everyone sticks to it, and you will see a huge improvement in your cat allergy symptoms!