Cats and kittens make for some of the most adorable pets. For some of us though, these mischievous little fur babies can be the source of some very uncomfortable allergy symptoms. In fact, about 10% of the population suffers from some level of allergic reaction to our feline companions. This is about twice the rate as people with allergies to digs. If cats give you itchy eyes and a scratchy throat then read on to understand more about what causes these allergies and how you can best deal with them.
The Causes of Allergic Reactions to Cats
If asked point blank, most of us would assume that an allergic reaction to cats is caused by exposure to the fur. You might be surprised to learn that your body is usually having an adverse reaction to proteins that are found in a cat’s dander, saliva and urine. For the record, dander is tiny, dried flakes of skin that you can get on your hands when you pet a cat.
You can be exposed to these proteins either by petting a cat or having one lick your hand. When your body comes into contact with the proteins, your immune system will attack them just like it would any other unwelcome visitor such as a virus or bacteria. The symptoms that you experience are simply the result of your body reacting to a foreign substance.
It should be noted that people who experience allergies of any kind have over active or overly sensitive immune systems. This condition can cause your body to overreact to substances that would otherwise be harmless, like these proteins emitted by your kitty.
One other potential cause of cat allergies could be directly related to the fur. If your cat is spending a good deal of time outside, then it is possible that its fur is collecting pollen and other allergens that are then being tracked back into your house. So it may be possible that you are not actually allergic to your cat but that your cat is carrying other allergens around on its coat.
Types of Symptoms You May Experience
Many of the symptoms that you would experience with a cat allergy are similar to symptoms associated with most allergies. Some of the more common ones are:
- Itchy, red eyes
- Runny nose
- Scratchy throat
- Coughing and/ or wheezing
- Rash or hives
Most of these symptoms are typically nothing more than a nuisance. However, it is possible to have a severe reaction and experience trouble breathing. This is especially true for people that have allergic asthma. If this is the case you should seek medical attention immediately as this can be life threatening.
Just because you are experiencing these symptoms does not mean that you are allergic to cats. Even if you notice that the symptoms always seem to occur when you are exposed to a feline. To make sure you know what you are dealing with, it is best to get checked out by your doctor. In order to be able to treat or reduce the cause of allergic symptoms, you need to know exactly what is causing them.
What to do if You are Allergic to Cats
Once you have determined that furry felines are the cause of your allergic discomfort, there are some steps you can take to minimize the symptoms. Of course, if you do not own a cat then the obvious first solution is to avoid being around one. If the neighborhood kitty comes by to give you a friendly rub on the leg then you may have to gently shoo it away.
If you do not own a cat but you have friends and neighbors that do then you will need to keep that in mind. It is certainly possible for these folks to carry cat dander and fur on their person or in their clothes. Know who your cat owning friends are and make sure you check to see if they have recently handled their pet before coming to see you.
If you are a cat owner then you might need to dig deeper into the bag of tricks to keep from suffering the uncomfortable list of allergy symptoms. For starters, you can limit the direct exposure you have to your pet cat. Avoid hugging, carrying and lounging with your pet. If you do take the time to pet your kitty then you need to be sure to thoroughly wash your hands before you rub your eyes or scratch your nose.
If just reducing your interaction with your pet does not help then you can consider limiting your cat to certain sections of your home. This can help contain the possibilities of you being exposed to whatever is causing your allergic reaction. If having the cat in the house at all is still troublesome then you should consider the possibility of making your pet an outdoor cat. This assumes of course that you live in a climate that makes it safe for your cat to remain outdoors.
You can also improve your odds of avoiding the allergic reaction by regularly cleaning your home. Vacuuming pet hair and diligently cleaning out the litter box will go a long way towards reducing your exposure. You may also want to look into air filtration systems for your home. These air scrubbing machines can make a big difference by removing pet allergens as well as reducing dust, pollen and other respiratory irritants.
If all else fails then you can take the giant leap of faith and try bathing your cat on a regular basis. Now it’s no secret that cats are not very fond of water so you may have to have lots of extra patience if you plan to wash your kitty on a regular basis. You may just want to give this a try and see if it helps reduce the occurrence of symptoms before you make it a regular event.
As a pet owner, your last resort may have to be giving up your cat. This can be an extremely difficult decision, especially If there are children involved. If you do find that this is your only option then be sure to take the time to research humane options and do everything in your power to find your pet a safe and loving new home.
Best Methods to Treat Allergy Symptoms
The good news is that you have a number of over the counter options to choose from to help relieve the symptoms associated with allergic reactions to cats. Here are some excellent options to choose from depending on the type of symptoms you are experiencing.
Benadryl (or Diphenhydramine HCL) Buy It
This is a name you are likely familiar with if you have dealt with the symptoms of runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. Since it is an antihistamine, Benadryl helps with these symptoms plus other aggravating reactions such as scratchy throat, rash, hives, coughing and sneezing. It is available over the counter and can be purchased in its generic form of Diphenhydramine.
As an antihistamine, Benadryl works by blocking histamines and acetylcholine. These are natural substances that are created by your body. This blocking effect is temporary so you would need to continue with additional doses, making sure not to exceed the maximum dosages allowed. Regardless, Benadryl is an excellent choice if you need to stop symptoms temporarily while you get away from the cat that is causing your allergic reactions.
- Fast acting
- Quickly relieves a number of irritating symptoms
- Effective for children and adults
- Causes drowsiness
- Only provides temporary relief
Claritin Oral 24 Hour (Loratadine) Buy It
Claritin is another effective antihistamine that is proven effective at relieving the symptoms of runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing. Its generic name is Loratadine.
Claritin is designed more to treat the more common “hay fever” type symptoms and will therefore not treat rash, hives or other more serious allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis. However, Claritin has hardly any potential side effects which make it an excellent choice for continual usage to treat these common symptoms caused by a cat allergy.
- Minimal possible side effects
- Relieves “hay fever” type symptoms
- Dosage lasts for up to 24 hours
- Does not treat serious allergic reactions
Allegra D 24 Hour Allergy & Congestion Buy It
Perhaps your cat allergies require more of a decongestant along with an antihistamine. In this case Allegra D makes for a wonderful choice. In addition to blocking histamines, Allegra D contains fexofenadine HCL and pseudoephedrine HCL which help with all of the symptoms associated with typical cat related allergies.
Its ability to help eliminate congestion can be extremely beneficial. Congestion in the head and chest can occur with the increased mucus generation that happens during these allergic reactions. If left unchecked, this congestion can lead to more serious conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
- Relieves most cat allergy related symptoms
- Also contains a decongestant
- Dosage lasts for up to 24 hours
- Can cause nausea
- Can cause loss of appetite
- Can cause insomnia
Flonase Buy It
If you are not a big fan of taking pills, then perhaps the Flonase nasal spray is just what you need. This is a corticosteroid and is used to block the causes of allergies in your nasal passages.
Flonase will relieve the symptoms of sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes. Be sure to blow your nose prior to spraying this product up your nostrils. It may take up to 12 hours before this medication begins to work.
- Relieves most “hay fever” type symptoms
- No pills to take
- Convenient nasal spray
- Contains steroids
- Can take up to 12 hours to work
- May take several days to get the full benefit
Find the Option That Best Suits Your Symptoms
As you can see, there are several options to choose from to get relief from the symptoms associated with an allergy to cats. You may determine that you need to try several before you find the one that best works for your combination of symptoms. Always seek the advice of your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions regarding these or any other medications you may be taking for allergies to cats.