While it is commonly thought that cat hair causes allergy symptoms, the truth is more complex – it’s what’s on the hair that is the issue. In fact cat allergies is caused by a protein produced in a cat’s saliva and sebaceous (oil) glands, which is then spread onto the cat’s hair and skin during grooming. Whenever a cat sheds their fur, hair and dander (dead skin cells), the sticky protein attached is transferred into the environment. This often leads to the allergy symptoms you experience – be it coughing, sneezing or watering eyes!
However, cat hair can also act as a carrier of other airborne allergens: pollen, dust mites and mould, which can also cause allergic symptoms in individuals with hay fever, asthma or eczema
Before you suspect that you might be allergic to cats, it is worth mentioning that there are a number of things you could be allergic to. Dust mites, for example, or perhaps you have a case of seasonal hay fever? That said, cat allergies are one of the most common allergies in the UK, particularly for those who also have allergic asthma or hay fever. So how do you know if you are allergic to cats?
Immediate reactions to cats could include:
For many people, the signs are more subtle and it can be tricky to identify the cause of your allergic reaction – particularly if your symptoms are triggered by another factor. Some people are allergic to some cats but not others, as all cats produce their own individual amount of cat allergens.
Want to get a cat but not sure if you are allergic? Try visiting someone that has a cat, or head to a cat adoption centre, to test if cats trigger a reaction.
Do you suspect you may have a cat allergy? Before you plan on what to do next, it is important to discuss your allergy with a GP or health professional. This is particularly important if you have other allergic conditions, such as asthma, rhinitis or eczema.
Your GP or health professional may refer you for testing to confirm whether or not you have an allergy to cats. This can be done by a blood test and/or skin prick testing. In some cases, referral to an allergy specialist may be needed.
Most allergies occur in childhood or as a teenager – if you’ve previously lived with a cat in your family and didn’t display allergy symptoms, it is likely that you’ll be fine as an adult. However, in rare cases, there is a chance that adults who lived with cats as children can develop allergy symptoms.
Sometimes, when someone has lived with an allergen for a prolonged period (living with a cat as a child, perhaps), they become tolerant to that particular pet. Then, when they are re-exposed to a different cat as an adult, they develop symptoms.
While this is rare, this can explain why some people feel that their allergy symptoms come on quickly with no notice. In addition, different cats produce different levels of allergen, meaning humans can be more or less sensitive to different cats. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to manage your cat allergy symptoms.
If you have found out that you do have an allergy, your doctor is the best person to give you advice on managing and alleviating your allergy symptoms. For example, you might benefit from using antihistamine tablets or nasal sprays. There are also a number of things you can do within your home to keep your symptoms at bay. These include:
To find out more about how you can reduce allergens in your home, as well as more information on pet allergies, visit Allergy UK’s website
Aside from keeping your house clean and free of allergens, there are several things to be mindful of as you interact with your cat. These include:
Despite popular belief, hypoallergenic cats don’t exist. All cats produce allergens, no matter their breed, age or sex. Even hairless cats produce Fel d 1, the major cat allergen. The allergen that is produced in the cat’s saliva is spread onto skin and hair during grooming, and even hairless cats will shed dander (dead skin cells) with allergen on it.
There is not a single correct answer to this question. But before you decide whether to keep your cat, you must make sure that it is your cat causing the allergic reaction. You don't want to go through the stress and upset of rehoming a much loved pet if your allergic reaction is caused by dust mites.
You have to decide whether the severity of your allergic reaction means you need to re-home your cat.
In some cases, the symptom-easing tips included above are enough to make living with a cat sustainable, but other people find that their allergic reaction makes living with a cat unbearable.
Did you know that you can reduce the amount of allergens released into your home with a specific cat food? Purina Pro Plan LiveClear is a new cat food designed to neutralise the Fel d 1 allergen in your cat’s saliva, reducing the amount of active allergen that they release into the environment.
The cat food has been proven to reduce the allergen on cat hair and dander by an average of 47%, from the third week of daily feeding*.
*A 10-week controlled study of 105 cats showed an average reduction of 47% starting from the third week of daily feeding
The food also offers delicious nutrition for your cat – the key egg product ingredient, designed to neutralise the allergen once eaten, is digested like any other protein. Alongside other allergen reduction measures, using Pro Plan LiveClear could help to keep a cat in their loving home.Find out more about Purina Pro Plan LiveClear
What’s more, Purina is offering Cats Protection supporters an exclusive 20% discount on Pro Plan LiveClear.
Simply visit https://direct.purina.co.uk/about-us/live-clear.list, create your account, select the right product for the life-stage of your cat and use the promotional code: CATSPROTECTION20 at checkout**
**T&Cs apply. UK, CI & IOM, 18+. Offer ends 31.12.2020, or when 750 valid unique applications for the 20% discount offer have been received, whichever is sooner.