Can I own a cat if I’m allergic?

Being allergic to cats is a common affliction among humans, with many people suffering symptoms such as sneezing, itchy skin, watering eyes, coughing and wheezing whenever a cat is nearby. 
Sadly this can prevent caring cat lovers from owning a moggy of their own, or even worse, result in them having to give up a beloved pet to charities such as Cats Protection. If they do decide to keep their cat, it can still affect their ability to form a close bond with their moggy, as they try to maintain a safe distance to keep the sneezing at bay. 
Brunette woman holding long-haired grey-and-white cat
However, a cat allergy doesn’t necessarily need to stand in the way of a fabulous friendship with a feline. There’s a lot of confusion around the exact cause of the symptoms and how to reduce their effects, but once you know the facts, there are lots of things you can try. 

The biggest myths about cat allergies 

Myth 1: Cat allergies are caused by cat hair 

Many people think that cat hair is the cause of their sneezing, but it’s actually what’s on the hair that’s the problem. Cats’ saliva contains a protein called Fel d 1, which sticks to their fur and skin when they clean themselves with their tongues. It’s this protein that most cat allergy sufferers have a reaction to, and unfortunately it’s easily spread around your home when your cat naturally sheds their fur and dead skin cells.

Myth 2: I’m allergic to all cats

Different cats produce varying levels of Fel d 1, so allergy sufferers may find that they are more allergic to some cats than others. In addition, everyone’s sensitivity level to this allergen is different. If you think you’re allergic to cats but would like to adopt one, try meeting some cats first, with the other members of your household too, to see if any of you have a reaction. Keep in mind that many people with an allergy to cats are also allergic to other things, such as pollen. Therefore, it might be a good idea to meet your potential new feline friend in the summer when your pollen symptoms are more pronounced, so you can best gauge how your allergies will be affected.

Myth 3: Some cats are hypoallergenic

While levels of Fel d 1 do vary, every cat produces it, so there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat. Some people believe that certain breeds of cat, such as hairless Sphynx cats, are less likely to cause allergies, but this isn’t the case. Hairless cats still lick themselves to stay clean causing Fel d 1 to stick to their skin, so when they shed dead skin cells called dander, the allergen can spread around the home.

Myth 4: My allergy will get better over time

Some people believe that the more time they spend with cats, the less severe their allergy will become, but sadly there’s no evidence to support this. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to avoid cats altogether though, as there are some simple steps you can take to manage your allergy and still enjoy some feline companionship.  

Tips for managing your cat allergy

  • Ask your doctor about antihistamine tablets and nasal sprays to ease your symptoms 
  • Groom your cat outdoors and wipe them with a damp cloth or cat-safe cleanser to remove allergens 
  • Avoid letting your cat lick your skin or clothes and always wash your hands after petting your cat
  • Regularly wash your cat’s bedding, toys and litter tray – Fel d 1 can be found in their urine too
  • Ventilate your home by opening windows for an hour each day, or use an air purifier. Avoid placing cat beds and litter trays close to air vents
  • Vacuum regularly using a cleaner with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter that limits the amount of allergen released back into the air
  • Avoid letting your cat into your bedroom, as allergies can become worse at night
  • Try feeding your cat Purina’s new Pro Plan LiveClear cat food, designed to safely neutralise cat allergens and reduce the levels on their fur  

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