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June 30th, 2021 | 0 min read

Cat Allergies in Humans: Symptoms and Treatment

Written by
Sharilyn Vera

There are many things to love about cats: their unique personalities, cute antics, and cuddly naps. But cat allergies are not on the list. Many cat owners and cat lovers struggle with allergies and are looking for ways to treat their allergies so they can continue loving their feline friends. 

Luckily, by understanding the symptoms and treatment for cat allergies in humans, you can understand how to manage your allergies and hopefully live a long and comfortable life with your furry friend. 

Read on to learn more about cat allergies in humans, including their symptoms, how to know if you are allergic to cats, what can cause cat allergies in the first place, and how to treat and reduce allergens in your home. 

Cat Allergy Symptoms

Cat allergies in humans can vary in intensity, with some people just experiencing a runny nose and others having more severe symptoms like trouble breathing. 

The first step in managing your allergies to cats is to understand the symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms that people who are allergic to cats experience include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Watery, red, or itchy eyes
  • Skin rash
  • Hives 

As you can see, allergies to cats present themselves in different ways, depending on the severity and type of  pet allergy. In addition, you don’t even need to be in contact with a cat to experience a cat allergy. Cat owners may unknowingly bring in pet dander to school or work, which can trigger an allergic reaction. This is most common in indoor environments where the air isn’t thoroughly circulated or filtered. 

What Causes Cat Allergies?

Many people who suffer through the pet allergy symptoms listed above wonder, “what causes cat allergies?” and this is a great question (and the answer might surprise you!). 

While we generally think of cat hair or shedding as the main culprit for cat allergies in humans, the answer is actually a little more complicated. Most people with cat allergies have an allergic reaction to a protein that is found in a cat’s saliva called Fel d 1. Because this protein is found in a cat’s saliva, it can then cause an allergic reaction after they groom themselves, groom other cats, or spread allergens on rugs, carpets, or upholstered furniture. Cats also produce potential allergens in their fun, skin, and even urine. 

So it’s not the cat hair on your jeans or couch that is causing your sniffles (although the shedding likely doesn’t help). The more likely culprit is your cat’s saliva! 

How to Know If you Are Allergic to Cats

So how do you know if your runny nose or red eyes are caused by a cat allergy or something else? If you continually experience allergic reactions, it’s important to determine their cause. 

The two main ways to determine if you are allergic to cats is to do a skin test or a blood test. 

During a skin test, an allergist will take a small amount of cat allergen and place it under your skin. They will then monitor and watch for a reaction, such as swelling or redness. These results are usually generated in about 15-20 minutes. These skin-prick tests rule out other causes for your allergies because doctors can isolate each allergen. 

You can also do a blood test to determine if you are allergic to cats. During a blood test, the doctor draws your blood and then it’s sent for testing against common allergens, including cat dander. While the results might take longer, there’s no risk for an allergic reaction like with a skin test. 

Once you know the culprit of your allergies, you can decide how to treat them. 

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How to Treat Cat Allergies

Although cat allergies are relatively common, they are also easy to manage if you know how to treat and, even more importantly, reduce them in your home. Unless your allergies are severe, you may still be able to live with a cat or even two. 

If you experience an allergic reaction, the following treatments might help:

  • Taking antihistamines, such as Benadryl or Claritin
  • Using corticosteroid nasal sprays such as Flonase
  • Using mometasone nasal sprays such as Nasonex

There are also quite a few natural remedies you can try to treat your cat allergies, including:

  • Saltwater rinses or a Neti pot, which you can use to clear your sinuses. Simply combine about a half a teaspoon of salt with about 8-12 ounces of water. 
  • Increasing the humidity in your home to about 40% humidity
  • Acupuncture
  • Using a HEPA filter in your home

In the case of a serious allergic reaction, contact your doctor for treatment. You may also consider undergoing immunotherapy if you can’t manage your allergic reactions but want or need to live with a cat. Immunotherapy may include getting a series of shots that desensitize you to certain allergens. Usually immunotherapy takes about six months to a year to begin working. 

9 Tips for Reducing Cat Allergies in Humans

In addition to treating immediate allergic reactions, there are steps you can take to reduce the amount of cat allergens in your home and hopefully decrease your chances of having an allergic reaction. 

Here are some of our favorite ways to reduce cat allergies in humans:

  1. As hard as it might be, keep your cat off the bed and especially off your pillow. You use your pillow to sleep for hours with your face pressed up against it. If there are cat allergens on your pillowcase, chances are that they can get in your nose and mouth. In addition to keeping your cat off the bed, make sure to wash your bedding at least twice a month and wash your pillowcase even more frequently. 
  2. Always wash your hands after petting your cat and don’t touch your nose or mouth before washing your hands.
  3. Regularly wash your rugs and furniture. Even if you vacuum and sweep up the cat hair, there can still be allergens trapped in soft surfaces throughout your house. Have someone who isn’t allergic to cats clean the areas where they hang out the most, such as cat towers and cat beds. 
  4. If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting in your house and replace it with hard flooring that you can easily clean. 
  5. Replace the filters on your air conditioning and central heat throughout the house. These filters suck up a lot of dust, cat hair, and allergens and need to be replaced at least every 3 months, if not more frequently for people with allergies. 
  6. Vacuum at least twice a week and consider using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. You can buy HEPA vacuums just like you can standard vacuums and they aren’t much more expensive. According to Consumer Reports HEPA vacuums do a good job at removing pet hair, which can be a trigger for some people with cat allergies. 
  7. Regularly dust your home, including light fixtures, shelves and bookcases, windowsills, and other cracks and crevices. If possible, get someone from your household who isn’t allergic to cats to do the dusting. 
  8. Make sure to keep your cat’s litter box clean, as litter can also be an allergen for some people. Look for a  ow-dust litter that is less allergenic for both you and your cat. 
  9. Feed your cat a premium diet that is rich in animal proteins. A healthy diet means a healthy cat, which includes their fur and skin health. Our PrettyPlease cat food is made with ultra-premium ingredients, which means that your cat may shed less (which is good news for your allergies). 

There is nothing fun about getting a stuffy nose, watery eyes, or a skin rash after hanging out with your cat or a friend’s cat. But, while everyone is different, these tips may help you manage and even prevent allergic reactions caused by a cat’s saliva and dander. 

To decrease your risk of an allergic reaction, make sure to wash your hands after petting a cat, don’t touch your eyes or mouth, and clean the house regularly by dusting, vacuuming, and installing a HEPA filter in your home. 

If needed, you can talk to your doctor about immunotherapy or other medical responses to reduce your cat allergies

Sources:

1. https://acaai.org/allergies/types/pet-allergy 

2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321120#treatment 

3. https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/cats#diagnosis 

Written by
Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!