Cat Dander

cat with a computer mouse

For those who suffer allergies, cat dander is an area of major concern. Even if you've heard about cat dander and how difficult it is to remove, you may still wonder what exactly it is and why it causes so many problems.

Just What Is Cat Dander Anyway?

You'll find all kinds of information floating around about dander. Simply put, cat dander is a combination of dead skin cells and dried saliva flakes. Everything with skin has dander including humans. Dead skin cells are produced as new cells are made and skin is renewed. The old, dry skin is sloughed off. The length of the cat's fur really doesn't seem to be a factor in the amount of dander produced. Some breeds seem to shed these dead cells at a faster rate than others, but all breeds do shed them.

Why Dander Gets Blamed for Allergies

If dander is truly just dead skin cells and dried saliva, you may wonder why it's blamed for allergies and is such a cause for concern. The dead skin cells of the cat are basically a ride on which the allergens take a hitchhike. Most people who are allergic to cats have an allergy to Felis domesticus allergen 1 (Fel D1); this is a protein that is secreted by cats and attaches to dander. Fel D1 is powerful and concentrated. It's found throughout a cat's body, in its urine and its saliva. It's also found in lactating females' milk and even comes through the pores of the skin. Males do seem to secrete a bit more than females, so adopting a female cat may be of help if you're only mildly allergic. So, while dander alone may not actually be an allergen, there are various proteins from the cat that attach to the dander, making it a problem regardless.

What Does Cat Dander Look Like

Cat dander is very small. If you've ever looked toward a brightly lit window on a sunny day, you've likely seen tiny, almost miniscule dust mites floating through the air. Cat dander is only one tenth the size of those already petite dust mites. As dander floats through the air, it lands on bedding, carpets, walls, furniture, curtains and so on. Basically, it winds up everywhere. If you don't suffer from allergies, this really isn't a concern. The problem arises when you have allergies.

How to Reduce Dander

To reduce the dander in your home, you can try some of the following techniques for removing cat dander:

  • Wash the cat with a special, mild cat shampoo about once a week, and remember to completely clean out the sink and wipe down all surfaces where you bathed the cat. There are even a few special shampoos on the market, such as Allerpet, that claim to reduce allergies.
  • Your vacuum cleaner should have a high efficiency filter. This will trap some of the smaller particles in your carpets and on your furniture, such as the pet dander. Vacuum often.
  • Make the bedroom a no cat zone. This will give the allergy sufferer a good eight hours of sleep without exposure to the allergens, and this may help tremendously.
  • Use room air purifiers.

These are a just a few ideas that might help, but cat dander isn't something that is easy to get rid of. Cats continue to shed skin cells throughout their lives. Older cats tend to shed cells far more frequently than younger cats. It can take months and sometimes even years for the dander to be removed from a home after a cat has left. While felines make absolutely wonderful pets for the majority of people, people who suffer cat allergies need to test themselves before they decide to keep a cat as a pet. Consider staying for a few days with a friend who owns the kind of cat you are interested in, and make sure that your allergies allow you to live with this cat breed.

Cat Dander