Questions About Cat Allergies

Kelly Roper
cat allergies

Visitor Questions About Cat Allergies

Cat with Allergies

One of my cats, Scheherezade, began having asthma-like symptoms last year. She wheezes and coughs (no sneezing) for about 30 seconds, 3-4 times daily, especially after chasing her pal around the house. The vet said she has no unusual sounds in her lungs, and no fever, but she has raspy sounds in her throat. Antibiotics help until she has been off them for about two days, then the wheezing starts again. She was X-rayed and nothing was found; she tested negative for heartworm. Now she gets a steroid shot once a month, and that seems to help a lot, but she is only three years old, and I'm hoping she won't have to have that shot every month for the rest of her life. I do cat rescues, but I keep all the rescued cats separate from my "keepers." We moved into a different house just before this wheezing started; come to think of it, my teenaged daughter got pneumonia just after we moved. Could it be environmental? I must mention that I make minimum wage and cannot afford expensive tests...Thank you very much.

~~Karen

Expert Reply

Hi Karen,

It sounds like your cat probably does have some allergies. Cats can have the same allergies as humans. Mold seems to be a big culprit for respiratory type infections. The fact that your daughter grew ill as well also points in that direction. Also, steroid shots are often given for allergies and do show an improvement in some cats. Although cats have a much milder reaction to the side effects of steroids than we do, I agree that keeping her on those shots for the rest of her life is something to be concerned over.

You may want to check for any visible mold. It will appear black and may be there because of a roof leak or in a bathroom. It often hides behind paneling or wallpaper. If you find it, treat it with bleach. Ideally, experts would come in and remove any mold, but that may not be in your budget. Bleach will kill mold, if the mold isn't inside the walls.

Also, if you can replace or remove any carpeting and paint that may help as well. Change your furnace filter regularly. This will reduce some of the allergens and is fairly inexpensive. Hope this helps and your cat feels better soon.

~~Lori

Less Allergic to Tabby Cats

We just adopted a five-month-old kitten from the pound. My children were wondering if orange tabbies are more likely to have the gene that can cause them to be non-allergic. My son's friend is allergic to cats, and he was able to pet our new kitten and he did not seem to react. Last spring, his allergies bothered him a lot. When our cat went missing this past summer, his allergies immediately stopped. I was wondering if it was the grass pollen outside that would be on our cat's fur that seemed to aggravate him more. ~~Priscilla K.Expert Reply

Hi Priscilla,

The only way to be certain exactly what your son's friend has allergies to is with a skin prick test that can be done at his doctor's office. Otherwise, it is impossible to say if he is allergic to the cat or to grass pollen.

However, it is true that light skin cats, such as Tabbies, produce less allergen than darker skinned cats. It is also possible that the kitten is not yet grooming as much as an adult cat would. The saliva is what actually produces the allergy for most people.

There are some things you can do to help reduce your son's friend's reaction to the new kitten. While the cat is still young, get him or her used to being bathed regularly. I would bathe the cat about once a week to reduce allergens. Use a high quality cat food as this can also help. Finally, invest in a good filtration system for your home or have a room or two that is cat free that the boy can play in when he comes to visit. This should help him quite a bit.

~~Lori

Cat Has Allergies

Hi,

I have an eight-year-old lovable kitty that has developed severe allergies over the years. After a few years of experiments, he has been diagnosed with allergies to:

  • Bluegrass/Junegrass
  • Fescue
  • Timothy
  • Ragweed
  • Marsh elder
  • Sage
  • Saltbush
  • Cottonwood
  • Juniper/Cedar
  • Oak
  • Helminthosporium
  • Cladosporium
  • Rhizopus
  • Candida Albicans
  • Mixed feathers,
  • Wool
  • Roaches
  • Mosquitoes

We have eliminated as much as of these items as possible. He has had a few courses of steroids, and after speaking with the vet, we are going to start desensitization injections.

I am wondering if this is the best course of action. It seems as if we have methodologically gone through this process but of course, I am concerned about his health and helping him get over these allergies. I understand the steroids are harmful, long term. Are there any other options, besides moving to a different part of the U.S. other than the Northeast? Thanks so much for your help.

~~Lauri

Expert Reply

Hi Lauri,

It is actually more common than you'd think for cats to have allergies. When cats have allergies, their immune system overreacts to the allergen. The symptoms might include:

  • Itching skin
  • Problems with respiratory
  • Eye discharge
  • Nasal discharge (usually through sneezing)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

There are different types of allergies, and it sounds like your cat has an inhalant allergy. Since the vet has narrowed it to grasses and such, this confirms the type of allergy. Steroids are a common treatment for this type of allergy. Be reassured that cats tend to have less of a reaction to steroids than humans, although I do understand your concern and would not want my cat on them long term either.

You could also try using a hypoallergenic shampoo and bathing your cat frequently (perhaps once a week). It will take your cat some time to get used to this and he may never like it. However, since many cats absorb allergens through their skin or through cleaning themselves, this may help reduce his reaction. He may still need steroids, but perhaps a lower dose.

Desensitization is very effective for some cats. It is costly to treat a cat with these. Around 50 percent respond well and another 25 percent will experience some benefit from these treatments. This is basically the same treatment a human would receive in the form of allergy shots. It can take several months or more for the cat to begin to respond to the shots, so if you choose this option, be patient.

I hope this helps you make an informed decision about how best to proceed. Please let me know if you have any other questions, and I hope your cat finds relief soon.

~~Lori

Allergic to New Kitten

I have a very hard decision on my hands. I adopted a kitten from a friend who couldn't keep her. She was about three months old when I got her. I knew that I had allergies to cats in the past, but I couldn't resist because I love cats so much and sometimes they don't bother me.

So now, months later, I am getting really bad asthma and my husband and I think we have to give her away. This is causing me so much sadness, and I have been crying like I am losing a child. I feel terrible for even getting her in the first place because now she will be traumatized, and it is because of my irresponsibility. This kitty and I have bonded and I am worried about her being depressed and sad if she goes to a new home. We have had her for nine months. I am hoping maybe this is a short enough time period that she may just be able to move on and forget about us and love her new owners soon. Will she "miss" us the way people do? I have heard about cats being depressed when an owner dies or is gone all of a sudden. Do you think this will happen to her?

Thanks so much!

~~Grace

Expert Reply

Hi, Grace,

I'm really to sorry that your asthma is acting up. I can tell that you're heartbroken at the thought of giving up your cat. First, if you do have to find her a new home, she will adjust. It may take her a few weeks or even a couple of months, but because you've shown her love and caring she should be able to love another owner. Cats don't like change but they do eventually adjust.

However, there are some things you can try, if you'd like to keep the cat. First, it is usually the dander that causes most people problems. If you can get her used to being bathed and bathe her about once a week and have someone else brush her every day (you shouldn't do this as it releases the dander), it may help. Also, changing the filter on your furnace or getting a special filter can help.

You should have an off limits policy for your bedroom. The cat should never be allowed in the room where you sleep. This gives you around eight hours free from the dander. You might also consult your physician to see if allergy medication might be helpful in your situation.

If all of this fails and you still have to find her a home, I think she will adjust and perhaps you can get someone to take her where you can visit from time-to-time and make sure she is doing well.

~~Lori

Best Cats for Asthma Sufferers

Hi,

I've been recently diagnosed with asthma. Cats that shed a lot seem to flare up my symptoms big time. Is there a breed that doesn't shed too much? I know the hairless breeds may not be ideal for asthma/allergy sufferers.

~~Kristina

Expert Reply

Hi, Kristina,

This is a really good question and something a lot of people will asthma will want to know. According to the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, 15 to 30 percent of people with allergies are also allergic to cats and dogs. Cat allergies are almost twice as common as dog allergies.

It isn't actually the fur that people are allergic to but the dander in the fur. Although some say the best treatment is to avoid cats and dogs that can be hard for an animal lover to accept. Fortunately, there are some things you can try to remove or limit dander and lessen your symptoms.

  1. Keep the cat out of the room you sleep in and clean that room completely every week. Since you spend roughly a third of your time sleeping, this cuts down on the time you are exposed to the dander. You may also want to invest in a high grade air purifier for that room.
  2. It might help to have flooring that can be mopped instead of carpet, but if you must have carpet or it is too expensive to replace at this time, have it cleaned regularly. When you vacuum, the allergens will be released into the air. Wear a face mask and use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter.
  3. Since pet dander can be spread by forced air heat and central air conditioning, cover the vents in your bedroom with cheesecloth to keep these allergens from entering your dander-free zone.
  4. It can help to brush the cat everyday but you should not do this as it will release allergens. A family member, friend or neighbor is the ideal candidate. If not every day then once a week at least.
  5. Wash all cat bedding in hot water ever other week (or more often, if possible).
  6. After petting your cat, do not rub your eyes or face, but go straight to the sink and wash your hands thoroughly.
  7. You can wash and rinse your cat thoroughly twice a week, but they loathe it.

There really is not a hard answer to your question about breeds as each person has a different level of allergic reaction. Some people have had success with Devon Rex and Cornish Rex because they have very tightly woven fur; or the hairless breeds such as the Sphynx. However, if your allergy is to saliva, you will still suffer with these breeds. I recommend speaking to your doctor at length about the severity of your allergy and your desire for a cat and get his opinion and treatment options. Good luck. I hope you're able to find a pet that doesn't trigger a reaction.

~~Lori

Allergic to Cats

If someone is allergic to cats, does it make a difference if the cat stays inside or outside? I was told that if the cat stays inside, it is better than if they go in and out.Thanks~~ Annie

Expert Reply

Hi Annie, People who suffer from cat allergies are actually allergic to a protein in the cat's saliva that gets distributed on the coat when he grooms himself.

The only difference I could possibly see is if that same person was also allergic to grasses, pollens, molds, etc., that could be picked up in the cat's coat as he roams. If not, there really shouldn't be any difference.

Thanks for your question~~ Kelly

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Questions About Cat Allergies