Living With Cat Allergies

Allergies

Living With Cat Allergies

We get many calls from people who think they need to "get rid of their cat" because they are allergic to the, or think they are. We can only imagine how many cats and their families are needlessly separated because the family does not realize that there are so many ways of dealing with allergies. Listed below are some ideas to try.

Side note from the webmaster: I used to be so allergic to cats that if I simply stepped in a house with one cat for a few minutes, I would be sneezing and scratching my eyes all night.  I built up my immune system slowly and now I have 10 cats, most of which sleep with me.  So yes, I'm a believer.

Cleaning/Environment:

  • Use HEPA air filters, preferably commercial sized, especially in frequented areas such as the bedroom. Be sure to change the filters often. The manufacturer's recommendations for changing the filters are not often enough for allergy sufferers. The same applies to home heating and air conditioning filters.
  • Open windows to let air circulate as often as possible (unless you may be sensitive to outdoor allergens).
  • Keep the cat out of the allergic person's bedroom and clothing closets altogether. Also consider any other area where the allergic person spends a great deal of time, like a home office.
  • Do not leave your coat, purse, or other items you often use lying about for your cat to rub against or lie on.
  • Use a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Vacuum often, daily if possible, don't forget the furniture and draperies.
  • Wet dust with a damp mop or cloth often. Clean all surfaces, including walls, windowsills, etc.
  • The more washable surfaces in the home the better. Also, scented and perfumed substances in the home can be irritating to allergy sensitive people. Some laundry detergents and fabric softeners can also cause allergies to worsen.
  • Wash the bed linens if the cat comes in contact with them. Wash linens and cat bedding often. Consider putting soft cloth or a towel over your cat's favorite nap spots, to make cleaning of those areas easier.
  • Have someone else take care of litter box duty if possible. Plain clay litter is often less irritating than scented litter.
  • Wear a dust and pollen mask (available at drugstores) when cleaning, or have someone who is not allergic do the cleaning.
  • Thorough cleaning is key. It may take several house cleanings to remove the allergens (cat related and otherwise) from your home.

Allergic Person:

  • The stronger your immune system, the less likely you are to have allergic symptoms. Try to eat better, stop smoking, get more exercise, get enough rest and water, try to lower your stress level, etc.
  • When you handle or pet your cat, be sure not to touch your face or eyes without first washing your hands. It may help to wash hands after any contact with the cat or its bedding.
  • Analyze your environment. Sometimes when people think they are allergic to their pet, the reality is that something else in their environment is actually making them sensitive. Common allergens are cigarette smoke, dust, and mold (harboring in damp basements, dry leaves, wet grass, live Christmas trees, etc). For some people, cat allergies only surface when seasonal or temporary allergies flare up, thus special measures would only be necessary around those times. Alternatively, they could have a food allergy, or be allergic to a flea collar, pet shampoo, etc.
  • Homeopathy has helped many people to conquer or lessen their allergies.
  • A doctor or allergist may prescribe antihistamines, immunotherapy, eye drops, or other medications. Over the counter medications are also available.
  • People often build up a resistance to their own pets and find that their allergy symptoms lessen or go away in time. While you are making changes as suggested here, your body may also be making adjustments.

Allergic Babies:

  • Avoid overheating or sudden chilling. Extreme temperatures and sudden changes can lower the child's resistance.
  • Stuffed animals and stuffed toys harbor dust (a common allergen). Washable toys should be washed often.
  • Wash new clothes to get rid of excess dyes and other chemicals before putting them on the baby.
  • Don't apply oils or bath lotions too heavily or too often.
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