Am I Allergic to my Cat?

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

16 September 2016

Do you have a cat? Is your nose constantly runny? Eyes constantly itchy? We’re sorry to say you might have an allergy to your cat. Before we get started, please don’t mistake this article for medical advice! If you’re experiencing cat allergy symptoms, you should talk to a doctor - a real one, with a diploma and everything!

What are the symptoms of cat allergy?

You’ll know them if you’ve ever had them, but if you’re uninitiated, read on. If you’re suffering from allergies you may experience:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Skin rashes

On the other hand, you might have even worse symptoms. In particular, around 30% of asthma sufferers will have a severe allergic reaction. In very rare cases, anaphylaxis may occur. We don’t mean to scare you, only to make it clear that allergies are something to take seriously.

However, the above symptoms are not specific to cat allergies - you might be allergic to any number of other things in your home. To be sure, see your doctor.

What causes cat allergies and how can I prevent them?

All allergies are just your body’s automatic response to something it sees as a threat. For cat allergies, these are generally found in your cat’s saliva, urine and dander (skin flakes). Cat dander is particularly troublesome - it is practically invisible, and will affect you for months after it is shed.

Stopping dander at its source

All cats shed skin, but you can minimise the damage by:

  • Brushing your cat regularly
  • Bathing your cat every 4 to 6 weeks
  • Feeding your cat enough omega 3 (found in fish and some oils) to keep its coat healthy

Preventing the buildup of dander

Dander will stick around for months, but you can keep it at manageable levels by:

  • Removing carpet, rugs and fluffy pillows, as they trap dander
  • Vacuuming regularly with HEPA filters (regular filters won’t cut it)
  • Buying an air purifier that filters allergens
  • Covering vents with cheesecloth or similar to stop allergens from circulating
  • Keeping your cat out of spaces you frequent - buying an outdoor enclosure is a good way to minimise exposure

Hypoallergenic cats

Certain cat breeds have been found to produce fewer allergens than others. For example, the Devon Rex, Cornish Rex, Abyssinian and Russian Blue are all thought to be better for allergy sufferers than other breeds.

Additionally, female cats produce fewer allergens than male cats; and neutered males produce less than unneutered males.

Allergy shots

There is no guaranteed way of getting rid of a cat allergy, however there are allergy treatments available which may reduce sensitivity by exposing sufferers to a small amount of allergens over a period of time. For some, this may bring symptoms to manageable levels. To learn more, speak to your doctor.

How can I treat my allergies?

Over the counter treatments are generally effective for cat allergies: corticosteroids are best for prevention; antihistamines can alleviate symptoms; and decongestants will clear your nose. Ultimately, however, there is no guaranteed treatment, and if controlling dander levels has not been effective, you may have to consider a last resort - giving up your cat.

Perish the thought!

If you’re looking for tips on effectively grooming your cat, click here. Or, if it’s your cat that’s the allergic one, read this guide.


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