Cat allergy is an allergy to one or all breeds of cats. People with cat allergies are allergic to proteins in the cat’s saliva, urine, and dander (dried flakes of skin). The protein known to cause allergic reactions is Fel d 1 protein. When a cat cleans itself by licking its fur, the Fel d 1-laden saliva dries and turns into an airborne allergen. When someone pets a cat, they can spread this protein to every area of their home, making the allergen widespread.
Even if you don’t have a serious cat allergy, your cat can still indirectly cause your allergies to flare up. Outside cats can bring pollen, mold, and other allergens to their fur. Outside allergens may easily spread to clothing, carpeting, and other household items. If you plan to get a cat, you may want to consider keeping it indoors to reduce the risk of bringing other allergens into your home.
Cat Allergy Symptoms
Cat allergy symptoms may include:
- Itchy, watery, and red eyes
- Runny nose
- Facial pressure and pain
- Hives and rashes on the body
- Asthma flare
Symptoms of a cat allergy might appear immediately or be delayed. About 20% to 30% of people with allergic asthma have severe flare-ups after coming in contact with a cat. If you experience cat allergy symptoms, visit an allergy specialist as soon as possible to discuss possible treatments.
The Best Cat Breeds for People with Allergies
While people who are allergic to cats tend to show symptoms around most breeds, there are some cats that are known to produce fewer proteins. These breeds include:
- Oriental shorthair
- Devon Rex
- Cornish Rex
- Russian Blue
- Colorpoint shorthair
Allergies Similar or Related to Cat Allergy
Dog allergy is most similar to cat allergy. People who are allergic to dogs usually show the same symptoms seen with cat allergies. However, any animal can produce similar symptoms to cat allergies. Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, and horses are all known to cause allergies. There are also reported cases of people experiencing allergic reactions from birds.
Bird allergy is known to cause severe asthma symptoms just like cat allergy. When a bird flaps its wings, it releases dander into the air. A bird’s invisible dander does not get filtered by the lungs, so it makes breathing more difficult. If you believe other animals are causing your allergies, ask an allergist for a full allergy panel and treatment.
Cat Allergy Diagnosis
An allergy specialist, like one from NY Allergy & Sinus Centers, can diagnose an allergy to cats. The most common method of diagnosing a cat allergy is through skin prick testing. Skin prick testing uses diluted amounts of allergens that are applied to the skin with tiny punctures. A positive result will show a raised bump (hive) at the localized area.
When testing for cat allergy with skin prick testing, it takes less than 20 minutes for the results to show. You may experience some itching during the test that will subside shortly. Your allergist will monitor you for more severe symptoms that may arise.
If you have an ongoing skin condition, such as eczema, an allergist may suggest allergy blood testing instead of skin prick testing. Blood tests measure immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody your immune system develops in reaction to a specific allergen. They are usually accurate but take longer to deliver results.
Cat Allergy Treatment
If you have a cat allergy, avoidance is the best treatment. This means you should decrease or eliminate your exposure to cats. If this isn’t possible, over-the-counter allergy medications can be used to treat your symptoms. Nasal sprays and oral antihistamines are effective in treating nasal symptoms. In combination with antihistamine eye drops, symptoms should subside for 24 hours. Also, since cat allergy causes asthma symptoms, be sure to have your inhaled corticosteroids or bronchodilators on hand to prevent or relieve respiratory symptoms.
While the above antihistamines are helpful, they only treat symptoms temporarily. That’s why we recommend allergy immunology. Allergy immunotherapy (“allergy shots”) is used to reduce a person’s sensitivity to the triggers that are causing their allergy symptoms. An allergist at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers can determine the best treatment for your allergies.
Cat Allergy Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Be Allergic to Cats?
If you experience sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, or asthma symptoms around cats, you may be allergic to cats. Visit an allergist for an allergy test to diagnose your cat allergy.
How Is Cat Allergy Diagnosed?
An allergist, like one from NY Allergy & Sinus Centers, can diagnose a cat allergy. Most allergists use skin prick tests or blood tests. You may also need a pulmonary function test to assess your breathing to see if cats flare your asthma.
Why Are People Allergic to Cats?
The protein known to cause an allergy to cats is the Fel d 1 protein. This protein is found in a cat’s saliva, urine, and dander
Is Cat Allergy Curable?
Allergy shots can significantly reduce your allergy symptoms to cats. Book an appointment with NY Allergy & Sinus Centers to get cat allergy treatment.
Are Cat Allergies Genetic?
Some studies suggest that a hereditary component is involved in developing a cat allergy. Just like other allergies, having a blood relative with allergies or asthma increases your risk of having pet allergies.
Is Cat Allergy or Dog Allergy More Common?
More people are allergic to cats than dogs. In fact, cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies. Cat allergy symptoms also tend to be more severe.
If I’m Allergic to Cats, Am I Allergic to Dogs?
While the proteins are similar, you can be allergic to cats and not dogs. However, there is a high likelihood that if you are allergic to cats, you will be allergic to other pets as well.
Can a Cat Allergy Suddenly Develop Later In Life?
Any allergy can suddenly develop no matter your age. We recommend getting allergy tested every couple of years to see if your allergies have changed.
Are There Hypoallergenic Cats?
Truly hypoallergenic cats do not exist. However, there are some cats that produce less protein and are recommended for people with allergies.