If your nose runs and your eyes water or you start sneezing and wheezing after petting or playing with a cat, you likely have a cat allergy. A cat allergy can contribute to constant allergy symptoms, as exposure can occur at work, school, or in other indoor environments, even if a cat is not present.

Cats produce multiple allergens (proteins that can cause allergy). These allergens are found on the fur and skin and in saliva. All cats produce allergens; studies have not shown that cats can be hypoallergenic (meaning that they don’t cause allergy). Homes with more than one cat have higher levels of cat allergens. Characteristics such as the length of a cat’s hair, its sex and the amount of time a cat spends indoors are not associated with cat allergen levels.

Dust and pollen in a cat’s coat can also cause allergy symptoms. In those cases, the allergy is to the dust or pollen, not to the cat.

What are the symptoms of cat allergies?

A common misconception regarding cat allergies is that the development of aches and pains or fever is part of the normal allergic response. That is not true. Pet allergies typically only cause nose, eye, skin, and respiratory (lung and throat), symptoms including –

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Red, itchy, or watery eyes
  • Itchy nose, throat, or roof of mouth
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Rashes, hives
  • Cough
  • Chest tightness and shortness of breath
  • Wheezing (whistling sound) when breathing

If I am allergic, can I still have a cat?

If you want to know how to get rid of cat allergies naturally, there are a number of things you can try. Although not guaranteed, some of these remedies might ease your symptoms. First, try leaving one room, like your bedroom, allergen free. Don’t let the cat in that room and use hypoallergenic bedding. This gives you a “safe space” free of triggers.

You will want to go the extra mile in keeping your home clean. Steam clean upholstery and wash curtains, sheets, and blankets frequently. Dust often and vacuum regularly.

Clean the litter box several times a week and use low-dust litter. Wash your hands after stroking your cat. If you pet your cat then rub your eyes or touch your face, it might make your allergies worse.

Try to keep your cat extra clean too. This could include using vet-recommended wipes that cut down on dander or bathing your cat with an anti-allergen shampoo. Some cats are more likely to get used to bathing if you start when they’re kittens or if you use warm (but not hot) water. Brushing can also help. A healthy diet with omega-rich foods that help your cat’s coat and skin might help.

Some people like to use over-the-counter antihistamines for less severe allergy symptoms. Others may choose to see their doctor for allergy shots that can help reduce the symptoms over time or for prescription eye drops that can ease itchy eyes. It’s always a good idea to see your doctor if you have any medical questions.

Sometimes, allergy symptoms to one particular cat or cats may subside over time. You’ll typically still have allergy symptoms to other cats, but not the particular cat or cats you have at home. It can take months or longer for this to occur and it doesn’t happen for everyone.

Many people notice allergy symptoms from the time they’re a child, including congestion, red and itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, hives, or even bouts of asthma. But sometimes these symptoms don’t show up until early adulthood or even later in life. The symptoms may develop right after you pet a cat or hours later in the day. There are many options for controlling and reducing allergies through reduction of exposure to allergens and/or treatment of symptoms. Therefore, most people are able to keep their cats.

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