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How to treat cat allergies

Woman with cat allergies advice © Shutterstock

Cats don’t make it easy on themselves when it comes to being loved. As well as being loners who’d as soon claw you as nestle in for a hug, they’re twice as allergenic as dogs.

By G. John Cole

However, some people have no choice but to spend time in the company of these demons. If you own cats but you or your kid turns out to have an allergy, or you regularly visit cat-owners, you’ll want to know about cat allergy medication and other solutions.

Cat allergy treatment: How to recognise a cat allergy

Have you heard of ‘dander’? Dander is the tiny particles of cat (and other creature’s) skin. Cat dander is loaded with proteins and other molecules that float through the air and provoke an allergic reaction by tricking your immune system into over-reacting. Just like cats, huh?

While people tend to believe that cat fur is the culprit, in reality it’s just that furrier cats tend to have more allergic dander. This is because the proteins that they pass from their tongues while grooming are essential to the allergic process.

The symptoms of cat allergy are hard to miss. Red itchy eyes, an itchy, blocked nose, catarrh, the sneezes, coughing, wheezing and hives for good measure. You may get some or all of these, and they can appear gradually, come and go, or become almost constant if you’re around cats the whole time.

Of course, some of these are also symptoms of other kind of allergies. So the first step, if a suspected cat allergy is ruining your life, is to get a test from your GP.

Cat allergy treatment: there’s a cat in my house!

Finding out that you have a cat allergy is no big deal if you don’t like moggies. It just confirms your theory that cats were sent to torture us.

But if your GP tells you you’re cat-allergy-positive and you share a home with one or more of the wretched creatures, you’ll be wondering how to survive.

Living with a cat allergy will require a few changes around the home. For starters, make a new rule: all bedrooms belonging to cat allergy sufferers must remain cat-free! (The laundry room, too). Cats love to snuggle up on beds (preferably by themselves) or on linen and laundry. Naturally, they shed their cursed dander on these fabrics, and the next person to climb into bed gets a skinful of it.

Do whatever else you can to reduce shedding around the house. Instruct your non-allergic roommates or kids to brush the cat regularly, and to do it outdoors! If you have to do it yourself, wear gloves.

Ban your cat from jumping on the furniture (you might want to provide it with a new cat-only bed) and remove rugs and other upholstery where possible. Carpeting can become a hundred times more allergenic from cats than hardwood flooring. Hoovering doesn’t always help, since many machines tend to blow dander particles up into the air. Use a vacuum cleaner with a High Efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) filter if possible. Keep the windows open since the cat is literally poisoning the air around you.

Here’s kitty’s next insult: you can reduce the effects of your cat allergy by pampering your cat with a special lotion such as Petal Cleanse. It cleanses and moisturises moggo’s coat, locking up the allergens as it goes. And wash your cat’s bed regularly too. How did turning your home into a high-class cat hotel become a cure for cat allergies?

Cat allergy treatment: medication for humans

Unfortunately, there is no cat allergy cure – only cat skin allergy treatments.

Your GP will recommend what’s best for your particular allergy, depending how severe it is. Immunotherapy is one option. This involves getting two shots a week for six months, then one every month for the next few years. It may or may not work, depending on the patient.

Other people may be prescribed (or buy over-the-counter) antihistamine pills, decongestants, eye drops, and/or inhalers. These don’t treat the allergy as such, but can reduce the symptoms. And it’s the symptoms that are torturing you, right?

Well, yes. But the cat itself doesn’t seem to care. You might consider trading the critter in for a dog, or at least a female cat. Females and neutered males tend to cause fewer allergies than fully-loaded tomcats. How thoughtful of them!