How to Care for a Cat If You Are Allergic to Cats

While some people might avoid cats due to fear or dislike, others avoid them because of the possibility of allergic reactions. However, there is still hope for those individuals, depending on the nature of their allergies. If the allergies result in symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, and a runny nose, then there is a chance that the person can gradually build up a tolerance to cats.

It is essential to undergo allergy testing before getting a cat, especially if the person suffers from asthma. Approximately 30 percent of individuals with allergies are allergic to cats and dogs, but studies show that the rate of cat allergies is much higher than that.

If someone wants to enjoy the lifelong companionship of a feline despite their allergies, here are some tips to help control their allergy symptoms.

Symptoms of Cat Allergy

When cats are around, it’s hard to miss the symptoms of cat allergies. These symptoms are usually triggered by the proteins found in a cat’s urine, saliva, or dander, and can occur when there’s a feline nearby or if you come into contact with cat hair on furniture. The following are some common cat allergy symptoms you may experience:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Skin rash
  • Nasal congestion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy, red, or watery eyes

Get Rid of Additional Allergens in Your Home

Before bringing a new pet into your home, it’s important to minimize other allergens such as dust mites and mold. Soft materials like curtains, drapes, upholstery, and carpeting are the most likely to harbor allergens, including cat dander. To reduce these allergens in your home, here are some tips:

  • Use blinds instead of curtains whenever possible. If you can’t replace your curtains, make sure to wash them regularly and vacuum the drapes frequently.
  • If feasible, consider replacing overstuffed upholstered furniture with leather furniture.
  • Avoid using decorative scented candles, potpourri, and plug-in air fresheners as they can worsen allergy symptoms.
  • If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, consider replacing it with wood or tile flooring. If you can’t replace your carpeting, make sure to thoroughly vacuum it on a regular basis.

Consider Allergy Medication

When it comes to managing a cat allergy, medication is often the initial option that people consider. There are various options available, including over-the-counter or prescription medication, natural remedies like BioAllers, and immunotherapy through allergy shots. However, it is crucial to consult with a physician or allergist before starting any new treatment.

Visit Friends With Cats

Consider visiting a friend who has an outgoing cat to spend some time with a feline, but limit the duration of your visit. Ask your friend to schedule a time when the cat is fed, comfortable, and at ease. Seek permission to use an allergy relief spray or wipes on the cat if necessary during your visit.

Take your allergy medication about 30 minutes before your scheduled visit time. When you arrive, let the cat approach you and initiate any interactions. The cat may sniff your feet and legs first, and you can slowly extend your hand to see if the cat accepts petting. If your allergies are well-controlled, you can allow the cat to sit on your lap. Keep the visit short, around 15 minutes, to ensure comfort for both you and the cat.

In a week or two, plan another visit with the same cat and extend your stay up to half an hour. Gradually expand your visits to other friends with cats.

Think about hypoallergenic breeds

Some cat breeds are considered to be hypoallergenic or less likely to cause allergies. These breeds include the Sphynx, which has very fine hair, the Rex, which has fine, wavy or curly hair, and the Siberian, which lacks the Fel d 1 protein in its saliva that becomes dander after grooming. Attending local cat shows is a great way to learn more about these specific breeds. Many cat breed clubs hold shows that feature different breeds, allowing you to observe them and learn more about their characteristics.

Go to the animal shelter in your area

If you feel that your allergies are under control, you may want to consider adopting a cat. Here are some tips to navigate a visit to your local animal shelter or cat adoption event:

  1. Dress in comfortable, casual clothes and take any necessary allergy medication beforehand.
  2. Plan to spend an hour or so at the shelter or event.
  3. Take a few cats, one at a time, into a private room, if available, and spend some time with each one.
  4. Let the cat’s behavior guide your choice, as they often choose their human companions.
  5. It may take multiple visits to find the right cat for your lifestyle.
  6. Ensure that your home is fully prepared for a new pet.
  7. When you have made your choice, speak with shelter personnel about your allergies and ask if the cat can be returned as a last resort if your allergies become too severe.
  8. Consider restricting your new cat from entering your bedroom to help alleviate allergy symptoms during sleep.

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