Are you allergic to your cat? Living with pet allergies can be a real bummer, especially if you already have some furry friends living with you. Learn how to get rid of cat dander and get back to spending time with your favourite feline companion, promoting the health of both your immune systems.
Pet allergies can range from mild annoyances to life-threatening situations. The cat dander, saliva, and urine from just one cat can trigger some unpleasant reactions in people with sensitivities. While our tips can’t do anything to prevent the transfer from direct contact with a cat, they can help to eliminate a lot of the dander in your home that are worsening your allergy symptoms.
What is Cat Dander?
Dander is highly mobile in an enclosed environment, like a house. Even in a separate room, dander could still provoke a reaction. But what is pet dander?
Dander is tiny skin particles that fluff off of your cat. They end up on surfaces like furniture, carpet, and clothing. They also float in the air that you breathe in, which is one of the reasons that cat dander usually causes an immediate reaction from people with a cat dander allergy.
Shedding dead skin is a natural part of the skin cell cycle in healthy cats, but dander will worsen in cats with poor skin and coat health, those that reside in unhealthy environments, and those eating a poor quality diet.
Cat Allergy Symptoms
Cat allergies are one of the most common, non-food allergies in people. According to everydayhealth.com:
Between 15-30% of people with allergies are allergic to pets, and cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies.
Despite the runny noses and itchy eyes, many people with cat allergies still want to have a fluffy companion in their homes. For some, the allergies aren't discovered until a pet is brought home.
If you are wondering - Am I allergic to cats? - then take a look at the common cat allergy symptoms in people and think about if these symptoms happen to coincide with recent exposure to cats.
- Runny nose/sneezing
- Swollen and itchy eyes
- Sinus pressure
- Skin reactions, like hives
- Extreme reactions, like difficulty breathing and chest pain, can be associated with asthma
It's commonly thought that their allergic reactions are caused by a cat dander allergy or a cat fur allergy. While dander and fur are one source, they are only the carrier for the true allergen.
Dander isn't the only trigger for people with cat allergies. The true culprit is a protein called Fel D1 that is secreted in the skin, saliva, and urine, which is why reducing dander may not be the fix you hope it will. Unfortunately, when dealing with cat allergies, the solution is dependent on the severity of the allergy.
How to Get Rid of Cat Allergies
You probably ended up here because you want to know how to overcome allergies to cats. The bad news is that there are many ways you can learn to live with cat allergies, but very few ways to actually get rid of them.
This means letting your body learn to adapt to the allergen over time. It can be effective for some, but not everyone is that lucky.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to show that people who suffer from cat allergies eventually "get used to" their specific cat, but this isn't a fool-proof plan and definitely not a recommendation to get a cat and just hope your allergies go away in time.
Antihistamines, decongestants, and immuno-regulators might be an option that allows you to snuggle your favourite feline friend without exploding.
The downside is, of course, that many of these medications are not always good when used long-term. They are usually recommended for cases of infrequent exposure to cat allergens. Talk to your doctor about the safest ways to control your own immune responses.
Other than the methods above, there really isn't a way to rid yourself of a cat allergy. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't try to manage your allergies.
For people with mild allergies, reducing dander and limiting exposure to saliva and other sources of Fel d1 may be enough to allow you to cohabitate with a cat safely, but before you try it, talk to your doctor about the risks.
If you love your cat too much to give her up despite allergies from exposure to cats, then check out these tips for how to lessen cat dander and limit the effect your kitty has on your health.
7 Ways to Get Rid of Cat Dander
Before we get into our tips for cat dander treatment, we want to start with a disclaimer:
If your allergies are bad enough to be life-threatening, then we strongly urge you not to get a cat, or at the very least, to talk to your doctor about the risks. Even "hypoallergenic” cats have dander and saliva that contain the proteins that can trigger allergic reactions. There is no guarantee that you won’t react to a pet, even a hairless one.
That being said, milder allergy cases can sometimes be managed by dander control for cats and in your home. Some general cleaning practices are a good start, but sometimes more drastic measures need to be taken to protect yourself.
Let’s jump into the best ways of reducing cat dander:
Regularly brushing your cat can help to reduce shedding and dander. This will get rid of some of the dander that would naturally fall off your cat and end up all over your house - including dust mites.
Brushing should be done daily with a soft slicker brush. Deshedding brushes can also help but should never be used more than once a week, as they can damage your cats’ skin and pull out healthy hair.
Using a cat dander shampoo, like Tropiclean Dander Reducing Waterless Cat Shampoo can be a useful grooming tip for limiting dander. The gentle ingredients can help wash away loose dander and moisturize the skin to control dander production.
Bathing your cat can be helpful, but be careful not to bathe them too often. Over-bathing can damage their sensitive skin leading to dandruff or other skin issues that will make shedding worse.
If you must bathe your cat more than once per month, then try sticking to just warm water and a sprinkle of baking soda. Most pet shampoos have fragrances and chemicals that can dry out their skin.
We recommend you delegate these jobs to someone that doesn’t have a cat allergy, though.
2. Routine Cleaning
Some cleaning practices that would typically be done monthly or less often will need to be done on a more regular basis. Vacuuming is a no-brainer, but walls, ceilings, and shelving will need to be dusted weekly to reduce cat dander.
Even some of your spring cleaning jobs that only get done a few times per year will need to be bumped up in frequency. Dusting vents, changing filters, and even cleaning your washer and dryer should be done at least once a month if you hope to make a difference in the dander population in your home.
3. Dander Neutralizing Products
A popular method of controlling cat dander is to use a cat dander remover, but what is the best cat dander remover? Well for starters, let's clear up the confusion with the name. These products don't actually remove dander, so much as they neutralize it.
Products like Allerpet cat dander remover have been around for years and claim to encapsulate cat dander on your pet to prevent it from affecting you. Some people swear by these products, while others claim they are minimally effective.
We can’t tell you why it works for some but not others, but it could be worth a try if you are determined to keep your feline friend despite your allergies. These products are only made to reduce dander on your pets’ skin, so they will not help you if you are reacting to allergens in saliva or urine and will not prevent a runny nose.
4. Safe Spaces
Choosing a few areas in your home that can be dander-free is a great idea. We recommend your bedroom, bathroom, and office. Making your bedroom, or other small closed-in spaces, cat-free will drastically reduce the number of allergens you breathe in and might be enough to limit your reactions.
Just think about all the cat dander that collects on your bedspread. Now think about laying your face directly on that dander and alive (yes, there is for sure cat saliva on your bed) for 8 hours a night. No wonder you wake up with the sniffles. Cutting out the nighttime cuddles is a must for managing your symptoms.
These safe spaces should be for you, not your cat. If you plan to keep your cat segregated to a single room of the house to accommodate your allergies, then it's probably a sign that you shouldn't get a cat.
Invest in HEPA products. High-efficiency Particulate Air filters will have a significant impact on the amount of dander in your home. An air purifier or a HEPA vacuum can be a lifesaver.
These aren’t always the cheapest option, but they are definitely worth the investment if you are determined to have a pet.
6. Wash Your Cat’s Stuff
Beds, blankets, collars, and even toys collect a disgusting amount of dander and saliva. Some products can be run through the washing machine to clean them routinely, but you might need to hand wash those that can’t.
Toys, especially those filled with catnip, are hard to wash without ruining them. These will need to be replaced often to prevent allergen build-up.
Even your cat’s litter box will be a hotbed for dander and other allergens. It’s best to empty and sanitize your litter box once per week. Try to avoid dusty litters that will carry dander around your home. Look for dust-free natural litter, instead.
7. Extreme Projects
If you need to eliminate cat dander, then you might need to consider some serious home improvement. Not everyone is willing to go to these extremes, but they may be necessary if your allergies could kill you.
These are also recommended if you are moving into a house that used to have a cat:
- Tearing up the carpet and replacing it with hardwood, tile, or linoleum.
- Replacing furniture, like couches.
- Getting your vents and ductwork professionally cleaned.
- Upgrading your ventilation systems to include HEPA filters.
Think Before Getting a Cat
If you have cat allergies, please think twice before committing to getting and caring for a cat. Your allergies might affect them too.
If you need to limit contact with them or keep them quarantined in small areas of the house just to keep yours, or someone else’s, allergies at bay, then you might not be able to give them the loving environment or attention they need and deserve.
Not everyone has this luxury, as allergies can develop long after a cat has been welcomed into your family. This can mean making the heart-wrenching decision to rehome your cat due to a cat dander allergy. Hopefully, these tips can help to prevent this.
Are you allergic to your cat but determined to make it work anyway? Share your tips and tricks on how to get rid of cat dander in the comments.