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Allergic to Cats

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Advice about Pets > Allergic to Cats



I am developing an allergy to my cat

April 2008

After much denial, I have realized that I am developing a significant allergic reaction to my cat. The problem is magnified by the fact that I live with the best of all possible cats and am pretty attached to the little fuzz-head. My understanding is that it is the dander of the cat that causes the allergic reaction, so I am planning to start with a thorough and ongoing cleaning of all furniture, etc. where she likes to sit/be. As you know, if you have a pet, their hair can get seemingly everywhere. She's 13 yrs. old and an indoor cat in the cool months. I don't think I'd be too successful at trying to get her to be a full-time outdoor being. Any other suggestions for how to cope with this? Am willing to try to treat the allergies on my side as well....Homeopathics perhaps?? I have heard of this happening to people before and figure some of you out there might have some good recs. Thanks,


There are also antigens in the cat's saliva. Have you tried giving your cat regular baths? Frequent vacuuming and an air filter really help. The homeopathic remedies are no more effective than placebos, but I've had good luck by bathing the cat and by frequently vacuuming and steam-cleaning carpeting and upholstery. Allergic to cats
Make sure you get a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. Otherwise vacuuming will just put the allergens into the air. It will make a huge difference. saved by HEPA
I too have cat allergies, but live with my cat w/o problem, as long as I do the things my doc recommended: 1) brush cat daily with the small side of a plastic flea comb brush (can get at any pet center)- this one pretty much takes care of most of it 2) keep a hepa filter on at all times that I am home (or windows open)- the ionic breeze makes my asthma worse, so only hepa works 3) vacuum every week 4) I have never had to do this one, but allergist recs it: get cat groomed every month to every other month GOOD LUCK and I hope these tips help! asthmatic who loves her cat!

Baby's cat allergies

Dec 2005

Hello- My 4 month old baby girl tested as ''moderately allergic'' to cats, based on a blood test. As of yet, she doesn't have any respiratory problems and if an allergy does develop,it's not likely to manifest itself until she's a year old. Of course, the problem is that we have two male cats who me and my husband adore. We're worried about her potential to develop asthma (she's got eczema, her dad has asthma) but would like to come up with some way of keeping the kitties. They're outdoor/indoor boys, short hair, but it's everywhere. Any success stories for dealing with cats and allergies? Tips? thanks, anon.


A German study found that children (babies up to age 2) who had cats sleeping in their room at night had a 57% LESS chance of developing asthma. I don't have experience dealing with a kid with allergies, but I say keep the cats to reduce the chances of your kid developing asthma. My two cents.... Co sleeps with toddler and two cats
If your daughter's allergic and you know it, please strongly consider getting the cats out of the house now - according to the allergy/asthma network website, it usually takes about a year for all of the cat dander to settle out of the air, after all of the rugs, curtains, furniture, clothes, etc. have been thoroughly cleaned.

When my inlaws very old cat finally died, they were considerate enough to steam clean all of their furniture and rugs to try to make it easier for me and my son to be there - it was over three years ago and we still have issues with some of the clothes and my son definitely can't play hide and seek in grandma's closet without us breaking out the benadryl/inhaler.

If you're thinking about keeping the cats, it's worthwhile to consider that if she's always around them, your daughter might not seem to be allergic to the cats because of ''tolerance'' but it may show up through increased eczema or food allergies that otherwise wouldn't develop. She may also suffer from hay fever that otherwise wouldn't bother her, or just catch more colds than other kids - things you might not attribute to the cats but that they indirectly cause.

The allergist at Kaiser described it as everyone having a bucket that fills with allergens - it's ok until the bucket gets full, then every little drop overflows. Some people have a fairly empty bucket, so don't react much to anything, but if you have a fairly full bucket to start with, any little thing can cause a spill.

Hope this helped - please check out allergy websites and consult an allergist too, to be fully informed about whatever decision you eventually make. amy


The second best thing to do for your child would be to have NO wall-to-wall carpeting in the house- all bare floors with washable area rugs. Strictly keep cats out of your child's sleeping room at minimum until she's 4 years old. You can try the allergen washes on their fur. Washable slipcovers on furniture. I have a severe cat allergy that was mild until I turned 6, and at 10 developed asthsma 4 years after giving away our cats. Carpeting with dander is way worse than petting a cat for me, as is sitting on couches in a cat house. I'd go so far as getting furniture that never had cats and slipcover those, (or leather chairs/ couches if that suits you, or furniture with a minimum of upholstery and stuffing.) A friend who works as a respiratory therapist suggests no furred pets for any families until children are 3 years old (I know that's not what families who already have pets want to hear, he says in terms of lung development they are stronger then) and also no carpeting (w! ith or without pets) and especiall Chris
Having an allergy is a very serious matter. Some things that might help is having air filters in your house this will help keep the allergens down. With cats their are two types of allergies one is to the dander and the other is to the cats saliva. Because cats groom themselves saliva is ever present so one is not necessarily better than the other. If the allergy is fairly mild keep the fur to a minimum. Getting rid of carpets help as fur is more difficult to clean up after. Go with hard wood floors or other hard surfaces. If you keep the carpets you may need to get them cleaned every year or so. If you use a vacuum cleaner use one that uses allergen filtration bags or has a filtration system so that way what you are trying to vacuum up does not get spread around. Keep the house clean and as fur free as possible. Brush the fur on the cats this will help. Believe it or not, some cats love the attention. If worse comes to worse you may have to find a new home for the cats. It could come down to the choice between your daughter or the cats. Have your furnace filters changed annually or biannually. Talk to a professional.

As far as asthma is concerned there certainly are some things that can help keep asthma down. If asthma is hereditary, as it appears to be, well guess what, you cannot beat Mother Nature. Get her tested early with a allergist, find out about the signs to look out for and find out what may trigger her asthma. (allergies, excercise, the cold...)

I'm still puzzled about the relationship between eczema and asthma?!! My allergies and asthma are hereditary


Let me pose a question: if you knew without a doubt that your child would, in fact, develop asthma and other allergy related illnesses that might be life-long problems, if not life-threatening, would you keep the cats? I started out in life non-cat allergic. My brother was allergic. We lived in a household with cats, and our parents wouldn't give up the cats. I am now desperately allergic to cats, and my brother has horrendous asthma, eczema and other immunological problems. He nearly died once from an asthma attack when I was babysitting him. My advice: get rid of your adored cats, for your adored child's sake. Not a cat lover

Had any success with non-allergenic cat breeds?

Sept 2005

My daughter would really love to have a cat but my husband and I are both allergic. We both like cats and wouldn't be opposed to having one if it weren't for our allergies. Has anyone else out there with cat allergies had any success with non- allergenic breeds (e.g. siberians, sphinxs)? Or am I meowing up the wrong tree? Sneezy and sniffly


You might check out a Maine Coon. They are supposed to be less allergy-inducing because their hair doesn't fly around the way other breeds do. It's counter-intuitive because they have long thick coats, but I have a half-breed Maine Coon, and his hair really stays put. When I brush him, some hair goes onto the brush but otherwise I do not find hair in the house. My kids are usually sneezy around cats but this cat really doesn't bother them. Maine Coons are great cats - huge and fluffy, with a laid-back disposition. My cat is affectionate to the point of being irritating! but he is great with babies and little kids. (They're expensive though - that's why I have a half-breed!) G
A friend of mine who really loved cats but was allergic did manage to find one that didn't make her sneeze. She did some research and found that females and darker furred cats were most likely to be allergenic, and simply worked with the local animal shelter to find a cat that didn't make her sneeze. She would just go in each day and play with a different cat to see how she reacted before she settled on a one. cat lover
I don't know if you'll find a cat that doesn't make you allergic, but lots of people in your situation have found that a house-bunny is just as fun without the allergies. Rabbits are very affectionate and quite playful in a non-predatory way. Like any pet, they're better if ''fixed'' -- males especially. I'll bet your daughter would LOVE it. Letitia
My husband is allergic to cats, but when we met, I already had a cat. He knew that if I was forced to choose, he would lose. We have made it work by: 1. allowing the cat to be outdoors part of the time; 2. having hardwood floors; 3. keeping the cat out of our bedroom and using a HEPA filter machine in our bedroom; 4. giving the cat regular haircuts (he is long-haired--this wouldn't be necessary for a short hair); 5. bathing the cat regularly; 6. applying Allerpet solution after the bath, which neutralizes the allergens. My husband has become less allergic to our particular cat, though other cats still bother him, and what were at first weekly baths are now monthly, if that. Ann
If you're looking for a non-allergic cat, why don't you consider a Devon Rex. It's a breed with very, very short wavy hair, that when shed looks like lint. They're a fabulous breed.. very friendly! I had one for more than 10-years. And the proof in the pudding of her being non-allergic came when I met my husband who suffers from all sorts of allergies.. including from cats. When he first came to my home, he had no idea I had a cat. And when the relationship got more serious and we started sharing my bed, with my cat, he never had a problem with her. I have to say, I believe this is a great breed of cat, not only for the non-allergy part, but because they're great companions, love to follow care-givers around, they wag their tail when happy as well as chortle (make funny little noises along with typical meowing) and love to keep warm on the computer, stereo and in bed with you. I highly recommend this breed, although I have to say, they are a bit on the expensive side, but you won't regret paying the price. I would have one now if it wasn't for the fact that I have a toddler and am expecting another child. But when they're older and both out of diapers.. I plan to adopt another Devon Rex. Good luck! Devon Rex Lover
After reading previous posts, I am wondering if some have the impression that it is the cat hair that is the allergin. The allergin is actually in the cat's saliva. I suppose one might assume that a short hair cat grooms itself less, so less saliva, but I didn't want you to think that one of the ''hairless'' breeds would have no hair and thus no allergins, as I'm sure that they groom also. Good luck! lucky non-allergic cat lover

Allergies to cats, but want one anyway

Jan 2003

We just lost our 18 year-old cat and our kids would now like to get a kitten. The problem is I am allergic to cats as far as I can tell. I sneeze around them, break into a rash when I touch them, such as around my neck if I hug the cat, and I generally can't wait to wash up after contact. Consequently, our last cat was never in the main part of the house. Has any one heard of a cat for an allergy-prone person that isn't Dr. Evil's hairless wonder cat? anon


Have you thought about getting a rabbit instead? House bunnies can be very affectionate, as well as playful in a non-predatory way. They can also be litter- box trained, and they'll happily consume most fruits and veggies that didn't make it to your table in time (lettuce is not recommended, though!). Quite a few people in your predicament have found no allergies when it comes to bunnies. Check it out, ask around (like at some pet stores). Might be just the ticket. Letitia
I, too, have been around this particular mulberry bush. My kids would LOVE a cat and it would fit with our lifestyle, but I'm allergic. I suggest you put some effort into research before you bring home that kitten and get attached...

You probably already know that most people are allergic to the dried saliva or dander of the cat, and not strictly speaking the fur. Long-haired cats are often the worse trigger for allergies, probably because they either groom more or their fur traps more saliva/dander particles. By the same token, short fur (Cornish Rex) and hairless (Sphynx) cats are thought to be hypoallergenic, but both still produce dander and and groom by licking. Both breeds official clubs caution against assuming that these breeds won't trigger allergies, particularly since both varieties have to be kept inside.

First, you need to go to an allergist and be tested to find out what you are allergic to, and if shots to control it are an option. My insurance (HealthNet) covered the testing. Second, if you are allergic to cat dander or saliva, try and find a breeder or rescue society that will let you 'test drive' a pet. My allergist did caution me that this needs to be a prolonged test (he suggested a month) --which brings you smack up against the whole bonding with kitty thing: I decided that my kids would NEVER let me give the cat back, so that running the test wasn't practical.

But I was really tempted by the Spinxes, since they actually have to be bathed and there seems to be real potential for that to keep the allergens to a minimum.

Mom of two girls, nine fish, a gecko, a snake, and around a dozen show rabbits that live strictly outside-- Chris


If your allergy is to cat FUR, then the hairless variety (which is a real breed) might be a good solution. But most people are allergic to dander, which is in the saliva of pets. As you know, healthy cats groom themselves all the time, so the dander is hard to avoid.

I used to volunteer at the Marin Humane Society. One of the main reasons that people relinquished their pets was because of allergies. If you know that you have an allergy, you probably shouldn't get a cat. It would be very unfair to the cat to be relocated if you decide that the allergies get too bad. Also, some cats enjoy being around people, and it would be a shame to ''banish'' it to another part of the house where it wouldn't get socialized. If you decided to keep the cat outdoors, it would probably contribute to our declining songbird population.

Just my 2 cents. anon.


I, too, am allergic to cats, but when I married a man who owned one, I decided to try to live with it. A few things make it possible:

1. The cat is an indoor/outdoor pet, so we try to keep him outside all day and all night, just inviting him in while we're home. 2. We wash him about weekly -- he doesn't like it, but puts up with it. A kitten will learn to accept it. 3. I try to keep all other allergens low: dust, mold, etc. 4. NO CATS ON THE BED!!!

It worked so well that we got another! It's more difficult at first since a kitten needs to stay inside, but soon she'll be old enough to be outside (wearing her collar with a bell).

The love cats generate in a family makes it worth a try. Good luck! Barbara


We have 2 Burmese cats and I am told they are good for people with allergies. A number of friends with cat allergies have told me that they are not bothered at all by our cats. Additionally, Burmese cats are incredibly friendly (especially males) and both are great with our 16-month-old daughter. The downside is that they are expensive, and you could not confine the cat to one part of the house because they need very much to be with people. Liz O.
I am also terribly allergic to animals, cats especially, but I have successfully lived with my cat for the past 12 years. It seems that long-haired, fluffy cats (like mine) cause me less problems than the short-haired, more shiny-coated cats. This surprised me until I read that, apparently, more of the cat's dander is shed from the shiny, shorthaired variety. Also, I have always removed all carpeting from my home, and lived with only hardwood or linoleum to eliminate as much buildup of dust and dander as possible. It took some getting used to when I first got the cat, and I still wash my hands after I pet her, but my allergies lessened considerably after just a few months of her in the house. Good luck! Elaine
This isn't about cats directly -- but might help with the dander issue if you decide to get one. You might think about getting one or more of the best home air filters, and keeping them running all night, and during the day when you're away (they are a little noisy, so you might turn them off when you get home). My husband has a variety of allergies to stuff in the air. We keep one running in our bedroom, and it really does seem to help him. Karen
This may or may not hold true for you, but some people who are allergic to cats are allergic to certain proteins in the dander, and apparently different cats have different proteins. I know I can't stand to be around some cats (itchy eyes, nose, skin) but can tolerate others much better, and have been able to share a house with them. It has nothing to do with breed. (I knew a veterinarian once who swore she could blood-type cats based on whether or not she itched when she got near them.) Anyhow, if your allergies aren't too severe, you might just try visiting an animal shelter and nuzzling up to various cats (washing up in between) to see if any seem more tolerable than others. The other thing that can help (ask a vet for a supplier) are spray- on cat ''washes'' that help remove the dander. Or brace yourself and give your cat regular baths. Good luck! eli
There is a product called Allerpet, sold in many pet stores, that is supposed to reduce dander on cats. It is a liquid, and you need to gently rub it into the cat's fur (a smallish amount) and then rub the cat down with either a paper towel ... or pet stores often sell "grooming gloves" ... which you slip on your hand, but has soft, comb-like knobs on the palm.

Some cats who will NOT be bathed will put up with a little Allerpet followed by being groomed by the grooming glove, thus getting the fur and dander onto the glove ... instead of all over the house. It does help. -- Mary Carol


I saw a dry shampoo called Allerpet: http://www.allerpet.com/ But several other websites said it is not more helpful than water. However one had this suggestion: http://www.allergybuyersclub.com/acr/acr_34.shtml (scroll down to #8) Wipe cat with microfiber cloth. good luck
I read somewhere recently that people who are allergic to cats tend to be more allergic to dark-colored cats and less allergic to lighter-colored cats. I can't remember where I first read this, but I just did a google search for ''Cat allergies'' and there are lots of links, of course, but one of the first that came up was drgreene.com, and he quotes the study as follows:

At the year 2000 annual meeting of the American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology in Seattle an interesting cat- hair study was presented. People with dark-colored cats were 2 to 4 times more likely to experience moderate or severe allergic symptoms than people with no cats or with light-colored cats. There was no statistical difference in these symptoms between those with light-hair cats and those with no cats! I would guess that these results are a reflection of the concentration of cat antigens in the different hair colors: dyeing your cat's hair won't help!

Interesting, and maybe worth a try if you are determined to have a cat. Tracy


Hi, I just read the advice about cat allergies, and the suggestion that light colored cats have less dander (possibly). At least in my (limited) experience, as the mom of 3 long-haired, cream colored Himalayans, all in their teens. If you are allergic, you're allergic. Several of my friends and relatives have had terrible reactions to my cats. The only thing that seems to help (at least a little) is vaccumming thoroughly right before they visit, and removing the cats to another room. God forbid that one of them brushes up against a leg or hops onto a lap! I wouldn't become a cat parent based on color of fur.... My two cents~ Janice
Not all cats produce the same allergens or to the same level. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to tell one mutt w/ high allergen potential from another w/ none, except through exposure to allergic people. Try seeing how you react before you take the cat.

Another, absolutely essential thing to do, if you get a cat w/ any allergenic potential, is to buy a HEPA vacuum cleaner. A regular vacuum cleaner does not have a fine enough filter and the allergens will pass right through, into the air. You may even make the situation worse by vacuuming. HEPA filters, however, will take the allergen out of the air. After vacuuming with a HEPA filter and moving a cat out of the area, an allergic person might not notice a cat had been there, or will only slightly notice. Costco sells the HEPA vacuums. They made an incredible difference for my highly allergic husband when he visited my family which has a cat. Sue


19-month-old is allergic to daycare cat

November 2002

We've just figured out that our 19 month old is allergic to cats (skin itching, rash, coughing, slight wheeze which persist till the next day). We don't have a cat, but her relatively new daycare does. We're currently planning to find a new daycare situation as her symptoms seem to be getting worse, creating sleeping troubles. The daycare providers say they never had a cat-allergic child before. I'm obviously going to check in with our MD, but i'm wondering if anyone has any experience/advice about keeping her in (say with Claritin for awhile) or finding something else ASAP.


Please discuss this with your pediatrician ASAP. Your daughter is probably allergic to cats and it is causing asthma symptoms (wheezing/coughing); this is very serious! I would stop sending her to this daycare immediately. My daughter is allergic to cats and sometimes before we visit people with cats, we give her pediatric Zyrtec which seems to help. If we don't give it to her and she starts to sneeze, we cut our visit short. We also always carry her asthma medication with us. Being allergic to cats is extremely common, but please get a handle on the wheezing before you find yourself making a trip to the ER. also allergic

Is 6 month old allergic to cats?

July 2002

My 6 month old has a dry cough and has been breathing through his mouth for about 3 weeks now. He also seems to have a stuffy nose, although I don't get much out when I suction it, and recently I've noticed dark circles under his eyes which are different from the red eye thing he gets when he's tired. I'm terrified that he's developing an allergy to my 2 cats, who are my babies, too! My pediatrician has said, twice now, that as long as he's acting, eating, and sleeping normally, which he is, I shouldn't worry about it (gettin' a little tired of hearing that, by the way). I've read the sections on the website about pet allergies (at http:// parents.berkeley.edu/advice/pets/cat_allergies.html) and it wasn't really specific enough for me. Can anybody add anything? Thanks so much, Jill


My (adopted) 19 month old seemed to react similarly to our cats after he arrived here from the orphanage. His raspy breathing when he would sleep in his room (formerly a hang out of the cats) really scared me that he was allergic to my other 3 babies (a.k.a. cats, aged 16, 14 and 14). I'd had them since they were kittens, so needless to say I was pretty concerned with this potential show stopper. There would be a noticeable difference in his breathing anytime we were outside of the house. The good news is that it lasted about 8 weeks, then he seemed to get over it. I should also add that everything else was normal during that period--eating, sleeping, etc. although he also had a bit of puffiness under his eyes that I haven't noticed since. So that was his story-at the time, the pediatrician thought he was perhaps acclimating to our environment and air, etc. And that would indeed appear to have been the case. I wouldn't worry yet-give it a bit more time and then see where the baby is. good luck, J. Roberts
We thought our 1 year old was allergic to our cat, too, because of a raspy cough that lasted months. We took him to an allergy specialist in Walnut Creek and he did the pinprick tests on his back and it turned out he wasn't allergic. Never found out what the cough was, but it went away finally, so it was probably just an infection. Point is, the allergist said that babies who grow up from birth in homes with cats tend to not be allergic to them, and even if they are, your choice may not necessarily be to get rid of the cat. You have to ask yourself, can I solve the problem by getting rid of the cat (or confining to one area of the house or cleaning more often), or is he/she also allergic to dust, grass, etc.? Also, does grandma or aunt or uncle have a cat? Your best friend? You can't control the pet situation in every home you go to, so if you do get your child tested for allergies (I think they can do it at 6 mos even), you may want to opt for the shots as treatment rather than getting rid of the cats. Whitney
I remember reading in a publication that infants actually develop a resistance to cat allergies if they are exposed to cats during their first year. Are you feeding your baby solids yet? Could it be a food allergy? Cold air humidifers during sleep have always seemed to help my son breathe when he is congested. If you are worried that your pediatrician is overlooking something, perhaps you could get a second opinion in the same practice. Good luck! Felicia

Will child develop cat allergy at daycare?

My son is going to another house where we share childcare, where there are cats. She is not allergic to them, but a friend told me that being around cats daily can help develop an allergic reaction to them. Has anyone heard of this? Are there specific conditions where this can happen? Thank you
*IF* you are prone to allergies, and if you are already sensitive to cat dander, then it is possible that being around cats on a regular basis could trigger full-blown allergies to occur. BUT, if you are not allergic to begin with, it's probably not going to happen just because you are suddenly exposed to cats. Many people in the world decide to get a cat, and don't develop allergies. In fact, there is a school of thought that says that the opposite could also happen: If you have cat allergies, and are exposed to cats on a regular basis (every day, without exception), some people can develop a "tolerance." I have a friend who knitted a scarf containing her cat's fur to take with her on a trip, so she wouldn't lose this tolerance! This is the same principle that allergy shots are based on: regular exposure over time decreases sensitivity. The key is that you can't be TOO sensitive, or you never improve.

In summary, my $0.02 is that if the child is not already allergy-prone, you shouldn't worry at all. If the child is allergy-prone, you should consult your allergist about it and see if there's anything that you can do to mitigate the exposure. Good luck!


Just as an individual: I grew up with up to five cats in the house from the age of six (a dog before that), and a mother who smoked, but I didn't develop allergic symptoms around the cats until I went away to college. The first trip home, having been away 4.5 months, I started sneezing and watering, and when I stayed at my grandfather's place (where the cats had slept on my bed), I developed an asthma reaction that only cleared when we got into the car to take me to the emergency room. Since that time I have gradually grown less allergic, which is good because I love cats, but if you stapped a cat to my face, I'd still get asthma (just a full-tilt-boogie histamine response -- feels like you can only take air into the very top of your lungs, if that. scary.). The good news is, they do have shots that seem to work, and they are working on developing pills. Until then, I live catless and carry an antihistamine just in case. Works for bee stings, too! :-)
I have heard of a few friends having this, but who's to say they wouldn't have developed these anyway. I have been around cats all my life, and still am, and have no allergies. Cats give great pleasure and children wouldn't worry.

How to treat carpets for cat allergies

Feb. 2002

Anyone know a product that renders the dander from pets harmless to people with cat allergies? Friends of mine had a catalogue with a similar product that they said really worked, but no longer have carpets and don't remember company name. We have guests coming, to our carpeted home with 2 resident cats, and one of them is allergic. idon't want him to suffer while he is here. Any suggestions? Thanks, Jody


Allergy Control Products has products that may meet your needs. They can be reached at www.allergycontrol.com elisa
There is a product sold by Gazoontite that is sprayed on carpets. I've not used it. Gazoontite has a web site and a store on Union St. in SF. Barbara
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