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Ask A Vet: Why Are People Allergic To Cats?

Cat allergies are a documented and fairly common occurrence. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, almost 3 out of 10 people have animal allergies and cat allergies are twice as common as dog ones. There are proteins (allergens) present in cats’ saliva, urine and dander (dead skin cells) that stimulate an allergic person’s immune system, just like a real threat might.

Every day, one’s immune system is bombarded with threats. Some of these are viruses or bacteria and a good immune response is what keeps you from getting sick. But when a sensitive immune system sees an allergen molecule from a cat, it launches an attack just like it would for those pathogens that were going to make you sick. People who are allergic to cats can feel just like they are “coming down” with something. Symptoms can include: itchy and watery eyes, runny and stuffy nose, sneezing/coughing and wheezing/asthma symptoms.

Unfortunately, all cats have the allergen(s) that most cat allergy sufferers are sensitive to.  There is no cat without skin, saliva, or urine, so even hairless cats or “hypoallergenic” cats will cause allergic reactions. There is no breed or type of cat that cannot incite a reaction in an allergic person, but reactions, cats, and people are all individual in their response.

Some cats seem to produce less of the antigen than others, but a person is most likely to be sensitized to the allergens present in their environment and these will usually be the ones that come from their own cat.

If you think you are allergic to your cat, your best hope is to address the allergy within your own immune system. Only a Board Certified Allergist can provide you with an accurate diagnosis, recommendations regarding living with a cat, and most importantly, effective treatment that may include desensitization to your cat. Treatment is likely to include allergy injections, environmental modifications, and medications to ease your symptoms. Don’t worry. Even if you are allergic to your cat, there is help!

 

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