Allergies are surprisingly very common in most households. Taking care of a cat can be a very relaxing activity. If you have allergies though, that cute cuddly kitty can wreak havoc on your body! Unfortunately, most people don’t know they have allergies to cats until they are living with them. Knowing how to tell if you’re allergic to cats before you pick one out can be a lifesaver.
Roughly a third of the United States population has some kind of pet allergy. Surprisingly, the animal that has the highest allergy rate is cats. Cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies. Most owners don’t actually know that they are allergic because the symptoms aren’t as severe.
When I imagine someone with a pet allergy I picture them sneezing and coughing a lot. There is actually a much longer list of things you can look for to tell if you have a cat allergy or not.
What Causes Cat Allergies?
I’ll have to admit that when I first started researching cat allergies, I thought it had something to do with the fur or cat hair. Surprisingly though, the allergies actually come from the proteins in the cat’s saliva, urine, and dander.
So you might be thinking to yourself, how do these microscopic proteins create such a powerful allergic reaction? Well, people with allergies have an overly sensitive immune system. This means that your body mistakes harmful proteins and other contaminants as a dangerous thing.
Your body then goes into fighting mode and starts to create a ton of antibodies to fight the dangerous invaders. The body is reacting the same way it would to fight off harmful bacteria or a virus. The allergic reaction is the side effect of this event happening in your body.
It is believed that allergies are passed down through genetics. So if someone in your family already has allergies, it is pretty common for you to have allergies as well. Also, if you aren’t allergic to cats, they could also bring in pollen, mold, and other allergens on their fur so just be aware of that!
What About Hairless Cats?
There are a couple cats out there that are said to be “hypoallergenic”. One of the most popular hypoallergenic breeds out there is the hairless sphynx. People are under the impression that since it doesn’t have hair, then it couldn’t create any allergic reactions.
I just want to let you know that ANY cat can cause an allergic reaction. It doesn’t matter if it has a ton of hair or if it’s hairless. Like I stated earlier, the allergies originate from the proteins in the saliva, urine, and dander.
So getting a hairless cat for someone with a cat allergy is not a good idea. They will still have an allergic reaction while living with the cat.
Symptoms Of Cat Allergies
There are many signs out there that help you to identify a cat allergy. According to WebMD, “Symptoms of a cat allergy might develop in just a few minutes or take hours to appear. About 20% to 30% of people with allergic asthma have severe flare-ups after coming in contact with a cat.”
Most people I know with cat allergies experience the symptoms almost instantly. It is very rare for symptoms to appear hours later. With all that being said, here are some signs and symptoms to look for when you come in contact with a cat.
You’re Exhausted All The Time
Personally, when I imagine someone with an allergy I picture them sneezing profusely and coughing a lot. It almost looks like they can’t breathe. Those are some very common symptoms but there are some not so obvious ones as well.
One symptom that people often forget about is the feeling of being overly tired. This usually doesn’t get associated with allergies because it could be caused by so many factors like lack of sleep etc. If you combine feeling exhausted with some of the other issues I will talk about, it could indicate allergies to your feline friend.
Constant Sore Throat
Allergies are notorious for making you feel like you have a constant cold. Living with an allergy can feel like you have a cold 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most cat allergies usually lead to some kind of post nasal drip which can make it appear like you have a sore throat.
The sore throat can also come and go at different times during the day. You may notice it to be more severe during the morning and at night. That is because you’re probably laying down and everything is dripping down the back of your throat. It’ll feel like you always have a cold but without all the other symptoms.
Swollen & Puffy Face
Another very common sign of allergies is a very swollen face. It might be so swollen that it may tend to feel painful to the touch. This usually happens when you’re really congested in the head. It may appear to be related to a cold but if there aren’t any symptoms it is probably allergies.
Being overly congested can lead to this sort of puffiness in your face. You may also notice a stuffy or runny nose that comes along with this head congestion. This slight puffiness in your face may also make you feel foggy or a little bit dazed. Nothing to be concerned about though. Go get some fresh air outside and get rid of this horrible feeling.
Red And Itchy Eyes
Having watery eyes is super common for anyone that has allergies. It can be really frustrating to walk into your home and instantly feel tears leaving your eyes all because of your cat. Some people may attribute this to outside allergens like pollen spores, but most of the time it is a cat allergy.
Your eyes may also become very itchy which is a big red flag for cat allergies. When people ask how to tell if you’re allergic to cats, you could always give this symptom as a good starting point. Most of the time this is going to be a symptom for anyone that has cat allergies.
Shortness Of Breath
This is actually a pretty scary symptom to experience if you have allergies. The small particles that cause your body to go into fight mode, can actually make its way into your lungs. This issue can cause some severe breathing problems for anyone.
If you are highly sensitive to these particles, symptoms can happen within 15 to 30 minutes. The shortness of breath usually happens to people that are highly sensitive to these kinds of particles. If this happens to you, make sure to get out of the room where the particles are the strongest.
You Actually Have An Asthma Attack
I would have to say that most pet allergy symptoms are temporary and go away after some time has passed. For a handful of allergy sufferers it could lead to a full blown asthma attack! If you are overly sensitive to these particles in the air it could trigger this attack.
If you have asthma and you own a cat, it could be a very bad combination. One thing you should make a note of. If you are confident you have a cat allergy you should speak to your doctor immediately. If you leave the allergies untreated, it could lead to chronic asthma which can be bad. It is better to be proactive about the whole situation.
Red Rashes On Your Skin
Rashes and hives usually accompany the skin if you have an allergic reaction to something. If you notice a painful rash it is a good indication that you’re having an allergic reaction to something. I will explain later on, but this is how they test you at the doctors to see if you have an allergy to something. If you notice any of the other symptoms on this list, I would also check your body for a rash or hives. It can help to diagnose the allergy.
How To Tell If You’re Allergic To Cats
Luckily there are some things you can do to be proactive in the fight against allergies. There are a couple different tests that your doctor can perform to let you know if you have allergies or not. There are actually three different tests that can be done to let you know if you have a potential allergy. The three tests are an allergy skin prick test, an intradermal skin test, and a blood test. All of these tests are pain free and usually show results in a small amount of time.
Allergy Skin Prick Test
The skin prick test is one of the more common ways to test for allergies. This test covers 40 different types of allergens so you are able to check for everything. It is very effective and results are almost instant.
The test is usually performed on the arm or upper back depending on your age. The tests aren’t painful even though the name could be a little misleading.
A nurse will use a needle to barely prick the top of your skin. You won’t bleed or even feel the needle. Then the nurse or doctor will mark your skin so they know which mark is which allergen. After your skin is marked, each individual allergen is exposed to the skin and the waiting game begins.
Like I said earlier, the results are almost immediate but for some people it could take 15 minutes for symptoms to appear. The allergens that cause a reaction will develop a small bump that is measured by the nurse. It will almost look like a small mosquito bite. Everything is recorded and stored on your file.
Then the area is cleaned with alcohol and it will start to decrease in size.
Intradermal Skin Testing
This test is a little bit similar to the skin prick test but the allergen is actually being injected into your skin. The other test is just being put under the top layer of your skin. There is a slight difference.
The tests are done almost the same way.
Different allergens are injected into the skin and then you wait to see if a reaction happens. Everything is done in a controlled way so it can be recorded correctly.
This test is usually performed when the first tests are inconclusive. The skin injections will yield a stronger result and be more definitive. Your doctor will be able to tell you which test is going to be the best one to do.
Some people have some kind of underlying condition that will prevent them from doing the skin tests. Also, really young kids have a hard time with the skin injections.
This test works by drawing blood from the patient. The blood is then sent out to a lab that does all the testing. What the lab is testing for is antibodies that are common for cat allergies etc.
The only downfall for this testing is how long it takes to get the results. It could take up to a week for the results to come in. With the skin tests you can get results in under 15 minutes. All of these tests are really effective and it all depends on your body and tolerance.
Treating Cat Allergies
The best thing you can do to treat cat allergies is to avoid the potential allergen all together. If that is impossible to do there are some other over the counter treatments that may work.
Home Remedies For Cat Allergies
One very popular home remedy is flushing your nasal passages out with a salt water mixture. This flushing is also called a nasal lavage. It helps to rinse out the nasal passage, reduces congestion, stops post nasal drip, and sneezing.
Simply mix 8 ounces of water with an eighth of a teaspoon of salt. There are a lot of tools out there that help to push the water through your nasal passages. Most can be found in your local pharmacy.
Some less popular home remedies include butterbur, acupuncture, and probiotics. All of these methods aren’t thoroughly tested but some people have seen improvements.
It is up to you to pick the right treatment for your body. If medicine isn’t your thing then try one of the home remedies and see how it works.
Try Purifying Your Air
Keeping your air clean and free of allergens isn’t that hard to do. There are a lot of air purification systems on the market that do a wonderful job. HEPA filters are going to be your best choice at fighting cat allergies.
These systems work by forcing air through a series of filters that stop pet dander and other harmful allergens. This will keep your air fresh and your allergies at a very low level. HEPA filters are also great at filtering out pollen, dust mites, and other allergens.
Keeping the air in your home clean and filtered is another great starting point!
Reduce Your Overall Exposure To Cats
Although there are a ton of different medicines and treatments out there to prevent allergies, the best treatment is avoiding cats totally. This is a simple but very effective way to avoid having an allergic reaction.
This should be obvious but petting, hugging, or kissing a cat drastically increases your chance of having an allergic reaction. Some people may think that minor contact with a cat is ok. I am saying this now, that it is not ok. You will still have an allergic reaction.
You should also be aware of who is coming over your house. If your house guests have cats, the dander could be stuck on their clothes and cause you to have an allergic reaction. So just be aware of that as well.
Cat Allergies In Children
There are a lot of debates going around about whether or not you should expose your child to cats or dogs when they are younger.
A 2015 study found that “exposing infants to cats and dogs at home is associated with a higher risk of developing allergies during the first four years of the child’s life”. There is also another study done in 2011 that says “babies who live with cats, especially during the first year of life, develop antibodies to the pet and were less likely to acquire an allergy later.”
So the debate can essentially go either way. It ultimately comes down to what you want to do as a parent. You should also consult the opinion of a doctor. They will be able to give you some tips and advice to eliminate allergies.
If you child is allergic to cats or other animals, you should remove any fabrics that would contain the pet dander. Also any softer materials like stuffed animals or toys. The toys should be replaced with plastic ones that can be washed after a couple of uses.
Reducing Cat Allergens All Together
Like I said earlier on in this article. The best way to avoid cat allergies is to not own a cat at all. This will reduce your chance of allergic reactions by 100%. If you already have a cat and figure out you are allergic to them there are some things you can do to lessen the struggle. HealthLine had some awesome tips that I wanted to share with you.
Knowing how to tell if you’re allergic to cats is an awesome skill to have. It can help you to tread lightly when there is a cat nearby. Luckily, Watson our cat, doesn’t make us break out with an asthma attack. I don’t know what I would do if I found out I was allergic to him. He would obviously still live with us and we would need to find ways to cope.
If you have a cat allergy it isn’t the end of the world. There are medicines and treatments out there to make living with allergies more bearable. There is no need to find a new home for your furry little friend.
If you or someone you know has been living with a cat allergy let me know about it in the comments below! What do you do to stop the allergies from controlling your lives? Also feel free to post any advice I might have forgotten about when it comes to cat allergies.