Keeping a furry friend outside seems like the perfect solution if you love cats but suffer from allergies. But an outdoor cat can also cause your allergies to flare, especially if you spend time with him and neglect to follow some simple precautions when you go inside.
What is Cat Dander?
Contrary to popular belief, you are not actually allergic to the cat itself, but to various parts he sheds through normal grooming rituals. Allergies develop when your immune system classifies an otherwise harmless substance as a threat -- in this case it's the Fel D1 protein found in your cat's saliva, skin and urine your body has dubbed as super dangerous -- and releases antibodies to find and neutralize the offender. As your cat grooms himself, his saliva dries on his coat and transfers to you as you pet him. Shed skin cells and loose hair carry the allergen through the air or on your skin or clothes. When you breathe in this dander or touch it, your body overreacts and causes the allergy symptoms that make you miserable.
Come On In
Your brilliant plan to keep your allergies under control by banning your cat from the house may work in theory, but in practice it's a little hard to follow. You love your cat and want to make sure he knows it, so you spend time with him and give him as much attention as you can. Meanwhile, you're unwittingly picking up the very dander you tried so hard to avoid with every pet and snuggle. Loose hair with dried saliva and dead skin cells stick to your skin and clothing as you pet your cat and he rubs against you, meaning you're carrying the dander right inside with you. In turn, you transfer the allergen from your clothing to your couch, your dining room chairs and bedspread as you go about your business afterward. This spreads the dander around your home and triggers your allergies without the cat ever having to set a paw inside.
Don't Be A Carrier
Don't worry, you won't need to don a hazmat suit to pet your cat from now on. You can carry on loving your kitty but you need to institute some firm cleaning procedures to minimize the amount of dander you unwittingly deliver to the rest of your home. Wash your hands thoroughly after petting your cat, and use a lint brush or sticky-tape roller to remove as much hair from your clothes as possible before moving too much inside. Wipe down or wash any outdoor furniture your cat likes to lounge on and take at least one day a week to brush your kitty to minimize the amount of hair that transfers to you.
You love your kitty, but your allergies demand that he spend his life outdoors. While many cats do live their lives outside, the fact remains that it's a hard and dangerous life, no matter how comfortable you try to make it. Dangerous weather, dangerous animals and dangerous vehicles can all spell doom for your kitty. Depending on how severe your allergies are, you may have other options. Speak to your doctor about medications or other treatment to lessen the effects of the allergy, so you can bring your furry friend inside. All cats shed some sort of dander, but some breeds, such as the Russian blue and Siberian, emit lower amounts of the allergen. You may have better luck with a breed that doesn't shed as much or is described as hypoallergenic to minimize your allergy reaction.
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