Since you brought home that long-haired cat, your sneezing bouts are so intense, you're beginning to think you should have adopted a short-haired cat instead. Or even a bald cat. But if you're allergic to cats, there's no guarantee that short hair or even no hair would decrease your symptoms.
You adore your long-haired kitty, but living with her comes with a high cost. Your symptoms might include sneezing, sniffling, wheezing, congestion, coughing, itchy eyes, skin rashes or a more serious condition, such as asthma. You're not alone: One out of every five people in the United States suffers from asthma or allergy symptoms, according to WebMD. Allergies are triggered when your hypersensitive immune system overreacts and falsely interprets a usually innocuous allergen as a dangerous invader. The resulting symptoms are the result of your body's way of protecting itself, even though it might not feel that way when you're in the middle of an uncomfortable allergy attack.
Don't Blame the Hair
The common belief is that the culprit behind allergies is your cat's fur, but the real triggers are proteins found in her urine, saliva and dander. Dander is made of dead skin flakes shed by your long-haired cat. Because it's microscopic and lightweight, dander collects on bedding, carpeting, furniture and clothing, and lingers in the air, making it easy to be inhaled. All cats share an equal potential for causing allergies, regardless of breed, and dander is not increased or decreased by the length of fur or hair, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.
Long-Haired Cats and Allergies
Although it's not her long hair causing your allergies, a long-haired cat can store more allergens in her fur, increasing the possibility for you to suffer allergic symptoms. If you allow your long-haired cat outside, she could collect mold spores, pollen and other outdoor allergens in her flowing locks and carry them indoors. On the other hand, your long-haired kitty might release less dander into the air, because the long fur holds the protein against her skin more effectively than her short-haired sisters, according to Dr. Anna Feldweg of Harvard Medical School.
Don't put your long-haired furry friend up for adoption just yet. Consult with an allergist to develop a treatment plan to help control your symptoms. He might recommend immunization, which is a series of injections of small amounts of cat protein that eventually makes your immune system less reactive to the allergen. The downfall is that it can take up to five years for shots to be complete and they aren't effective in all cases. Your allergies to your long-haired kitty also might be controlled with prescription or over-the-counter medication.
You might hate cleaning, but keeping your home free of cat allergens can help lessen your symptoms. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to vacuum the carpets, drapes and all upholstered furniture. Use a wet mop with mild soap on floors without carpet. Place air purifiers in the rooms where your long-haired cat spends most of her time; air purifiers with HEPA filters can remove up to 99 percent of dander in the air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And as much as you enjoy waking up to a warm, purring friend, keep your long-haired cat out of your bedroom.
- Columbia University Go Ask Alice: What to Do About My Partner Who's Allergic to My Pets?
- Mayoclinic.com: Pet Allergy
- WebMD: Cat Allergies
- WebMD: Pet Allergies: Making it Work
- WebMD: Allergy Statistics and Facts
- Catster: Should I Get a Short-Haired or Long-Haired Cat?
- EverydayHealth: The Truth About Cat Allergies
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: Pet Allergy