No matter how good a housekeeper you are, every home has to contend with dust and dust mites. People tend to think of cats as triggering allergies and may be surprised to learn that cats can also suffer from them. Dust, as well as other irritants, can affect Tabby's health.
What is a Dust Mite and Why Should I Care?
Dust mites are actually tiny, living creatures -- too small to see with the naked eye -- that live by eating dead skin cells that all of us shed constantly. They can be found throughout the house, but thrive in the bedroom, where we spend much of our time asleep. Cats and dogs tend to contribute to human allergies by the dander they shed but dust mites contribute to allergies by the waste they shed.
Dust mites are are happiest in a warm, humid environment (above 70 degrees and relative humidity above 75 percent), which helps them grow better than in a cool, dry environment.
Could Dust Be Making Tabby Cough?
Much as people can develop allergies to particles in the air, cats can, too. Of course, it can be more than dust causing problems for Tabby. Mold, mildew and pollen can also cause problems. Environmental allergies tend to be the most common type of allergies in cats and can develop at any point in their lives. However most cats who suffer such allergies will begin to show symptoms between 1 and 3 years old.
Although Tabby may be inhaling something she's allergic to, her allergy symptoms may first show up as a skin problem. Symptoms to look for include scratching and licking, which can lead to hair loss, skin irritation, crusty patches on her skin or hot spots. She may also show symptoms of asthma, such as coughing, gagging or difficulty swallowing. If you suspect your cat is suffering from allergies, you should contact your vet.
Tabby Has Allergies. How Can I Make Her Comfortable?
There are simple steps you can take to make your cat more comfortable and reduce her symptoms. The first place to start is with her litter. Use a dust-free, unscented litter. Think about where dust mites like to live and be proactive in keeping those areas clean. This means cleaning her bedding weekly and vacuuming your home twice a week to minimize dust. Be sure to move beyond the rugs and include upholstery and curtains.
If your cat is still showing symptoms, you can also try changing her environment by lowering the temperature or using a dehumidifier. Remember, dust mites love warm, humid places. Some recommend using HEPA filters and minimizing use of upholstered furniture and rugs in rooms that Tabby is particularly fond of. This will make a less appealing atmosphere for the dust mites causing her problems.
Are There Medications That Can Help With Allergies?
Your vet will be able to determine how severe Tabby's allergies are and whether medication will help. Weekly baths may help relieve itching and remove irritating allergens from her coat. Talk to your vet to understand what shampoo will work without drying out her skin. Potential medication for allergies includes antihistamines, allergy shots or steroids. Do not attempt to medicate Tabby on your own; always speak to a vet before administering medication.