A lot can be said in favor of cats, they are graceful and compassionate companions. There is one thing they aren't good at though, and that's managing their dandruff. Cat dander is a strong irritant that can cause allergic reactions in thousands of people throughout the country.
What is Dandruff?
If your cat has skin, then he has dandruff. Well, he actually has dander, which is the term generally used to describe the tiny flakes of dead cells that your cat constantly sheds. The term dandruff is usually only used in reference to humans, while the word dander is used for animals. As your cat's skin cells die, they work their way to the surface of his skin and are eventually released into the air. The particles are so tiny that they can infiltrate your sinuses or lungs with ease, causing irritation even if you aren't allergic.
As an Allergen
Dander is one of several potential allergens, including saliva, that your cat can produce. When an allergic person is exposed to it, she may have a minor to severe reaction, which can include breathing troubles, coughing and red eyes. Your cat has probably been all over the house, even in the places he's not supposed to go, so you can bet that he's been shedding dander particles all over the place. Dander also clings to hair when it is shed, so the presence of cat hair means that there is also pet dander. To make matters worse, cat hair can also gather other allergies like dust and pollen, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Managing Your Cat's Dandruff
So, what can you do to stop your cat from shedding flakes of skin? There's not much you can do to slow the birth and death of his cells, but you can keep him clean and groomed to keep his skin healthy. Ask your veterinarian about the types of shampoos available and bathe your cat once a week. It probably won't be fun, but it will help wash away allergens. Brush your pet's hair frequently in a well-ventilated room or in the yard. You can manage the amount of hair he sheds this way, which also helps reduce the amount of airborne dander. Get your furry friend treated promptly if he has any skin problems; dermatitis and other conditions are likely to increase dander production, according to the ASPCA.
Keeping the House Clean
As an allergic individual, living with a cat is not easy. Some cat owners are forced to give up their pet because of the stress or difficulty of managing allergens in their household every day. If giving your cat up is not an option, then there are a few things you can do to make your life easier. Keep your cat out of your bedroom at all times, vacuum carpets every few days, and clean or cover furniture to prevent allergens from sticking to the fabric. You can also install an air filtration system or use a stand-alone appliance to improve the air quality in your house.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.