If you have asthma and are considering getting a cat, it's wise to do a little homework first. Cat allergy asthma isn't uncommon, and about 20 to 30 percent of people with asthma who have contact with a cat suffer severe asthma attacks.
I Have Asthma, Why Would I Have a Problem With Cats?
People with asthma have chronic inflammation of the lung's airways, which constrict and result in difficulty breathing. Asthma can be triggered by pet allergies, which come from allergens released from pets. Basically, dogs and cats secrete fluid and dander that contain allergens, and this collects on their fur and other surfaces, such as clothing, bedding, walls and more. Pet hair also harbors other allergens, such as dust and pollen.
If I Get a Hairless Cat, Will That Keep My Asthma From Acting Up?
Although it would seem that a hairless cat (known as a sphynx) would be ideal for someone suffering from asthma, it is, unfortunately, not a solution. Hair or no hair, Kitty will still be secreting the allergens that can trigger breathing difficulties. As the Asthma and Allergy Network notes, it's impossible to predict "which animals are likely to be more or less allergenic based on a particular breed, size, hair length, or propensity to shed. There is no perfect furry pet for people with allergies to cats and dogs."
But I Really Really Love Cats!
If you just can't live without a cat -- or already have one -- there are some basic steps you can take to minimize the impact of Kitty's allergens. The first thing to do is sure she does not sleep with you and, if possible, restrict her to one area of the house. Think about the kind of litter you use and try to choose one that minimizes dust (clay litter can be very dusty). Keep the litter box away from vents that will spread allergens throughout your house.
Keeping a clean house -- frequent vacuuming, dusting, mopping, etc. -- will help minimize the amount of allergens you have to contend with. Some people try keeping Kitty clean, too -- bathing her to reduce the amount of dander and allergens she sheds. This can be helpful, but it will not eliminate the allergens.
Other Things to Think About
Keeping a spotless house may not be enough; despite your best efforts, you may still be having a tough time breathing with Kitty in the house. If that's the case, you should consider discussing treatment options with your doctor. Some people use inhalers and other medication with great success.