Sniffle, sniffle. Millions of people are allergic to cats -- more precisely, to cat dander. Suffering from sneezing, wheezing and asthma attacks, what’s an allergic cat lover to do? You can’t eliminate dander, but you can take steps to minimize it. Clean up, then ask a doctor for help.
What Is Dander?
Cat dander is microscopic matter made of dead skin cells your kitty’s body sheds. The dander, in the case of cats, is the allergen carrier. The allergen itself is a protein found in your kitty’s saliva and sebaceous glands. As the cat cleans herself, the protein coats her skin and hair shafts, and when she naturally sheds dander, the protein spreads. This allergenic protein and the spread of dander are natural parts of your cat’s biology; there is no way to fully eliminate it, though you can treat its accumulation and its spread.
Having a friend or groomer bathe your cat every four to six weeks removes dander and saliva buildup. Avoid bathing your cat yourself if you have cat allergies — it will only inflame your symptoms. Make sure whoever bathes her uses a shampoo specially formulated for cats and takes care to rinse her thoroughly. Not thoroughly rinsing your kitty during a bath can actually leave a residue on her skin leading to increased dander. In addition to bathing the cat frequently, make daily brushing part of your kitty’s grooming routine. Brushing allows for new hair growth and better skin cell turnover, preventing buildup and reducing the amount of fur and dander floating around your home.
Clean Your Home
One of the simplest ways to treat dander is to thoroughly clean your home. Daily vacuuming can relieve the bulk of your allergy symptoms. It cuts down on the amount of dander on the main surfaces of your home, your floors. Vacuuming is an important step in controlling dander whether you have hardwood, tile or carpeted floors. Sweeping, on the other hand, risks making the dander airborne.
Vacuuming will remove dander from your floors, but what about the airborne stuff? Millions of microscopic flecks of dander are floating around a cat’s environment at any point during the day. A commercial air purifier, though expensive, can reduce the amount of airborne dander, providing sweet relief for you and your sinuses.
The next step is a doctor's visit if you're suffering from cat dander allergies even after diligent cleaning, grooming and a pricey air purifier. Your doctor may prescribe allergy shots to desensitize your immune system to cat dander. Consult your doctor to see if you're a candidate for injection therapy like "anti-IgE" which allows those with moderate cat dander allergies to live in peace with their kitties. Oral steroids and inhalers are options that can open your airways and allow you to breath freely. Many over-the-counter antihistamines curb allergy symptoms but won't completely soothe your suffering. Benadryl is an antihistamine. Make sure to check with your doctor before taking antihistamines, and be aware that they may cause drowsiness.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.