When most people think they are allergic to cats, they think of cat fur. But the real culprit of cat allergies is cat dander. Dander is a mixture of fur and dead skin. Like humans, cats' skin sheds all the time, and it's not always visible to the naked eye. Cat dander also contains Fel D1, a saliva-like secretion from feline skin glands. There are some ways to help cat allergies, although cat dander will always be present with cats.
Wash Your Hands
It's important to remember what Mom always told you as a child: wash your hands. Petting a cat when you have allergies is like shaking someone's hand after a sneeze. If you pet a cat and then scratch your eye, don't be surprised when a red, itchy eye is bothering you five minutes later. The most simple solution to cat dander allergy problems is to wash your hands after every encounter with a cat.
Vacuum or Sweep Often
If you have carpet, cat dander is going to embed itself there. The best solution is to not have carpet. But if carpet is ingrained in your home, vacuum it thoroughly once a week at least. A mini-vac or a carpet sweeper can help you do a quick sweep daily. This will get rid of a lot of dander and help stop allergic reactions.
Hardwood and tile can also acquire cat dander and hair, and sweeping once or twice a day is a quick fix. Sweeping takes a fraction of the time it takes to vacuum, and with hardwood or tile, you're more likely to get most of the dander in the trash.
Contrary to popular belief, hairless cats, such as the Sphynx breed, can trigger allergies. Because they do not have fur, Sphynx cats don't produce as much dander, and people with minor cat allergies can usually handle living with a hairless cat. But if you suffer from severe allergies, it's best to avoid cats, even hairless ones.
Shaving Cat Fur
Like hairless cats, cats who get shaved still have dander. Again, the dander isn't as much as when they have fur. Shaving a cat is something that is done for style purposes and for health reasons (some may shave their cats in summer, for instance). If you have to shave a cat in order to keep it in your home, it may be better to avoid them altogether.
Brushing a cat daily can help get rid of a good amount of dander at once by removing much of the loose hairs with in the fur. However, brushing for someone who is allergic will likely result in an allergy attack because of all the dander that flies up with every stroke of the brush. If you can handle the immediate allergy attack, the benefit of not having as frequent an attack later might prove worth it.
- Photo Credit Photo by Kirsten Alvarez
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