Some people cannot have cats because they are allergic to them. What causes this allergy? Can anything be done to eliminate the problem completely or reduce it, at least?
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Even if you are allergic to cats, you can consider having one anyway because there are breeds nearly free of allergens.
It is widely thought the cat hair is the source of the problem. It is not quite so. The allergy is caused by a protein (FEL D1) that is produced in the sebaceous glands of a cat's skin, saliva, and urine. When a cat cleans itself, it puts this protein upon the hair. When cat hair spreads in the house, people contact with the allergen by either skin or inhalation (the allergens become microscopic airborne particles after the cat's saliva dries).
Some cats produce more of this protein; some produce less. It is hardly possible to say which cat in a littler will produce less of it. However, it's been noted that females and light coloured cats seem to produce less of the allergen.
To reduce the allergy, the following is recommended:
• get some pet products that can help reduce the allergens and dander (ask for them in your local pet store or discuss it with your veterinarian);
• often stroke your cat with a damp microfiber cloth;
• make sure your cat does not have fleas, ticks or mites as these will make the cat scratch more often and, therefore, produce more dander and hair;
• do not let your cat into certain rooms in the house. For example, limit its access to the bedroom;
• if possible, keep your cat outside some of the time (consider making a special cat enclosure for this purpose);
• an air filtration system may reduce the amount of allergens that are circulating in the air;
• good ventilation in the house will also help reduce the amount of allergens in the air;
• hoover carpets on a regular basis (a HEPA equipped vacuum cleaner is recommended);
• try to avoid wearing wool as it attracts cat hair and, therefore, allergens;
• keep the litter box in a well ventilated area;
• have your male cat neutered (male cats that have not been neutered tend to secrete more of the protein than un-neutered male cats);
• last but not least, try to reduce your other allergies as well. It's very rare that people have an allergy to cats only. If you manage to do this, your allergy to cats is very likely to reduce, too.
If you have an allergy to cats while having a cat is your dream, you should remember that shorthair breeds are less allergenic than longhair cats. In addition, have a look at our list of Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds.