As much as we love cats, we can’t downplay the seriousness or prevalence of allergies. Even minor allergies can leave you feeling like a miserable blob made of mucus and itchy eyes. It’s believed that as many as 3 in 10 people in the U.S. are allergic to cats, and the affliction is about twice as common as being allergic to dogs. We don’t know why the human immune system seems to have such an issue with our feline friends, but we do know there are plenty of people who are allergic to cats and still manage to live with them. There is no way to completely cure or eliminate an allergy, but there are ways to mitigate the symptoms.
Here are a few tips on how to have a cat even if you’re allergic.
Carpets, rugs, curtains, and upholstered furniture are all allergen traps. Those soft surfaces let cat dander sink in, and regular vacuuming and cleaning can only do so much. Hardwood floor, laminate, and tile are all better flooring options for people who are allergic to cats. It’s also a good idea to choose leather furniture over other types of upholstered surfaces. Without these allergen traps, you have a better chance of significantly reducing the amount of allergens in your home. If ripping up the carpet and getting all new furniture isn’t an option, regular steam cleaning can help.
Do Laundry Often
Other household items that trap allergens include blankets, pillows, and your own clothes. Washing these items frequently will help reduce allergens in your home. Pay special attention to anything your cat is particularly fond of, like their favorite cat bed or pillow by the window.
Use the Right Vacuum or Vacuum Bag
Vacuuming is important for people who are allergic to cats, but it isn’t as effective as we’d like to think. Along with sucking in the allergens, the average vacuum will also send the microscopic spores flying into the air. Cat allergens are even smaller than pollen, so you won’t know it’s happening…but you will continue to sneeze. It’s highly recommended to invest in vacuum bags that are labeled as “allergen-proof” or get a vacuum with a high efficiency particular arresting (HEPA) filter.
Practice Good Hygiene
One of your best tools against cat allergens is your basic hand soap. Do your best to wash your hands after you pet your cat and after every kitty cuddle session. Experts also advise people with cat allergies to avoid touching their faces. This can transfer allergens directly into your body and lead to symptoms.
This one will be hard, but giving your immune system a regular break from allergen exposure can help reduce symptoms. Your bedroom is usually the best place to enforce the “no cats” rule. This way you have a daily escape from allergens, and it will also allow you to sleep better at night. Cats tend to hate closed doors, but if you initiate this rule early on, they should learn quickly and eventually accept it.
Before you get too excited, realize that there is no such thing as a 100% hypoallergenic cat. Because the offending allergen is found in a cat’s skin and urine, and not their fur like so many assume, even completely hairless cats can trigger severe allergies. There are, however, certain breeds that are known to produce less dander and fewer allergens. The Sphynx and Cornish Rex are good examples. These types of cats are great options for people with mild to moderate cat allergies. Here’s a list of the most popular hypoallergenic cat breeds.
Talk to Your Doctor
Your doctor will be your best resource if you’re allergic to cats but determined to not let that stop you from loving on a feline friend. Depending on the severity of your allergies, there are both over the counter and prescription medications that can help. Antihistamines, decongestants, and eye drops can all be effective in reducing symptoms. Some people take allergy medications on a daily basis, and others only take them when they feel they’re really needed. Either way, talk to your doctor about what they think will work best for you.
If you already have cats, it’s important to note that even if you do everything on this list, it might take time to notice a reduction in symptoms. Allergens can linger in your home for a long time.