Can cats be allergic to humans?

Cats can be allergic to perfume

Can cats be allergic to humans? Yes, they can be allergic to perfume on humans.

There is an inordinate amount of information on the Internet about how people can be allergic to their cat. As I understand it, about 10%, or perhaps more, of the human population are allergic to cats. I wonder whether a person’s allergy to the domestic cat is an accident of nature or whether it was designed by nature.

Anyway, do we ever consider the possibility that the opposite may occur? There is no reason why it should not. The problem is this. We do not know enough about cat allergies to really understand whether there is something on us that may cause an allergic reaction in a cat.

Our skin is home to a community of microorganisms. There is a range of bacteria on our skin. This is called skin flora. Apparently, there are around 1000 species of bacteria on human skin. The total number of actual bacteria is estimated to be 1 trillion. This bacteria is not normally harmful to us but benefits us. We do not know whether this bacteria has any impact upon our cat. It seems unlikely. However, it is washed off frequently, usually daily and we do know that chemicals in the products that we use and which remain on our skin can cause an allergic reaction in our cat.

Cosmetics and topical medicaments contain preservatives which can cause an allergic reaction in the people using them. Cats tend to be more sensitive to these chemicals than dogs, it seems. As many as 10% of the users of these products may suffer an allergic reaction. Is it beyond the bounds of possibility that a cat may also suffer an allergic reaction in the same way to some of these preservatives?  A cat’s skin is not exposed but cats, as we know, are vulnerable because of their fastidious grooming.

A well known chemical that is most often used by women is perfume and which may cause an feline allergic reaction. Another chemical can also make a cat ill. This is a product called Evamist spray. This product delivers a low dose of oestrogen through a woman’s skin which then finds its way to the bloodstream. It reduces hot flushes during menopause. It has been reported to be harmful to children and companion animals.

The soaps that we use and the detergents with which we clean clothes may contain chemicals which can cause an allergic reaction in our cat.

Whereas the cat allergen, to which we can be allergic, is in the cat’s saliva which the cat deposits on his or her fur when she grooms, in the case of people it is usually cleaning products which we deposit on our skin when we wash ourselves. It is these products which may cause an allergic reaction in a cat.

Regrettably, there is very little hard information about allergic reactions in cats as a result of the chemicals that we use on ourselves and in the home.

In previous articles, I have referred to lead in clothing accessories that we might wear and a plethora of chemicals within carpets as potential health hazards.

As can be seen, it could be argued that the cat is bombarded with a wide range of chemicals of all sorts from the garden and house cleaning products to the products that we use on ourselves, which may contribute to these rather mysterious cat allergies which veterinarians sometimes have difficulty in diagnosing. Perhaps, 10% of cats suffer from an allergy caused by something on a human.

Picture: Boston Public Library

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Can cats be allergic to humans? — 75 Comments

  1. It’s true it’s quite possible that a cat could be allergic to us, it’s well known that the things we use in the household and on ourselves can affect cat’s health, this is why in our home we’re very careful what we buy and what we use where our boys are, although they don’t jump on the worktops we are careful to rinse away any sprays we use and never use furniture polish when they are in, likewise we don’t use hairsprays or perfumes and are cautious with deodorants and talcs. It’s no wonder cats do become ill when you think of all the things in the home, and outside, that can harm them plants and cut flowers come to mind as well as the dreaded antifreeze outside. It’s a minefield for cats and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some of the things we put into our bodies has an adverse reaction in our cats as well.

    • Agreed, Babz.
      I’m more prone to think that cats could be quite allergic to those things that we ingest and even inhale that exude through our pores such as medications, alcohol, foods, tobacco…
      I think that cats are much more sensitive than we are to any toxin.

      • I agree wholeheartedly, Dee. But you didn’t mention the fact that cats will ingest ethylene glycol, chocolate, etc. when it is disguised in some way, or are distressed. I just want to clarify that for our readers. Yes, they are more sensitive to odors. But sometimes that is not enough to stop them. We must also be wary of this.

    • Barbara, you and Ruth are concerned. I just feel that a lot of people in their homes create a home that is entirely suitable for themselves and they accommodate their cat to a certain extent but there is often not quite enough concern about the environment in respect of their cat. As you say, there are a lot of potential hazards which are almost invisible and I like to bring people’s attention to that fact.

      • Not much I can add to what Babz said about our home and how careful we are, it’s an equally shared home, our boyz are as important as we are and deserve as much consideration about the safety of the products we use in it.

  2. Oh woe Dee does that mean we have to become TT? But you’re probably right, certainly anyone who smokes around their animals is risking their health by passive smoking just the same as for humans. It’s frightening to think that most of the things we do are probably bad for our cats.

        • Good Morning, Babz. No alcohol. hmmm. How many of us subscribe to that? 🙂 I think that what is more imperative, and I know that you do as well, is that we keep perfumes, cologne, sprays, onions, chocolate, ethylene glycol, caffeine, cooked bones, anything small and ingestible, ribbons, thread, bits of yarn, scraps of paper, furballs, cottonballs, and so on, AWAY from our other species [and, yes, of our own ilk]. And just as we should never treat our own beloved any diff. than we would treat our kindred spirits, a.k.a our cats, let’s just be kind, and not pass to much judgement on those humans who are ignorant. I don’t know. Maybe we can. [I wince.] Anyway, it’s good to be back amongst the sane. (I’ve been awol for awhile.)

          • I wondered where you were Caroline? Pleased you are OK and back with us.
            Yes you are right, there are so many dangers in our homes for cats it’s frightening.

    • I always wonder, when Damon (when he’s been especially bad) or Dusty climb up on me (yes, from the floor, up the clothes) to my neck and nudge and lick, if I’m not exuding something harmful for them through my skin. Not just any lotions I may use, but those things I’ve ingested or inhaled like olives, raisins, bleach, aerosols, medications. etc.
      Maybe it’s just me…

      • omg, you do have a sense of humor that is beyond compare, Dee! lol Why ever, would you let your cat Dusty climb up to your neck and lick you? That behavior should have been kaboshed a long time ago, specifically, when you first got him. 🙁

        • It doesn’t bother me at all, Caroline, as long as I am fully dressed. Dusty, in particular, is very petite and fast as lightening.
          Freedom of expression runs rampant here and most always tolerated.

          • Well, that was wrong of me, Dee. I let Shrimpster lick the back of my hand. You see, I have taken in a stray kitten that was half-grown, unneutered. He, I am certain, was raised by a dog rather than his own mother-bless them all-and he likes to get in my face and lick my face. I absolutely hate it and am not tolerant. I have had to aversively condition him by immed. depositing him on the floor, gently yet firmly. I do not like to do this, but I knew that it would work eventually. (And it did.) He is just now, btw, learning to groom himself, thanks to my older felines in the household. [rolling my eyes] Thank goodness, he is going to be neutered later this week–I am soooo tired of rescuing Shrimp from Marco Polo’s efforts. Anyway, I was so exhausted w/his behavior that I sorta came across exasperated. 😉 Sorry.

    • I smoke both cigarettes and joints around my cats. However I have almost completely switched over to electronic cigarettes which don’t produce any smoke at all – just a quick evaporating vapour. I never had my cats as indoor cats before recently so things like that are much more important if they are in more often.

      • Marc, just so you know, I read in the newspaper today that a dog bit into an electronic cigarette and the nicotine in it killed the dog. It all happened quite quickly. Apparently, the veterinarian tried to find an antidote to the nicotine but failed. The dog died quite quickly. Just a thought.

      • Last time I tried smoking a joint, I ended up crawling back to my apt. on my hands and knees, and falling asleep on the floor behind the couch (never quite made it to the couch). It puts me down for the count. My friends still tell that story. lol 😉

        • lol – had you had anything to drink by any chance? Because I would never smoke a joint if I had to drink – otherwise I’d have to crawl back to my place and fall asleep on the floor too. On it’s own it’s fine though – or if you drink after you smoke.

          Also – if you don’t smoke much or at all and then somebody gives you a joint of really strong hydro it will be too much. Like a non drinker downing a few double gin tonics – it’s too much. If you don’t smoke you should only have one single puff if it’s skunk/hydro otherwise it will be too much.

          Regardless of all my advices though it does sound very funny that you never made it to the couch. I’ve done the same 🙂

  3. I often wondered as well but I am usually careful making sure I rinse their dishes and feeding mat carefully and worktops etc but I do this from a poisoning point of view. This has opened my eyes to be honest.

    • I cringed one day when our ex ex neighbour first moved here and was washing her cats food dishes, not only were they plastic which are horrible for cats to use and harbour germs as they get scraped, but she just dipped them in soapy water and put them to drain!
      I had to point out they should be well rinsed! Any dish should, plastic in particular.
      When I think of all the people who think they are cat experts it makes me worry about how cats are being treated every day.
      So much education of many is needed!

      • I’m the same. Infact I usually try not to use dish soap at all – if you wash right away then it all comes off and the bacteria doesn’t survive once it’s dry. The more water around, the more you wipe surfaces with a wet cloth, the more you spread germs around. I am very paranoid about the hyper sensitive smell and taste and hearing my cats have. Mildly smelly things to us must be very overwheleming for them. I’m pretty darn careful about all those things.

      • I agree, R.
        But, in some scenarios, using china isn’t possible and disposable feeders can get very costly to use all of the time.
        I use plastic for colonies, but soak them in bleach water about 10 minutes when I take them up. Ofcourse, rinsing well and air drying are necessary.
        It’s not the best, but it’s the best I can do.

        • Dee, use H2O2, hydrogen peroxide, instead of bleach. Won’t react with the plastic like Chlorine bleach. Definitely saves the environment, too. just a thought 🙂 It’s just as effective and inexpensive like bleach.

            • I use it for sanitizing just about everything, including fruits/vegetables, countertops, washrags; even add it to the washer to make laundry detergent more effective. It will instantly breakdown cell membranes of bacteria. I keep it in a 1:1 w/water spray bottle for sanitizing. Can be used safely in the air, too. Googled, I think you’ll get all kinds of good info.

        • Yes I understand that Dee, it’s different, with feral colonies you have to use plastic, but you wash and rinse and dry them thoroughly and I’m sure if they get scraped you replace them.
          I was talking about old plastic dishes and carelessly washed, not replaced, like this person had old cat litter trays all scraped and never replaced, as if that was a good enough way to care for cats.
          I know with one of the colonies fed by our CP, they daren’t put the food on anything which anyone can see, the location has to be kept secret for the cats safety.
          Like you say we can only do our best under the circumstances xxx

          • Yes, I do throw out a lot that get scratched up, usually from raccoons.
            But, I really have to reuse those that only have fine scratches and just try to do my best to sanatize.
            I have a whole stock here (probably, around 200), because I watch for sales.
            I really do the best I can.

            • The feral colonies here in Lincoln are fed by many of us daily. I know from my own experience that the women who originally began feeding, watering, setting up hay bale housing, get upset when somebody uses plastic. It’s very windy here, and to keep the surrounding businesses from complaining, we have to use heavy dishes to keep litter down. I pick up trash whenever I’m there to talk to/feed/water the cats. The colonies have diminished tremendously. My former vet, Dr. Becky performs the spays and neuters, etc. for free–she’s always been there for them. Now, thank goodness, “The Cat House” has taken over the TNR and socializing/adopting out those than can be.

              • My former vet, Dr. Becky performs the spays and neuters, etc. for free

                Cal, I like this vet. Perhaps you could write about her? But I bet she declaws and if she does not she is a heroine.

              • Are you in “the windy city” Caroline?
                I understand why there have to be feeders with weight. Not so much here.
                A vet that will spay/neuter for free? Keep her in your hip pocket and kiss her feet.

  4. i know my rebel is alergic to some things i do i.e deodorant and seems abit senestive when take him to the vet when its vaccination time. doesnt like the smell at all. Trys to run away. The same when its worm/flea treatment time as soon as ive done it he runs out of my arms and punishes me by staying away for 2 hrs or more.

  5. Wow. 😉 I thought that you meant our dander. lol. And then, when the link opened to the site, I saw the illustration. I would rather focus on the dander issue, as I think that this is worth discussing. As far as the stuff that we spray ourselves with, I think that those of us who love our cats are sensitive. And we take the utmost care to protect our beloved companions. <3

  6. One more thing on my mind. Shrimptaro, as many of you know, likes to whomp me with his right paw and commence to washing my hand just after I have “groomed” him [scratching and rubbing his jaw and chin and eyes]. This is why I am so careful about my hand lotion. It is homemade. Olive oil, lecithin (to mix with h20) and a drop or two of rosewater, oh! and some vitE from my capsules that I take (a water-soluble vitamin that is an antioxidant, for those who don’t know). I never know when he may decide to slap his paw over my wrist, when he’s on top of me while at the laptop and couch. [Shrimp is the most unconditionally-loving entity I have ever known. I would marry him if I could 😉 ]

    • Good for you. I wonder if it is fair to say that men are less of a hazard than women to their cat in respect of the lotions and potions that women put on themselves. That is not being sexist. Of course, men these days are more likely to be using creams etc.. However, it is ironic that the gender which tends to prefer cats is also the one most likely to have chemicals on their skin which may irritate a cat.

  7. What an excellent article, Kylee!

    I was just reading an article about feline asthma. Many of the substances you listed are considered to be a “no-no” for cats with this condition. Perfume, many cleaning products, soaps, can strongly affect asthmatic cats.

    Thanks for all this information!

      • Kylee, my bad.. I was just blown away by the great article.

        Speaking of alcohol- While I may take a sip of champagne now and then- we are not big drinkers at our house. But recently Dr. Hush Puppy has been battling an upper respiratory infection- was treated with antibiotics to no avail.

        My holistic veterinarian prescribed a holistic “remedy” to help alleviate his symptoms and heal the condition- which is working extremely well. He is not sneezing anymore, and his nose and eyes have cleared up incredibly. This said, the “remedy” which is made for humans actually- contains 25% alcohol. All remedies such as Bach Flower and Spirit Essences contain alcohol as a preservative.

        All I can tell you is that not only is he getting so much better- my vet was over yesterday and she was so pleased- and Dr. Hush Puppy LOVES this remedy. When he sees the bottle he stands on his hind legs, puts his paws in my lap and begs me to give it to him.

        • Jo what is the remedy? Our Jozef still has sneezing bouts, an unknown allergy, he’s still on a very low dose of steroids I am hoping to wean him off. The vet says the dose is too low to cause side effects but I worry myself sick about him taking them, I’ve searched for a holistic remedy but found nothing so far.

          • Ruth, you can tell that cat allergies are hard to diagnose because veterinarians often perhaps nearly always prescribe steroids when the ideal way to proceed would be to isolate the cause of the allergy which is almost impossible to do.

            I am sorry to hear that Jozeph has sneezing bouts which appears to be caused by an allergy. It seems to be a sort of hayfever. People take antihistamine medication for hay fever. The book I have refers to this as a nasal allergy which is characterised by periodic bouts of sneezing that last a short time and which tend to recur day to day.

            It is caused by environmental irritants and allergens. Dust and pollen are common causes the book says and that carpet cleaner, deodorant, sprays, laundry soap could be the cause of nasal irritation. This may not be a true nasal allergy but simply an irritant. Antihistamines can be prescribed for this condition.

            Another cause is cigarette smoke but as far as I’m aware neither are you smoke. I always think carpets contain lots of stuff that can cause problems and although we love carpets I sometimes wonder whether people who have cats should have carpets. I’ve got a carpet myself but it is not a fitted carpet. I have a wooden floor.

            • No we have never smoked and we are very careful about everything we use in the house, it’s very worrying that Jozef started this sneezing and coughing over a year ago now, but then last Summer it got worse and the different vet we saw didn’t just brush us off as neurotic because no vet could find anything wrong with him. Remember he’d even had xrays and tests!
              The steroids do help but he still sneezes.
              However we recently discovered a damp patch on the wall he liked to sit against on a green cat bed, wondering now if that started it off? We immediately moved his bed of course and will have to treat that wall, although a lot of our house is damp with all the rain here and now we wonder if it ever had a damp course put in. The paint to stop damp is very strong smelling, we had to do the staircase with it last year.
              We are always very very careful and Walter isn’t at all affected like Jo is.
              This floor is cement so we do need a carpet down, we had this one new 6 months before Jo started sneezing.
              It all worries us very much! It isn’t our own house and we are unable to move, it’s such an ideal place to live too for cats who love their freedom, we just don’t know what to do.

            • Opps I forgot- Ruth- it is a product that is for humans- but my vet has been using it rather extensively- not only for her own family, but for cats as well.

              • Thanks Jo, I’ll look it up now.I wonder if Jozef’s is a form of rhinitis? It doesn’t bother him at all, he is never ill or unhappy, I think it bothers us more worrying about him.
                Our vets have no answers for us 🙁 I wish we had a holistic vet here

        • Jo, i’m interested in the product your holistic vet recommended. One of my cats suffers from chronic URI’s. Is it this one?:

  8. Ruth, We are giving Dr. Hush Puppy .01 ml. three times a day.

    He LOVES it.

    That is- one-tenth of a milligram T.I.D. It is a safe remedy. My vet gives it to her kids.

    We are using it for snuffly-sniffles and snot when he sneezes that generally lands on my face. Since we have been using it for about two weeks now- he is a little snuffly but no more snot missles.

    He will be on it for a few more days, and then off- to see how he responds.

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