Categories: cat allergy

How do I know if I have cat allergies?

I don’t want to compete with veterinary websites but at present Google is not finding information which directly answers the question in the title. Also, I think this is a good question because the symptoms of an allergy to the domestic cat can be very similar those for hay fever, allergies to other substances and even the common cold. It can get confusing, which is why the question is being asked.

An allergy to cats brings on symptoms which are pretty generic and therefore it can be tricky to know what caused them. Illustration: PoC.

Symptoms

And if you are asking the question (which I took from Google so people do ask this exact question) you should know the symptoms of cat allergies but for the sake of clarity here they are: itchy, red eyes, runny nose, sneezing, perhaps wheezing and coughing and perhaps a rash on the chest and face if the allergy is more severe. If the allergy is at the mild end of the scale itchiness and sneezing might be the symptoms.

Observe

The key to knowing if sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes are because of a cat is to be very careful in observing the onset of your symptoms. I mean you can test yourself. It is common sense but it’s worth stating it. If you are clear of symptoms normally but they come on quickly when in the vicinity of a cat the obvious conclusion is that the cause is the cat.

Personal experience

I have some personal experience here. I am not allergic to cats. But I have wondered if all humans are allergic to the Fel d1 protein in cats’ saliva but for most of us the allergy is so mild as to be undetectable. This may apply to me. Years ago, when an unneutered, male stray cat visited my apartment on the ground floor I felt the allergic reaction coming on. It happened even when I was in another room a good distance from the cat. And the my body’s response to the presence of the cat was fairly quick, about 5 minutes or less. Unneutered male cats are more likely to bring on an allergic reaction. The allergen remains in the home because it floats onto surfaces in cat dander, a mixture of dried saliva and skin.

Direct link

Because of the clear response it is possible to see a direct link between a cat’s presence and the allergic reaction. It is very direct. This should make self-diagnosis possible. However, if a person is allergic to several allergens and at any one time they could be present it is clearly much more difficult to isolate the allergen causing the reaction. You’ll need to see a doctor who might do some classic allergen testing. As I understand it, the process can be quite laborious.

If you are like me; in general I am clear of allergic reactions, then it should be pretty obvious if you are allergic to cats. However, allergies to a variety of substances can be inherited and this complicates matters further.

What happens?

An allergic reaction occurs when the body produces antibodies to an allergen because the body’s defence system sees the allergen as harmful even though it isn’t. The false reaction causes inflammation to the airways, mucus membranes and skin.

Hypoallergenic cats

There are no hypoallergeneic cat breeds including the Sphynx hairless cat and the Siberian, in my opinion despite the claims online. All cats have the Fel d1 allergen in their saliva. Some individual cats might be less potent in turning out the allergen and some more potent such as whole males. I guess you might adopt from a shelter and test whether the cat selected brings on the symptoms.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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