Can an allergy sufferer have a cat?
Treatment of a cat allergy is mainly based on avoiding contact with the allergen. It follows that a cat allergy sufferer should not keep a pet in the house. Although this will not result in the absence of cat allergens in the flat, it will significantly reduce their concentration. In theory, this sounds simple. In practice, anyone who knows a ‘cat person’ knows full well that persuading them to find another home for their pet is at least very difficult, not to say impossible. Furthermore, it is true that “owning a cat leads to owning another” (E. Hemingway). Devotees of these animals often keep more than one at home. Is there another solution to minimise the allergenic potential of the cat? Their owners usually consider the possibility of finding a hypoallergenic cat. They also use hygienic practices to reduce the concentration of cat allergens in the living area.
Cat allergy. Are there hypoallergenic cat breeds?
There are various rankings of hypoallergenic cat breeds. Perversely, it is not at all the hairless Sphynxes that are considered the least allergenic, but the long-haired Siberian Neva Masquerade Cats. According to the promoters of this idea, they produce the least Fel d 1 of all cat breeds. However, one searches in vain for reliable sources for this information. The top five of various online rankings of hypoallergenic breeds usually also include the Russian Blue Cat (which is actually interesting when you consider how dusty its fur is), the Bengal Cat, the Balinese Cat and the Cornish Rex and Devon Rex. These lists are supposedly arranged based on the amount of Fel d 1 secreted by these cats. Even if these data were reliable, the cats listed are hypoallergenic for only one allergen (Fel d 1). To this day, however, no truly hypoallergenic cat has been bred in which all allergens capable of causing an allergic reaction are inactive. Because, as we remember, in addition to the dominant Fel d 1, there are various other cat allergens.
So maybe, instead of looking for a hypoallergenic pet, you need to approach cat allergies differently. It is worth focusing first and foremost on minimising the concentration of cat allergens in the environment.
How to reduce the concentration of cat allergens in the home?
The task is difficult. Obviously, finding a new home for the cat comes to the fore. If this solution is not possible, it will be necessary to resign from upholstered furniture, curtains, and carpets in the rooms where the cat frequents. When it is not possible to eliminate these furnishings and decorations, frequent washing and cleaning should be carried out. Regular and frequent cleaning of the living areas and washing of clothes and bedding is also a necessary step.
It should be considered that the concentration of cat allergens in the living areas is higher in winter than in summer. It can therefore be concluded that frequent ventilation of the rooms reduces the concentration of cat allergens in the flat. Furthermore, it is also a good idea to provide so-called ‘pet-free spaces’ in the home, such as the bedroom. It sounds nice, but it is not at all easy. This strategy works well with a dog. A cat, on the other hand, unlike a dog, is difficult to stop from entering where it currently wants to be. Not to say that it is completely impossible.
In the same way, it is not advisable to keep young animals in the home as a hypoallergenic version of the cat. The animal may increase its allergenic potential as it grows and matures. In both cases, it may ultimately be necessary to find the cat another home. And such a situation is not comfortable for either the cat or its owner.
Of course, one can try to reduce the concentration of feline allergens on the animal itself. The internet is a source of various absurd ideas in this respect, such as bathing or soaking the cat frequently or shaving the coat. Most of these ideas are as inconvenient for the animal as well as ineffective.
Nowadays, it is possible to reduce the concentration of active Fel d 1 secreted by the cat using ready-made foods enriched with bird antibodies binding Fel d 1. This strategy seems promising and, according to its developers, is harmless to the animal. However, as of today, this type of food is hardly available and costly in Poland.
What else is worth keeping in mind regarding cat allergies?
A suspected cat allergy may sometimes not be an allergy at all, or may turn out to be an allergy not only to the cat. This is because the animal’s fur can be a source of feline external parasites (e.g. fleas) and eggs of feline internal parasites (e.g. feline roundworm). The fur may also be covered with allergens that are not feline. These can include house dust mites, pollen, detergents used to bathe the cat, cat cosmetics, and insecticides. Both flea bites, an infection with internal parasites, and contact with non-cat allergens covering the fur can sensitise people and lead to allergies. It may therefore turn out that it is not the cat or not only the cat that is the cause of the observed allergy symptoms.