Allergy to cats is extremely common, occurring in up to 25% of people with allergies.

Cat allergy is more common than allergy to dog dander, which may be related to the potency of cat hair and the fact that cats are not generally bathed.

The major cat allergen is a glycoprotein found in the cat’s sebaceous gland under the skin, in saliva and in urine. Cat dander consists of microscopic pieces of dry cat skin which becomes airborne, landing on bedding, curtains, carpeting and other surfaces, including humans’ skin and clothing. Cat dander particles are tiny, about 1/10th the size of dust mites.

How can symptoms be controlled?

For people with cat allergy, avoidance of cats is the mainstay of therapy. Cat owners may not want to part with their pets, despite the symptoms they endure. Short of getting rid of your cat, here are some ways to decrease allergen exposure:

  • Ensure the cat is neutered. A study determined this produces less allergen.
  • Bath the cat at least once a week
  • Remove the cat from the bedroom
  • Vacuum frequently
  • Steam clean all carpets and upholstery.
  • Damp mop floors
  • Wipe down solid surfaces
  • Wash hands frequently

    Cat dander may affect allergy patients in a number of different ways:

    • Inhaled through nose – can cause sneezing, runny nose, itching inside the nose, nasal congestion and sometimes sinus congestion.
    • Inhaled through nose and mouth – can go into the bronchial tubes and can trigger asthma attacks.
    • Skin rash or hives – although allergies cause only about 5-10% of chronic hive cases, they are almost always associated with pet dander, and more often with cat dander.
    • Minor skin rashes may be associated with dander falling on the skin, saliva deposited by a cat’s licking the skin, or even through inhaling the dander.

    No cat breed has been scientifically proven to be hypoallergenic.