Allergic to Cats

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  • Cat advice for allergic family

    (9 replies)

    My family has toyed with the idea of getting a kitten for a long time, but never acted on it because of all the questions that come up around this. Neither my husband nor I have ever had a pet at home, so we are really clueless. One issue has to do with allergies - my 4-year-old and I have "reactive airways syndrome", and I know I am mildly allergic to (at least some) cats. It doesn't show up immediately as sneezing or itchy eyes, rather, an overnight stay in a home where a cat lives will trigger breathing symptoms (like wheezing, shortness of breath). I have heard that some breeds are "hypo-allergenic", such as Russian Blues. What are people's experiences with breeds vs. allergies/breathing issues? Are there steps one can take to decrease the incidence of allergy symptoms in the home? Also, we would like our cat to be able to roam indoors/outdoors - are there breeds that are better adapted for this kind of lifestyle? Finally, I am pregnant and worry a bit about toxoplasmosis. Should we just wait until baby is born? (of course I will get advice from my OB, but it's always nice to hear about people's experiences) Many thanks! 

    I don't have allergies myself, but as a cat owner for 20+ years, I don't think you'll find a breed that's truly hypoallergenic - hopefully I'm wrong.  I'd also strongly advise against having a cat that goes outdoors - it's bad for the cat (cars, coyotes, disease), bad for wildlife (, and, since you're worried about toxoplasmosis, increases the chances that the cat will pick up things like that outside and bring them in.  We had (indoor only) cats during all 3 of my pregnancies without any toxoplasmosis issues, even when I occasionally had to clean the litter box (carefully, with gloves on).  But given all the disruption a baby brings to any household, maybe you want to wait and see how things shake out with the baby before you add another critter who needs you for food and poop management. :)

    Our family is allergic to cats and we will sneeze if we are in a "normal" cat home.   But, after doing some research, we decided to get a Siberian cat from a local breeder in Berkeley.  It's a process: application, waiting for a litter (took about a year) and very costly.  But it was either that or no cat.  We have had her for over four years and she is the kindest, sweetest, smartest, most beautiful cat. She wants to go outside but for many reasons we keep her indoors.  The breeder allowed us to visit her home and spend time with her cats and we were fine. Once she has a litter, you can choose a male or female and the coat color.  I felt guilty about purchasing from a breeder as I'm an animal lover and know there are many unwanted pets. I have offset my guilt with donations to local shelters though. 

    I'm severely allergic to cats but have a cat anyway. I do have to take asthma meds though because of my decision to have a pet.

    Through research, I've learned that female cats and lighter colored cats tend to have less dander than other cats. Dander is what causes allergic reactions. Coat length apparently doesn't have anything to do with how much dander a cat produces. 

    As to toxoplasmosis, indoor only cats do not get this parasite because they don't have the opportunity to eat infected prey. 

    I hope this info helps! 

    Also note, the life of cats are significantly extended if they are indoor-only. They don't get parasites and diseases, they don't get into fights which can lead to infection and sepsis, and they don't get run over by cars.

    That said, not every cat has the personality to be an indoor-only animal, while other cats need to be indoor-only! 

    I adore cats and kittens and understand your desire for one, but I do NOT recommend that you get a cat at this time. Investigate. Wait until the baby is born and then proceed slowly.

    --Cats and kittens require time and attention to integrate into the household and you have a number of changes. Despite what you've heard, cats are not low maintenance. They need attention, veterinary care, security, and they do best with ROUTINE and RITUALS. They are often not really happy when paired with small children.

    --Get yourself and your child tested to see HOW allergic you are before bringing on into your household, and talk about allergy medications and treatments.  You will not keep a cat if you or your child can't breathe, and that is traumatic and unfair to everyone. You can't just toss it away because it's "not working out."  Plus, you need to allocate responsibility for feeding, cleaning, going to the vet, etc.

    --There really isn't any such thing as a hypoallergenic cat. The allergies are triggered by cat saliva, not cat dander. Hypoallergenic is more of a marketing term for hairless cats or cats that supposedly don't shed. Generally these "designer cats" are expensive and inbred, so may be prone to more health issues. Friends of mine got a hairless cat that they later learned required 3 times daily medication for some virus. Look at individual cats rather than breeds.

    --Spend some regular time at the Humane Society or other cat adoption places playing with felines to improve your understanding of cat behavior and see how actual contact affects your family's allergies.

    --There's no breed especially adapted to "roaming outdoors"; although many cats should never go outdoors, particularly those touted as "hypoallergenic."   Some cats are fast and savvy and some are not, and ALLl are at risk outdoors (cars, dogs, poison, and coyotes to name a few). There are feral cats that do live outdoors, but they're usually not socialized to be pets, and their lives are likely to be cut short. Some places won't even let you adopt unless you promise to keep the cat indoors at all times.

    We always bring our cats in at dusk and let them out after 9 am to minimize the risk, but it would be safer to keep them inside. (Both were street cats and go nuts if they can't go out.  But our yard is extremely secure with 9 foot fences.) If your cats do go out, they need a very secure enclosure (fenced in yard or patio that can't be dug under, jumped over, or escaped from).  It's not cheap, and requires attention. So does cleaning the cat box, which must be done frequently whether it is convenient or not.

    Pets can be a wonderful addition to a family. However, a lot of what you have posted tells me that you a cat may not work out for your family. A smallish dog who likes to cuddle may suit you better, but again, get tested, make sure you have the time and money to take care of them, spend time playing with dogs before you adopt.

    Good luck!

    Hi. I'm someone who has had cats and dogs her whole life. I currently have 2 of each. I also have a long history of allergic asthma.  The only cats that I am aware of that are "hypoallergenic" are the hairless ones.  It's not the fur that gets you, it's the dander, and the dander gets all over everything in the house via cat saliva from cleaning themselves. Hairless cats don't seem to need to groom.  Those hairless breeds are expensive, and don't do well outside.  If you live in a city, I don't recommend indoor-outdoor, it's too dangerous. Between cars and rats, it's a struggle. If you live in a rural area, outdoors can also be quite dangerous (coyotes), but a cat that survives for a year going outside will probably have a long life. (continued)

    If you are mildly allergic to cats, you are likely to become more allergic as you increase your exposure. Reactive airway disease (asthma) can become more serious if you live with a cat. You may be faced with having to get rid of a cat after you have taken one in as a pet. That would be hard on your kids. Cats can present serious health problem.Consider a different pet - cockatiel or something without fur. I am a physician.

    Suburban areas are ideal for indoor-outdoor cats. I have found that any rescue cat/domestic shorthair, usually does well with this set up. Maybe because they spend some time outside on their own prior to rescue, or because Mama Cat taught them how to hunt and survive. I would avod all pure breeds if you want them to go out. Having them go outside reduces the allergens in the house. As for toxoplasmosis, as long as you don't change, scoop or handle cat litter, it's fine. You can have a cat tested to see if they have it. I get tested for it every few years because we know it can cause certain mental illnesses. So how to accomplish reduced allergy triggers? Get a kitten and train it well - keep it in one area or floor of the house. Don't let it sleep with you. Hire a cleaning lady who doesn't mind sponging the walls on a semi-regular basis. Get rid of all carpets, they trap dander and also fleas. Never bath a cat (if an emergency arises, let a vet do it). DO get them used to frequent combing or brushing early on, this will help. By a few different ones and see what the cat enjoys best. It's going to be a lot of work, and with a new baby, probably too much. I'd wait til the baby is a little older, just in case they end up with the same issues, in which case, by majority, I would suggest not getting a cat and looking into a small dog instead, like a poodle, which is hypoallergenic and has hair (not fur). Good luck!

    I use to have allergies like that too but loved cats so much I endured. Surprisingly over time my allergies dissipated and my symptoms became much more manageable I guess it was kinda like getting allergy shots. 

    The thing with cats is the saliva has the allergen and because they groom constantly...I've always had short haired cats but they can shed pretty heavily in the spring. Best way is to groom them regularly and not have carpet for all the hair to migrate too.  Also get them a kitty tower and a designated place to sleep to keep the hair to a minimum on your bed/pillowcases.  Cats love to be up high looking down upon their human servants. Bathing them doesn't do much but if your adventurous it can be helpful maybe once a week

    Good luck with your kitty adventure!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Considering Siberian cat for son with allergies

Jan 2015

We're interested in the possibility of bringing a Siberian cat into our home. Our son has cat allergies which exacerbate his asthma. Have heard that reaction may vary from cat to cat, but would love to visit a cat(s) in a Siberian-only home to see how our son reacts. Would also appreciate advice about acquiring a Siberian cat. Have contacted one local breeder and are waiting to hear back. If you have advice on breeders we should consider or whether it might be worthwhile to try looking to adopt a Siberian somehow. Many thanks. Cat lover!

If you already know that your child is allergic to cats, I can't see why you're considering getting a cat. Even if you meet a Siberian cat and he doesn't have a reaction, you have no idea what prolonged exposure will do. You're risking your child's health and potentially having to rehome the cat. It doesn't sound fair to either one of them to me. No cat if allergic

Hypoallergenic cats?

Feb 2014

My husband and I promised our now 6 1/2 year old son that we'd get him a cat when he's 7. So the clock is ticking and we've got a problem - I'm allergic to cats! I've decided to grin and bear it but I also have recently heard there may be hypoallergenic cats that eliminate or reduce allergic reactions. Has anyone had this experience? Does anyone have one or bought one that didn't work out? I'm not clear if this is a cat-by-cat thing or pure breeds like Siberian/Russian Blue are reliably non-allergenic. And if you have one of these breeds and would be willing to have a desperate mama visit your cat, please let the moderator know how I can get in contact with you. Allergic-to-Cats Mama

I am also allergic to cats in general, however I was able to have a pet Siamese cat for about 10 years without too many problems. When we first got her I did have to take antihistamine tablets daily however my allergy symptoms pretty much went away over the first few months. I still found myself allergic to friends' cats though so I know I didn't ''grow out'' of the allergy completely.

It definitely helped that we didn't have carpet in our home and our cat spent much of her time outside during the day. She was always indoors before dark though. I'm sure I probably would've had more problems had she been an exclusively indoor cat in a carpeted home. We never actually bathed her but made sure to brush her regularly, especially during Spring when she shed her Winter coat.

Unfortunately we had to give our cat away before moving to the US from Australia a few years back otherwise I would've been happy to let you ''test her out''. I have also found that I am generally fine with Burmese and Russian Blue cats so these may be breeds to look into.

Apparently female cats produce less allergens than males, and neutered males produce less allergens than non-neutered males. I've also read that lighter colored cats produce less allergens but I'm not sure if this is true or not. Sally

We had two cat and dog allergic parents, one pretty severely, and a 10 year old daughter who had dreamed of a ''real'' (ie. non-caged) pet for years. We finally got a Siberian kitten this fall and she has been a wonderful addition to our family. My husband, who breaks out in hives and sneezes uncontrollably around most cats can sit with her on his lap for hours. From my research, not all individual Siberian cats are low in the Fld1 allergen, but many of the breed are. You can pay to have an individual cat tested, but we did not. We did visit several litters with their mamas and my husband did have a reaction to one of them. He had very little reaction to the litter we chose from and has been fine with our cat. I still can't rub my eyes after petting her, but other than that I am fine. We do keep her out of our bedroom and we do give her baths every few weeks to reduce the allergens (and clean her long hair).

As an added bonus, Siberians are delightful, beautiful cats with fun, dog-like personalities. We have trained ours to come to a special whistle, she sleeps on my daughter's bed or the top of the stairs like a guard. She is fun to play with and very social and attached to us. We paid almost $1000 for her, which felt ridiculous given all the cats in shelters, but it has been worth it and was the only way we could have a cat. A good breeder should let you though. Good luck! Happy cat owner

Dear allergic mama

I love cats and have two of them. But my mother, sister, brother, and a number of friends are allergic, and many of them can't stay for any prolonged period in my home. I can't imagine the stress of living with allergic reaction day in and day out. Your desire to check out a home that has a ''hypoallergenic'' cat is laudable and a good idea. But I think this: your husband and son should not ask this of you. My poor mother gave in to my pleas for a cat, and she suffered as a consequence. Kids are in the main not the most considerate small animals, but husbands should be. It's hard when you have ''promised'' a young kid something, but some alternative could be offered. Dogs are better, actually, in many cases (though they open up other cans of worms). Or fish or a hamster or something. But your rights should be asserted, mama! cat lover

My husband is quite allergic to cats, but we've had great luck with a Ragdoll. Very sweet cat with our two boys (ages 7 and 4). Feel free to drop me a note if you have any questions! Kristin

my husband and i are both allergic to cats, but really wanted our kids to have a cuddly pet, and weren't ready for a dog. we did a lot of research and discovered a wonderful and funny breed called a devon rex. (we did visit a breeder of siberian cats, as we'd heard they were 'hypoallergenic', but we failed miserably.) the devon rex has less of the protein in their saliva that causes an allergic reaction in people who are allergic. that said, a few people have reacted to our cats. and, we cannot touch our cats and then touch our eyes. but we do not sneeze, have drippy eyes, etc living with these two great cats. the devon's personality is often described as a mix between a dog, a cat and a monkey. and we can attest to that with cats who are funny, climbers and play fetch - really! i wish we could have gone to a shelter and rescued some kitties, but that wasn't realistic. we bought our cats from a breeder in san jose who runs a very respectable cattery: her kittens are sold well in advance of their birth, so it may take a while to get a kitty. she is a wealth of information and connections, as she is also the devon rex breed club president. emily

I have a hypoallergenic cat and would be happy to talk to you about it. My son and I are both very allergic, and we've had no problems in the almost two years since we got her. We had to test out several breeds though. Not all ''hypoallergenic'' breeds worked for us. Michele

Hi, We have a hypoallergnic cat - a siberian - and he is wonderful!! My husband is very, very allergic and he's fine with our cat. We did visit the cattery before buying him to see how he reacted. Some breeders are a lot more careful about how allergenic their cats are & have them tested periodically & select parents of future litters based on these tests. You pay for this though! Our cat was $1100 & he was the last one in the litter. He is absolutely wonderful - very loving and cuddly.. personality is more like a friendly dog. You can visit before you commit -

As an aside, my husband has noticed that over the years his allergy to cats seems to be improving & I've heard that owning a hypoallergenic cat can act like allergy shots & eventually lessen the allergic reaction to cats... Henry's human companion

Hi Mom. Feel free to contact me about our Siberian. sophie

We adopted a wonderful Siberian cat 5 years ago due to my daughter desperately wanting a cat despite being allergic to cat and dog dander. I did a great deal of research and found the Siberian breed. We paid a lot ($1K) but I wouldn't trade her for the world. She's indoor/outdoor in daytime and indoor only at night, and despite what I'd read about Siberians, she does shed, so her very fine fur does get around the house. That said, it's been more of a cleaning bother than anything else. I second what the others have said about the Siberian personality. Our kitty is incredibly intelligent, super physical (climbing trees, leaping fences, etc.) and affectionate. She's also absolutely gorgeous. She has some doglike behaviors like running to the door when the doorbell rings, following us to the park, etc. I was very nervous about allergic reaction when we first got her, but things have been fine. My daughter is also allergic to dust mites, so at first I wasn't sure if she would occasionally react (just sneezing) to the cat or if it was time to mop the floors again. Overall, it's been fine and we couldn't imagine life without our kitty. We're in Berkeley. Can get my info from the moderator if you would like to visit or learn more. Breeder is local to Bay Area Love my kitty

I am developing an allergy to my cat

April 2008

After much denial, I have realized that I am developing a significant allergic reaction to my cat. The problem is magnified by the fact that I live with the best of all possible cats and am pretty attached to the little fuzz-head. My understanding is that it is the dander of the cat that causes the allergic reaction, so I am planning to start with a thorough and ongoing cleaning of all furniture, etc. where she likes to sit/be. As you know, if you have a pet, their hair can get seemingly everywhere. She's 13 yrs. old and an indoor cat in the cool months. I don't think I'd be too successful at trying to get her to be a full-time outdoor being. Any other suggestions for how to cope with this? Am willing to try to treat the allergies on my side as well....Homeopathics perhaps?? I have heard of this happening to people before and figure some of you out there might have some good recs. Thanks,

There are also antigens in the cat's saliva. Have you tried giving your cat regular baths? Frequent vacuuming and an air filter really help. The homeopathic remedies are no more effective than placebos, but I've had good luck by bathing the cat and by frequently vacuuming and steam-cleaning carpeting and upholstery. Allergic to cats

Make sure you get a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. Otherwise vacuuming will just put the allergens into the air. It will make a huge difference. saved by HEPA

I too have cat allergies, but live with my cat w/o problem, as long as I do the things my doc recommended: 1) brush cat daily with the small side of a plastic flea comb brush (can get at any pet center)- this one pretty much takes care of most of it 2) keep a hepa filter on at all times that I am home (or windows open)- the ionic breeze makes my asthma worse, so only hepa works 3) vacuum every week 4) I have never had to do this one, but allergist recs it: get cat groomed every month to every other month GOOD LUCK and I hope these tips help! asthmatic who loves her cat!

Baby's cat allergies

Dec 2005

Hello- My 4 month old baby girl tested as ''moderately allergic'' to cats, based on a blood test. As of yet, she doesn't have any respiratory problems and if an allergy does develop,it's not likely to manifest itself until she's a year old. Of course, the problem is that we have two male cats who me and my husband adore. We're worried about her potential to develop asthma (she's got eczema, her dad has asthma) but would like to come up with some way of keeping the kitties. They're outdoor/indoor boys, short hair, but it's everywhere. Any success stories for dealing with cats and allergies? Tips? thanks, anon.

A German study found that children (babies up to age 2) who had cats sleeping in their room at night had a 57% LESS chance of developing asthma. I don't have experience dealing with a kid with allergies, but I say keep the cats to reduce the chances of your kid developing asthma. My two cents.... Co sleeps with toddler and two cats

If your daughter's allergic and you know it, please strongly consider getting the cats out of the house now - according to the allergy/asthma network website, it usually takes about a year for all of the cat dander to settle out of the air, after all of the rugs, curtains, furniture, clothes, etc. have been thoroughly cleaned.

When my inlaws very old cat finally died, they were considerate enough to steam clean all of their furniture and rugs to try to make it easier for me and my son to be there - it was over three years ago and we still have issues with some of the clothes and my son definitely can't play hide and seek in grandma's closet without us breaking out the benadryl/inhaler.

If you're thinking about keeping the cats, it's worthwhile to consider that if she's always around them, your daughter might not seem to be allergic to the cats because of ''tolerance'' but it may show up through increased eczema or food allergies that otherwise wouldn't develop. She may also suffer from hay fever that otherwise wouldn't bother her, or just catch more colds than other kids - things you might not attribute to the cats but that they indirectly cause.

The allergist at Kaiser described it as everyone having a bucket that fills with allergens - it's ok until the bucket gets full, then every little drop overflows. Some people have a fairly empty bucket, so don't react much to anything, but if you have a fairly full bucket to start with, any little thing can cause a spill.

Hope this helped - please check out allergy websites and consult an allergist too, to be fully informed about whatever decision you eventually make. amy

The second best thing to do for your child would be to have NO wall-to-wall carpeting in the house- all bare floors with washable area rugs. Strictly keep cats out of your child's sleeping room at minimum until she's 4 years old. You can try the allergen washes on their fur. Washable slipcovers on furniture. I have a severe cat allergy that was mild until I turned 6, and at 10 developed asthsma 4 years after giving away our cats. Carpeting with dander is way worse than petting a cat for me, as is sitting on couches in a cat house. I'd go so far as getting furniture that never had cats and slipcover those, (or leather chairs/ couches if that suits you, or furniture with a minimum of upholstery and stuffing.) A friend who works as a respiratory therapist suggests no furred pets for any families until children are 3 years old (I know that's not what families who already have pets want to hear, he says in terms of lung development they are stronger then) and also no carpeting (w! ith or without pets) and especiall Chris

Having an allergy is a very serious matter. Some things that might help is having air filters in your house this will help keep the allergens down. With cats their are two types of allergies one is to the dander and the other is to the cats saliva. Because cats groom themselves saliva is ever present so one is not necessarily better than the other. If the allergy is fairly mild keep the fur to a minimum. Getting rid of carpets help as fur is more difficult to clean up after. Go with hard wood floors or other hard surfaces. If you keep the carpets you may need to get them cleaned every year or so. If you use a vacuum cleaner use one that uses allergen filtration bags or has a filtration system so that way what you are trying to vacuum up does not get spread around. Keep the house clean and as fur free as possible. Brush the fur on the cats this will help. Believe it or not, some cats love the attention. If worse comes to worse you may have to find a new home for the cats. It could come down to the choice between your daughter or the cats. Have your furnace filters changed annually or biannually. Talk to a professional.

As far as asthma is concerned there certainly are some things that can help keep asthma down. If asthma is hereditary, as it appears to be, well guess what, you cannot beat Mother Nature. Get her tested early with a allergist, find out about the signs to look out for and find out what may trigger her asthma. (allergies, excercise, the cold...)

I'm still puzzled about the relationship between eczema and asthma?!! My allergies and asthma are hereditary

Let me pose a question: if you knew without a doubt that your child would, in fact, develop asthma and other allergy related illnesses that might be life-long problems, if not life-threatening, would you keep the cats? I started out in life non-cat allergic. My brother was allergic. We lived in a household with cats, and our parents wouldn't give up the cats. I am now desperately allergic to cats, and my brother has horrendous asthma, eczema and other immunological problems. He nearly died once from an asthma attack when I was babysitting him. My advice: get rid of your adored cats, for your adored child's sake. Not a cat lover

Had any success with non-allergenic cat breeds?

Sept 2005

My daughter would really love to have a cat but my husband and I are both allergic. We both like cats and wouldn't be opposed to having one if it weren't for our allergies. Has anyone else out there with cat allergies had any success with non- allergenic breeds (e.g. siberians, sphinxs)? Or am I meowing up the wrong tree? Sneezy and sniffly

You might check out a Maine Coon. They are supposed to be less allergy-inducing because their hair doesn't fly around the way other breeds do. It's counter-intuitive because they have long thick coats, but I have a half-breed Maine Coon, and his hair really stays put. When I brush him, some hair goes onto the brush but otherwise I do not find hair in the house. My kids are usually sneezy around cats but this cat really doesn't bother them. Maine Coons are great cats - huge and fluffy, with a laid-back disposition. My cat is affectionate to the point of being irritating! but he is great with babies and little kids. (They're expensive though - that's why I have a half-breed!) G

A friend of mine who really loved cats but was allergic did manage to find one that didn't make her sneeze. She did some research and found that females and darker furred cats were most likely to be allergenic, and simply worked with the local animal shelter to find a cat that didn't make her sneeze. She would just go in each day and play with a different cat to see how she reacted before she settled on a one. cat lover

I don't know if you'll find a cat that doesn't make you allergic, but lots of people in your situation have found that a house-bunny is just as fun without the allergies. Rabbits are very affectionate and quite playful in a non-predatory way. Like any pet, they're better if ''fixed'' -- males especially. I'll bet your daughter would LOVE it. Letitia

My husband is allergic to cats, but when we met, I already had a cat. He knew that if I was forced to choose, he would lose. We have made it work by: 1. allowing the cat to be outdoors part of the time; 2. having hardwood floors; 3. keeping the cat out of our bedroom and using a HEPA filter machine in our bedroom; 4. giving the cat regular haircuts (he is long-haired--this wouldn't be necessary for a short hair); 5. bathing the cat regularly; 6. applying Allerpet solution after the bath, which neutralizes the allergens. My husband has become less allergic to our particular cat, though other cats still bother him, and what were at first weekly baths are now monthly, if that. Ann

If you're looking for a non-allergic cat, why don't you consider a Devon Rex. It's a breed with very, very short wavy hair, that when shed looks like lint. They're a fabulous breed.. very friendly! I had one for more than 10-years. And the proof in the pudding of her being non-allergic came when I met my husband who suffers from all sorts of allergies.. including from cats. When he first came to my home, he had no idea I had a cat. And when the relationship got more serious and we started sharing my bed, with my cat, he never had a problem with her. I have to say, I believe this is a great breed of cat, not only for the non-allergy part, but because they're great companions, love to follow care-givers around, they wag their tail when happy as well as chortle (make funny little noises along with typical meowing) and love to keep warm on the computer, stereo and in bed with you. I highly recommend this breed, although I have to say, they are a bit on the expensive side, but you won't regret paying the price. I would have one now if it wasn't for the fact that I have a toddler and am expecting another child. But when they're older and both out of diapers.. I plan to adopt another Devon Rex. Good luck! Devon Rex Lover

After reading previous posts, I am wondering if some have the impression that it is the cat hair that is the allergin. The allergin is actually in the cat's saliva. I suppose one might assume that a short hair cat grooms itself less, so less saliva, but I didn't want you to think that one of the ''hairless'' breeds would have no hair and thus no allergins, as I'm sure that they groom also. Good luck! lucky non-allergic cat lover

Allergies to cats, but want one anyway

Jan 2003

We just lost our 18 year-old cat and our kids would now like to get a kitten. The problem is I am allergic to cats as far as I can tell. I sneeze around them, break into a rash when I touch them, such as around my neck if I hug the cat, and I generally can't wait to wash up after contact. Consequently, our last cat was never in the main part of the house. Has any one heard of a cat for an allergy-prone person that isn't Dr. Evil's hairless wonder cat? anon

Have you thought about getting a rabbit instead? House bunnies can be very affectionate, as well as playful in a non-predatory way. They can also be litter- box trained, and they'll happily consume most fruits and veggies that didn't make it to your table in time (lettuce is not recommended, though!). Quite a few people in your predicament have found no allergies when it comes to bunnies. Check it out, ask around (like at some pet stores). Might be just the ticket. Letitia

I, too, have been around this particular mulberry bush. My kids would LOVE a cat and it would fit with our lifestyle, but I'm allergic. I suggest you put some effort into research before you bring home that kitten and get attached...

You probably already know that most people are allergic to the dried saliva or dander of the cat, and not strictly speaking the fur. Long-haired cats are often the worse trigger for allergies, probably because they either groom more or their fur traps more saliva/dander particles. By the same token, short fur (Cornish Rex) and hairless (Sphynx) cats are thought to be hypoallergenic, but both still produce dander and and groom by licking. Both breeds official clubs caution against assuming that these breeds won't trigger allergies, particularly since both varieties have to be kept inside.

First, you need to go to an allergist and be tested to find out what you are allergic to, and if shots to control it are an option. My insurance (HealthNet) covered the testing. Second, if you are allergic to cat dander or saliva, try and find a breeder or rescue society that will let you 'test drive' a pet. My allergist did caution me that this needs to be a prolonged test (he suggested a month) --which brings you smack up against the whole bonding with kitty thing: I decided that my kids would NEVER let me give the cat back, so that running the test wasn't practical.

But I was really tempted by the Spinxes, since they actually have to be bathed and there seems to be real potential for that to keep the allergens to a minimum.

Mom of two girls, nine fish, a gecko, a snake, and around a dozen show rabbits that live strictly outside-- Chris

If your allergy is to cat FUR, then the hairless variety (which is a real breed) might be a good solution. But most people are allergic to dander, which is in the saliva of pets. As you know, healthy cats groom themselves all the time, so the dander is hard to avoid.

I used to volunteer at the Marin Humane Society. One of the main reasons that people relinquished their pets was because of allergies. If you know that you have an allergy, you probably shouldn't get a cat. It would be very unfair to the cat to be relocated if you decide that the allergies get too bad. Also, some cats enjoy being around people, and it would be a shame to ''banish'' it to another part of the house where it wouldn't get socialized. If you decided to keep the cat outdoors, it would probably contribute to our declining songbird population.

Just my 2 cents. anon.

I, too, am allergic to cats, but when I married a man who owned one, I decided to try to live with it. A few things make it possible:

1. The cat is an indoor/outdoor pet, so we try to keep him outside all day and all night, just inviting him in while we're home. 2. We wash him about weekly -- he doesn't like it, but puts up with it. A kitten will learn to accept it. 3. I try to keep all other allergens low: dust, mold, etc. 4. NO CATS ON THE BED!!!

It worked so well that we got another! It's more difficult at first since a kitten needs to stay inside, but soon she'll be old enough to be outside (wearing her collar with a bell).

The love cats generate in a family makes it worth a try. Good luck! Barbara

We have 2 Burmese cats and I am told they are good for people with allergies. A number of friends with cat allergies have told me that they are not bothered at all by our cats. Additionally, Burmese cats are incredibly friendly (especially males) and both are great with our 16-month-old daughter. The downside is that they are expensive, and you could not confine the cat to one part of the house because they need very much to be with people. Liz O.

I am also terribly allergic to animals, cats especially, but I have successfully lived with my cat for the past 12 years. It seems that long-haired, fluffy cats (like mine) cause me less problems than the short-haired, more shiny-coated cats. This surprised me until I read that, apparently, more of the cat's dander is shed from the shiny, shorthaired variety. Also, I have always removed all carpeting from my home, and lived with only hardwood or linoleum to eliminate as much buildup of dust and dander as possible. It took some getting used to when I first got the cat, and I still wash my hands after I pet her, but my allergies lessened considerably after just a few months of her in the house. Good luck! Elaine

This isn't about cats directly -- but might help with the dander issue if you decide to get one. You might think about getting one or more of the best home air filters, and keeping them running all night, and during the day when you're away (they are a little noisy, so you might turn them off when you get home). My husband has a variety of allergies to stuff in the air. We keep one running in our bedroom, and it really does seem to help him. Karen

This may or may not hold true for you, but some people who are allergic to cats are allergic to certain proteins in the dander, and apparently different cats have different proteins. I know I can't stand to be around some cats (itchy eyes, nose, skin) but can tolerate others much better, and have been able to share a house with them. It has nothing to do with breed. (I knew a veterinarian once who swore she could blood-type cats based on whether or not she itched when she got near them.) Anyhow, if your allergies aren't too severe, you might just try visiting an animal shelter and nuzzling up to various cats (washing up in between) to see if any seem more tolerable than others. The other thing that can help (ask a vet for a supplier) are spray- on cat ''washes'' that help remove the dander. Or brace yourself and give your cat regular baths. Good luck! eli

There is a product called Allerpet, sold in many pet stores, that is supposed to reduce dander on cats. It is a liquid, and you need to gently rub it into the cat's fur (a smallish amount) and then rub the cat down with either a paper towel ... or pet stores often sell grooming gloves ... which you slip on your hand, but has soft, comb-like knobs on the palm.

Some cats who will NOT be bathed will put up with a little Allerpet followed by being groomed by the grooming glove, thus getting the fur and dander onto the glove ... instead of all over the house. It does help. -- Mary Carol

I saw a dry shampoo called Allerpet: But several other websites said it is not more helpful than water. However one had this suggestion: (scroll down to #8) Wipe cat with microfiber cloth. good luck

I read somewhere recently that people who are allergic to cats tend to be more allergic to dark-colored cats and less allergic to lighter-colored cats. I can't remember where I first read this, but I just did a google search for ''Cat allergies'' and there are lots of links, of course, but one of the first that came up was, and he quotes the study as follows:

At the year 2000 annual meeting of the American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology in Seattle an interesting cat- hair study was presented. People with dark-colored cats were 2 to 4 times more likely to experience moderate or severe allergic symptoms than people with no cats or with light-colored cats. There was no statistical difference in these symptoms between those with light-hair cats and those with no cats! I would guess that these results are a reflection of the concentration of cat antigens in the different hair colors: dyeing your cat's hair won't help!

Interesting, and maybe worth a try if you are determined to have a cat. Tracy

Hi, I just read the advice about cat allergies, and the suggestion that light colored cats have less dander (possibly). At least in my (limited) experience, as the mom of 3 long-haired, cream colored Himalayans, all in their teens. If you are allergic, you're allergic. Several of my friends and relatives have had terrible reactions to my cats. The only thing that seems to help (at least a little) is vaccumming thoroughly right before they visit, and removing the cats to another room. God forbid that one of them brushes up against a leg or hops onto a lap! I wouldn't become a cat parent based on color of fur.... My two cents~ Janice

Not all cats produce the same allergens or to the same level. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to tell one mutt w/ high allergen potential from another w/ none, except through exposure to allergic people. Try seeing how you react before you take the cat.

Another, absolutely essential thing to do, if you get a cat w/ any allergenic potential, is to buy a HEPA vacuum cleaner. A regular vacuum cleaner does not have a fine enough filter and the allergens will pass right through, into the air. You may even make the situation worse by vacuuming. HEPA filters, however, will take the allergen out of the air. After vacuuming with a HEPA filter and moving a cat out of the area, an allergic person might not notice a cat had been there, or will only slightly notice. Costco sells the HEPA vacuums. They made an incredible difference for my highly allergic husband when he visited my family which has a cat. Sue

19-month-old is allergic to daycare cat

November 2002

We've just figured out that our 19 month old is allergic to cats (skin itching, rash, coughing, slight wheeze which persist till the next day). We don't have a cat, but her relatively new daycare does. We're currently planning to find a new daycare situation as her symptoms seem to be getting worse, creating sleeping troubles. The daycare providers say they never had a cat-allergic child before. I'm obviously going to check in with our MD, but i'm wondering if anyone has any experience/advice about keeping her in (say with Claritin for awhile) or finding something else ASAP.

Please discuss this with your pediatrician ASAP. Your daughter is probably allergic to cats and it is causing asthma symptoms (wheezing/coughing); this is very serious! I would stop sending her to this daycare immediately. My daughter is allergic to cats and sometimes before we visit people with cats, we give her pediatric Zyrtec which seems to help. If we don't give it to her and she starts to sneeze, we cut our visit short. We also always carry her asthma medication with us. Being allergic to cats is extremely common, but please get a handle on the wheezing before you find yourself making a trip to the ER. also allergic

Is 6 month old allergic to cats?

July 2002

My 6 month old has a dry cough and has been breathing through his mouth for about 3 weeks now. He also seems to have a stuffy nose, although I don't get much out when I suction it, and recently I've noticed dark circles under his eyes which are different from the red eye thing he gets when he's tired. I'm terrified that he's developing an allergy to my 2 cats, who are my babies, too! My pediatrician has said, twice now, that as long as he's acting, eating, and sleeping normally, which he is, I shouldn't worry about it (gettin' a little tired of hearing that, by the way). I've read the sections on the website about pet allergies (at http:// and it wasn't really specific enough for me. Can anybody add anything? Thanks so much, Jill

My (adopted) 19 month old seemed to react similarly to our cats after he arrived here from the orphanage. His raspy breathing when he would sleep in his room (formerly a hang out of the cats) really scared me that he was allergic to my other 3 babies (a.k.a. cats, aged 16, 14 and 14). I'd had them since they were kittens, so needless to say I was pretty concerned with this potential show stopper. There would be a noticeable difference in his breathing anytime we were outside of the house. The good news is that it lasted about 8 weeks, then he seemed to get over it. I should also add that everything else was normal during that period--eating, sleeping, etc. although he also had a bit of puffiness under his eyes that I haven't noticed since. So that was his story-at the time, the pediatrician thought he was perhaps acclimating to our environment and air, etc. And that would indeed appear to have been the case. I wouldn't worry yet-give it a bit more time and then see where the baby is. good luck, J. Roberts

We thought our 1 year old was allergic to our cat, too, because of a raspy cough that lasted months. We took him to an allergy specialist in Walnut Creek and he did the pinprick tests on his back and it turned out he wasn't allergic. Never found out what the cough was, but it went away finally, so it was probably just an infection. Point is, the allergist said that babies who grow up from birth in homes with cats tend to not be allergic to them, and even if they are, your choice may not necessarily be to get rid of the cat. You have to ask yourself, can I solve the problem by getting rid of the cat (or confining to one area of the house or cleaning more often), or is he/she also allergic to dust, grass, etc.? Also, does grandma or aunt or uncle have a cat? Your best friend? You can't control the pet situation in every home you go to, so if you do get your child tested for allergies (I think they can do it at 6 mos even), you may want to opt for the shots as treatment rather than getting rid of the cats. Whitney

I remember reading in a publication that infants actually develop a resistance to cat allergies if they are exposed to cats during their first year. Are you feeding your baby solids yet? Could it be a food allergy? Cold air humidifers during sleep have always seemed to help my son breathe when he is congested. If you are worried that your pediatrician is overlooking something, perhaps you could get a second opinion in the same practice. Good luck! Felicia

Will child develop cat allergy at daycare?

My son is going to another house where we share childcare, where there are cats. She is not allergic to them, but a friend told me that being around cats daily can help develop an allergic reaction to them. Has anyone heard of this? Are there specific conditions where this can happen? Thank you

*IF* you are prone to allergies, and if you are already sensitive to cat dander, then it is possible that being around cats on a regular basis could trigger full-blown allergies to occur. BUT, if you are not allergic to begin with, it's probably not going to happen just because you are suddenly exposed to cats. Many people in the world decide to get a cat, and don't develop allergies. In fact, there is a school of thought that says that the opposite could also happen: If you have cat allergies, and are exposed to cats on a regular basis (every day, without exception), some people can develop a tolerance. I have a friend who knitted a scarf containing her cat's fur to take with her on a trip, so she wouldn't lose this tolerance! This is the same principle that allergy shots are based on: regular exposure over time decreases sensitivity. The key is that you can't be TOO sensitive, or you never improve.

In summary, my $0.02 is that if the child is not already allergy-prone, you shouldn't worry at all. If the child is allergy-prone, you should consult your allergist about it and see if there's anything that you can do to mitigate the exposure. Good luck!

Just as an individual: I grew up with up to five cats in the house from the age of six (a dog before that), and a mother who smoked, but I didn't develop allergic symptoms around the cats until I went away to college. The first trip home, having been away 4.5 months, I started sneezing and watering, and when I stayed at my grandfather's place (where the cats had slept on my bed), I developed an asthma reaction that only cleared when we got into the car to take me to the emergency room. Since that time I have gradually grown less allergic, which is good because I love cats, but if you stapped a cat to my face, I'd still get asthma (just a full-tilt-boogie histamine response -- feels like you can only take air into the very top of your lungs, if that. scary.). The good news is, they do have shots that seem to work, and they are working on developing pills. Until then, I live catless and carry an antihistamine just in case. Works for bee stings, too! :-)

I have heard of a few friends having this, but who's to say they wouldn't have developed these anyway. I have been around cats all my life, and still am, and have no allergies. Cats give great pleasure and children wouldn't worry.

How to treat carpets for cat allergies

Feb. 2002

Anyone know a product that renders the dander from pets harmless to people with cat allergies? Friends of mine had a catalogue with a similar product that they said really worked, but no longer have carpets and don't remember company name. We have guests coming, to our carpeted home with 2 resident cats, and one of them is allergic. idon't want him to suffer while he is here. Any suggestions? Thanks, Jody

Allergy Control Products has products that may meet your needs. They can be reached at elisa

There is a product sold by Gazoontite that is sprayed on carpets. I've not used it. Gazoontite has a web site and a store on Union St. in SF. Barbara