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Allergic To Cat Dander? We Have News For You!

As an asthma educator, I have people ask me if they can have a cat if they have asthma. Well, it’s not up to me to tell people what to do. Sometimes parents want me to tell them “no” in front of their kids so they don’t have to get a pet!

Not everyone with asthma is allergic to cat dander

Everyone with asthma is different. Some have allergies that trigger asthma attacks and some lucky people don’t have ANY allergies. I’m not sure what that would even be like!

My family of 5 all have allergies and my 3 kids endured allergy shots for 5 years. We buy allergy pills, allergy nose spray, and boxes of tissues at the warehouse store (seriously – we buy in bulk!).

We’re in good company. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) says the majority of people with asthma also have allergies.1

  • 60-80% of kids with asthma also have allergies
  • 65-75% of adults with asthma have allergies1

Cat dander allergies are different

I have a friend with asthma who wanted a dog (and her dog IS adorable, who could resist him?!) so she had years of allergy shots so she could get a dog.

However, cat dander is smaller and “stickier” than dog dander. So, people may have more sneezing, runny noses, and more itchy and watery eyes around cats.

New research

Researchers are trying a new approach to battle cat dander allergies. Some people are afraid to get allergy shots (I get it – some people hate needles). Others can’t afford allergy shots.

The new research is aimed at the source – cats!2 If you are a cat lady, you know how cats carefully groom themselves. And that’s where the problem comes in. There is a protein in their saliva and sebaceous glands that people are allergic to, called Fel d1. Cats transfer it to their fur when they lick themselves (so if you pet your cat after that, you are getting a nose full of the allergy-producing protein). It also dries out on their fur and can become airborne and cause allergies when you breathe it in.2

Fel d1 also comes out in the cat’s urine, which you can be exposed to when you empty the litter box.2

A trial is underway to see if giving the cat an antibody in their cat food could neutralize the Fel d1. In the study, 105 cats were fed a special cat food with the antibody in the food. Their Fel d1 protein dropped by 47%!2

How does this affect people with a cat dander allergy?

So, what does this mean for people? Does it really reduce allergy symptoms? Well, the study didn’t have a large sample size (only 11 people), but the results were that those people had fewer allergy symptoms (scratchy and itchy eyes, and nasal problems). And the study was paid for by a cat food company… so keep that in mind. The cat food isn’t available yet as more research is needed.

Why not give the antibody to people instead of cats? Or instead of allergy shots? Because humans will break the antibody down in their digestive system. So, we are back to the source – cats.

This may be more helpful to those who are mildly allergic to cat dander. And even though the Fel d1 is cut in half, it still may not help some people. There are those who can’t tolerate ANY cat dander.

But, cat people with allergies and asthma – there may be hope out there one day!

Poll

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Have asthma? You likely have an allergy as well. https://acaai.org/news/have-asthma-you-likely-have-allergy-well. Accessed October 2019.
  2. Engelhaupt E. Giving cats food with an antibody may help people with cat allergies. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/giving-cats-food-antibody-may-help-people-cat-allergies. Accessed October 2019.

Comments

  • WandaDonhamRRT-NPS
    3 months ago

    I have asthma and growing up I was never allowed to have cats because my parents assumed I was allergic to cats regardless of negative allergy tests. So, 17 years ago, I became a cat lady and I cannot imagine my life without my cats. I hope that a solution for cat allergies is found because even though I am not affected by cat dander allergies, two of my three daughters are. I would love for them to enjoy the fur babies without the sneezes, scratchy throat, and watery eyes.

  • Andrea M Jensen, CHES (R), AE-C author
    3 months ago

    Wanda, I had cats when I was little and we recently inherited two cats from our neighbors (or should I say the cats decided to move into our house!) I’m so glad you are a fellow cat lady. I can pet my cat a little, but have to quickly wash my hands. I also can’t hold him, but that’s okay. I am seriously considering buying the cat food when it comes out! Good luck to your daughters!

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Loved this article, Andrea! I’m a cat lover with asthma and allergies – enough of one that I too endured years of allergy shots so that I could have a cat in the house. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason, as I was allergic to every other living organism as well (or so it seemed). I now have two cats and a dog.
    That route is not for everyone, as you pointed out. But, for me it’s worked well.
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Andrea M Jensen, CHES (R), AE-C author
    3 months ago

    Lyn, I admit it – I’m a cat lady. Our neighbor’s cats decided they liked our house better than the neighbor’s and just sort of moved in! I don’t have any grand kids (yet), so he’s our grand kitty. I just can’t help it!

  • Shellzoo
    4 months ago

    I love cats but their dander does not love me. I visit them at the pet store where they have rescue cats. Usually I am ok unless exposed to extreme amounts of cat dander but not worth taking chances. Feeling like your lungs are being squeezed shut is not worth it. I get shots for my dog and since the dog thinks she is a cat, I guess I get a little cat time that way too.

  • Andrea M Jensen, CHES (R), AE-C author
    3 months ago

    Sounds like your dog is a character! Is she aloof and ignores you like a cat? I’m glad you found a furry companion you can tolerate! 🙂

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