This may come as a shock. As a Certified Feline Master Groomer, the labs in the allergy laboratories in the U.S. will pay me $140 CAD for each pound of dirty cat hair. Amazing. Why? Because cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies. Cat hair is a reliable source because it is dirty and full of allergens.
An estimated 10 percent of people are allergic to household pets and among children, one in seven are allergic to Tiger, not Rover. Yet cats are the most popular house-pet in Canada.
Popular belief is that it is the fur causing the watery, itchy eyes.
Most people are reacting to proteins found on the cat's skin and fur. The There are actually five cat allergens described in medical literature, but the primary culprits are Fel d 1, and Fel d 4. Laboratory gold. Both allergens are produced largely by cat saliva and the sebaceous glands. Fel d 1 is also produced by cat skin itself. So it's not about the dander the cat sheds, it's about the size and shape of the protein molecules.
Cat protein molecules are tiny, about one-tenth the size of a dust allergen. From the cat's hair and skin it enters the air and can stay airborne for hours. It's sticky too. It readily sticks to human skin and clothes and stays there, making it ever-present in the environment. It's been found in environments where there are no cats - classrooms, medical offices, even the Arctic.
All cats produce the proteins. While there are no true hypoallergenic breeds, there are some cats that produce more protein than others, especially unneutered male cats.
Here are some recommended steps offered by the professional allergist community that you can take to reduce cat allergy suffering: removal of soft surfaces in the home (carpet, furniture), frequent washings of bed linens, HEPA filters and washing cats has been proven to reduce the amounts of Fel d 1 present in the home. That's right, w-a-s-h-i-n-g, with soap. Not combing, not shaving, not wipes, not "waterless" bath sprays. An actual regular bath.
Allergy shots are another option. Small injections on a weekly basis for six months, followed by three to five years of monthly injections. A less troublesome option may be on the horizon as clinical trials are beginning for a cat allergy vaccine that has shown promise for suffers.
In the meantime, simply washing the cat regularly will dramatically help reducing the allergens in your home, making it much more comfortable for everyone, with a glorious, fresh, silky soft puss as a plus. Love your cat, and bathe it regularly.
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