Cat allergy is the most common of pet allergies. The cat allergen is produced within the salivary and sebaceous glands, and as a result found mainly in cat saliva and skin flakes. As fastidious groomers, cats deposit the allergen on their fur when licking themselves. The cat allergen binds itself to hairs, dust particles and around the home. The allergens become airborne as microscopic particles which when inhaled into the nose or lungs, can produce allergic symptoms. As all cats have sebaceous glands, all breeds of cat can potentially cause allergies (ASCIA, 2010).
The cat allergen is pervasive and can remain within soft furnishings, such as carpets, lounges and mattresses even after a cat has been removed from the home. Cat allergens can persist within carpets for up to 6 months, and mattresses up to 5 years.
Manifestations of Cat Allergy
- Immediate symptoms of allergic rhinitis such as sneezing, runny nose, blocked nose or wheezing upon entering a room containing a cat.
– Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis such as watery, itchy eyes upon entering a room containing a cat.
– An urticarial rash (red, itchy and swollen) at the site where the individual has come into contact with the cat fur or saliva.
– Worsening of atopic eczema
– Perennial rhinitis
How is Cat Allergy diagnosed?
- Skin Prick Allergy Testing
– Cat-allergen specific RAST (radioallergosorbent testing) blood test
What can be done to avoid exposure to the Cat Allergen?
- Daily grooming of the cat to remove loose hair and dander.
– Bathing of the cat weekly to remove the surface allergen.
– Avoid fleas/mites that may cause the cat to scratch as this is where dander comes from
– Restrict the cat to as few rooms in the house as possible, preferably without carpet.
– Ensure the house is well ventilated b opening windows and utilising an exhaust fan, to encourage air exchange and decrease airborne allergen.
– Wash hands and change clothing after contact with the cat.
– Wear a facemask when brushing the cat, cleaning or changing the litter tray.
What can be done to treat Cat Allergy?
- Minimise exposure to cats.
– The administration of non-sedating anti-histamines prior to visiting homes with cats.
– Immunotherapy to reduce sensitivity to cats.
Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy [ASCIA]. 2010. Pet allergy. Accessed August 17, 2015, http://www.allergy.org.au/images/stories/aer/infobulletins/2010pdf/AER_Pet_Allergy.pdf