It’s not great being a cat lover and having cat allergies! Is there someone you can blame? Can allergies develop after you’ve brought home a cat? We answer these questions for you to the best of our abilities. We also talk about how to manage your allergies, since the last thing that you want to do is give up your beloved kitty!
Are Cat Allergies Genetic?
To some degree, they are. Experts have said that if you have allergies, there is a chance that they could be passed on to your children, but this isn’t a guarantee. It is more of a 50% chance. However, if both parents have cat allergies, the odds that your children will inherit these allergies go up to a 75% chance. So you can inherit a genetic predisposition to cat allergies and then become sensitised at any point in your life.
Other predispositions to allergies come from things like pollution, respiratory infections, your environment, diet.
Allergies can affect people of all ages at any point in their lives, and many people often also have other allergies to molds or pollen. In fact, about 10% to 20% of the world’s population is allergic to cats and dogs.
Ultimately, you are more likely to develop an allergy to cats if someone in your family is also allergic.
What Are People Actually Allergic To?
Some people have often believed that they are allergic to cat fur, but in fact, it’s primarily cat dander (dried flakes of skin), the proteins found in their saliva, and their urine. There have so far been 10 cat allergens identified that people can be sensitised to but FEL D 1 is the most common.
Of course, all these substances, particularly the fur and dander, can attach themselves to clothing, bedding, and furniture and float through the air. Living with allergy symptoms when you’re constantly surrounded by these floating particles can be rough!
What Are the Symptoms of Cat Allergies?
Symptoms of cat allergies can range from mild to severe. These can include:
Your symptoms will improve when you’re separated from the cat for a few days to weeks. Some people might also have asthma and seem to have more colds than usual instead of the more traditional allergy symptoms.
You should definitely see your doctor if your symptoms are hard to live with, like having trouble breathing.
Are There Hypoallergenic Cats?
Since allergies are triggered by the proteins in dander, saliva, and urine, it’s practically impossible to find cats that make Fel d1.
Cats that don’t shed as much or are hairless doesn’t make them hypoallergenic, but they might be easier to live with for allergy sufferers. Such breeds include:
Remember that while one of these cats might make living with them easier for an allergy sufferer, it won’t mean they’ll be allergy-free. The amount of Fel d1 produced by a cat has been shown to fluctuate over the course of a year and with time, with older cats producing less. So testing a cat’s Fel d1 levels as a once off is not likely to give a true reflection of what will happen over time.
Scientists working with gene editing tools CRISPR have had success in deleting the genes coding for Fel d1 and so in the future if may be possible to breed cats that produce no Fel d 1.
What Are the Best Ways to Deal With Cat Allergies?
Nothing can prevent all allergy symptoms. Still, you can lessen them to a degree and make them easier to live with. The following tips might help:
Some of these steps can help alleviate or lessen your cat allergies, but what if we could make our cats less likely to cause an allergic reaction?
Treating the Cat
Some scientific breakthroughs include treating the cat so the active allergen-causing problem is neutralized. This means as the allergy sufferer, you won’t have to worry so much about purchasing medications or HEPA purifiers.
A Swiss study from 2019 found that a specific vaccine created for just this purpose, when administered to cats, bound to and neutralized the Fel d 1 protein that causes allergies. The vaccine has been called HypoCat, and when cats are injected with it, the Fel d 1 levels are found to be lower in their blood. The plan is to have this vaccine on the market sometime this year. The study found that people allergic to cats showed fewer symptoms around cats vaccinated with HypoCat.
Purina has also published a study where they have looked into neutralizing cat allergens through diet rather than a vaccine.
It uses a specific kind of egg product designed to reduce the Fel d 1 cat allergen. Purina has since produced the food as LiveClear, which states that 47% of cat allergens are reduced after 3 weeks of feeding.
These are just a few options that you can consider, as they work on the actual root of the problem. Maybe a combination of treating your cat and yourself will make living with a cat conceivable!
Conclusion: Genetic Cat Allergies
There’s no question that being a cat lover but also being allergic to them is a bitter pill to swallow. Unfortunately, if your allergy symptoms are severe, particularly if they are complicated by asthma, your best bet is to live without cats. It can be sad, but your health is definitely more important.
But there are products available and designed to reduce the allergens and lessen your own allergy symptoms. Speak to your doctor about all your options, and consider speaking to a vet. The combination of both worlds might give you the perfect solution and eventually, the perfect cat!
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Featured Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock