Cats make great pets, but maybe not if you have asthma. Along with being a common allergen, cats can trigger asthma attacks in some people. Not all people with asthma are triggered by cats, so it’s important to know your triggers.
On the other hand, it’s not likely that cats cause asthma in adults or kids. If you don’t have a history of asthma, getting a cat isn’t going to make you more likely to develop it. And most evidence shows that babies who spend time around cats are less likely to have asthma or cat allergies, not more. To find out more about asthma and cats, keep reading!
What Triggers Asthma Attacks?
Pet-induced asthma attacks usually come from a combination of allergies and asthma that causes your asthma to worsen. This can include difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and coughing. It might also happen along with allergy symptoms like itching, hives, and inflammation.
Usually, cat-induced asthma attacks are triggered by exposure to your cat’s saliva, dander (dead skin), and urine. A protein called Fel D1 is the most common source of cat allergies.
Babies and Cat Exposure
Even though cats can trigger asthma, that doesn’t mean they cause it to develop. In fact, the opposite is true—a study showed that most infants exposed to cat dander were 40% less likely to develop asthma. This has been supported by other studies.
However, there was a twist—in babies whose mothers also had asthma, cat exposure did the opposite, increasing the likelihood that babies developed asthma by age 7. Although there’s still room for questions, this study shows that in a few cases, cats might cause asthma in babies that are already at high risk.
What Are the “Safe” Breeds of Cats for People with Asthma?
Because certain proteins are linked to cat allergies, some breeds of cats are less likely to cause asthma attacks. Here are some breeds that are likely to be safer than others:
Asthma attacks can often be managed through a combination of medication and lifestyle changes that can help you live side-by-side with your cat. This includes taking allergy medication and using an inhaler, but also keeping your home environment as dander-free as possible. Air filters, frequent vacuuming, bathing your cat, changing clothes after snuggles, and keeping cat-free areas (such as your bedroom) can all help you manage asthma as a pet owner.
If you have asthma, cats might not be the best choice of pet for you. It’s important to make sure that you and your cat are both safe and healthy in your home, which might mean putting your asthma first. But that isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Some people with asthma have no cat allergies. And if your symptoms around cats are mild, then making some accommodations can let you keep your cat without risking your health.
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