Cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies, and the reactions can be particularly violent because of the nature of the allergen. Cat dander (microcopic pieces of dead skin) is one of the smallest environmental allergens. It's very light, so it can float in the air for hours at a time - and it's very sticky, so it clings to various surfaces and gets transported everywhere.P. Cade McDonald founded AchooAllergy.com in 2000. At the time, he was dating his wife Ali, who has two cats.
"I'm violently allergic to cats," says Cade, "so we had to find solutions to basic problems like How are we going to have dinner together at her house? ... The first time I went over to Ali's for dinner, I just exploded with allergy symptoms. I got really sick... That's when I started researching allergen avoidance, environmental control, and allergy relief products."
"I had both of my cats when we started dating," says Ali, "and he was nice enough to not ask me to get rid of them." Cade says he never asked Ali to get rid of the cats because he knows "she's so emotionally attached to them."
Once Cade and Ali got married, however, they had to work hard to allergy-proof their new home.
"I think the most important thing is to have cat-free areas like the bedrooms," says Ali. "The cats are never, ever allowed in the bedroom," stress Cade. "And never, ever in the bed." In fact, at the McDonald household, the cats have their own little room downstairs where they spend most of their time.
Indoor air quality is an important factor for anyone who suffers from environmental allergies. "We have an air purifier in every room of our house and two in the bedroom" says Ali.
Frequent dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning help eliminate allergens. "I love my Miele handheld turbobrush," says Ali. "It's great for getting the cat hair off furniture." The Pet Brush Vacuum Attachment is another favorite item among cat owners. The McDonalds also have leather furniture and other non-fabric furniture that can be easily wiped off. The Pet Hair Lifter specialty sponge makes wiping away cat hair effortless.
It's also important to frequently groom the cats. "I use Ecology Works Anti-Allergen Pet Shampoo," says Ali. "It's a good pet shampoo. It has a pleasant smell, and it's gentle on their coats; they feel very soft." achoo! ALLERGY also offers Allerpet/C for Cats and Quick Bath Cleansing Wipes for Cats.
Stains and odors can also be problems for cat owners. For odors, Ali recommends the Naturally Fresh Pet Crystal and the Gonzo Pet Odor Eliminator. Some air purifiers, like the Austin Air Pet Machine, also help with odors. For stains, try Gonzo Pet Stain Remover Wipes and Spot and Stain Remover Carpet Spray.
Another major method of avoiding cat allergens is to avoid direct contact with the animals. "I try not to pet them," says Cade. "Even if I pet them and wash my hands right afterwards, I still experience symptoms."
Cade also gave himself allergy shots for a long time. "I think the shots helped," recalls Ali, "but they were cumbersome, painful at times, and expensive."
Cade has been allergic to cats since he was a child. In second grade, he car-pooled with a math teacher who had a cat. "We didn't know why at the time," remembers Cade, "but every morning, I got the sniffles. I literally ate those red pseudofeds everyday after school."
Nowadays, Cade doesn't have any problems with his family's pets. "They don't bother me now because my exposure to cat allergen is so limited," says Cade.
"I've got a lot of dog allergy stories for you, too, " continues Cade - but we'll have to save those for another newsletter.
See our Pet Allergy FAQ for more information about pet allergies.