Can You Live With A Cat If You Are Allergic

If you’ve ever despaired about not being able to own a cat because you have cat allergies, then fear not and read on, because I will tell you from my experience that it is possible to live with a cat even if you have allergies.

I was never allergic to cats growing up, but in the last couple of years, my body has been reacting horribly when I’m at home. I think the source is hay fever but the fact that I live with indoor cats in an apartment exacerbates the allergic reaction. Sometimes I would go weeks where I wake up with my face like a puffer fish and I sneeze uncontrollably all day long unless I take antihistamines.

That’s not all. My sister is extremely allergic to cats. But she absolutely adores them. She is a proud cat  aunty to my cats, Nala and Charlie. But whenever she visits, she has to take allergy medicine otherwise it is complete torture for her.

So, imagine her worry when I moved in with her for a few months with the cats. We had to do a lot of research and try different methods to make sure that she wouldn’t be breaking out into hives and her nose wouldn’t be a snot waterfall.

These are some of the methods to help reduce your allergic reaction.

Some methods worked, some methods did not. I presume what works and what doesn’t will be different for other people, but below is a collection of what I did to remove as much cat dander as possible to prevent allergic reactions.

In fact, my sister is considering getting a cat of her own now, so I’m partly writing this for her so she can follow these methods to keep her cat allergies at bay when she adopts a cat in the future.

How to live with a cat if you have allergies

What Causes Cat Allergies?

Most people who are allergic to cats think that it’s due to the cat hair. That’s why some people get hairless cats to avoid allergic reaction (like the hairless cat that Rachel pawns off to Gunther in Friends). But that won’t solve the cat allergy mystery, because what is actually causing the allergy is the protein carried in the cat’s saliva, dander, and urine.

I once read a news article years back about how this lady became blind in one eye because her cat licked her eyeball.

Saliva and urine are pretty straightforward. Dander, however, is worth an explanation. Cat dander is basically flakey dead skin.

Knowing the root cause of these allergies, you can now go into battle armed with the right tools to fight it. Now let’s get into the meat of this article, which helped my sister live with my cats even though she is allergic to them.

how to live with a cat if you have allergies

Cat Dander Remover

My vet said it’s a good idea to give cats a bath regularly but not too frequently. For most people, this is like giving yourself a lashing, only with sharp claws at the end of the whip.

Giving your cat a bath helps prevent dander (i.e. dry flakey skin) because you’re moisturizing the skin.

The problem with giving your cat a bath is that you don’t do it often (I give my cats a bath about once or twice a year), so it doesn’t really solve the dander problem throughout the year. And also as we established, cats hate it and you’ll hate it too because the cats will take it out on you.

So, the more effective way is to clean your cat regularly (a few times a week) using wipes or spray specially designed for cats to moisturize their skin and remove dander. 

Air Purifier For Cat Dander

As you can imagine, there are many many air purifiers on the market. If you have cat allergies but you want to live with a cat (or you have no choice), then an air purifier that works well for picking up cat dander is essential.

Get an air purifier with a HEPA filter 99.7% which traps microns as small as 0.3 microns. 

I have the air purifier on pretty much 24/7. I let it rest sometimes for a few hours every few days and then turn it back on again. This is one of the best ways to help reduce dander, and hence, allergic reaction from cats.

Cat Breeds That Produce Less Dander

Even with all this technological advancement, scientists haven’t produced a genetically modified cat that is hypo-allergenic. I am against that anyway, because what about all the regular cats in shelters that need loving homes?

But there are cat breeds that produce less Fel d1 and Fel d4 proteins found in the dander that are the culprits in causing allergic reactions for humans.

There are about 8 breeds that are less allergic reaction prone for humans. Although that’s a pretty slim selection, they are a wide variety in terms of appearance and personality, so you can find the breed that suits your personality the most. But I mean, they’re cats, so if you’re a cat lover, any cat breed should melt your heart.

My favorite of these cat breeds is the Russian Blue, not only because they are beautiful but also because they love to cuddle.

Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)

If you’re a go big or go home kind of person, you might want to try immunotherapy. I have not tried this but if my body becomes allergic to cats, then this is one avenue I will definitely explore.

It is costly, but compared to how much you might end up spending if you took an allergy med everyday, immunotherapy might be more cost effective.

The other thing to consider is that it’s quite time intensive. You have to go into the doctor’s office, and after getting the shot, you have to wait an hour to make sure your body doesn’t react horribly to the shot.

And it’s not just a one time visit to the doctor. Read about whether immunotherapy is for you

Vacuum Pet Hair Everyday

Get a vacuum that has HEPA filter 99.9% which traps cat hair and dander. I don’t vacuum everyday but about twice a week.

Don’t just vacuum the floor though. Make sure to get one that has an accessory attachment to trap cat hair and dander on furniture. 

best vacuum for pet hair shark

Change the Cat Litter Often

Urine is one culprit of allergic reactions. This is another reason why I have my air purifier on by the litter box continuously. Whenever I’m scooping the pee or poop or changing the litter, my nose starts running like a waterfall. That’s how I know that urine does have trigger my cat allergy.

I scoop the litter everyday and I change the litter every 5 days or so. This has helped a lot in keeping the air in my apartment clean. I’m always trying to improve the ease of replacing litter. My current method is probably the easiest so far, but I’ll keep looking for ways to make this process easier.

Best Allergy Medicine For Cat Allergies

I’m not a pharmacist or a doctor, so I can’t say what works for your body and what doesn’t, but the over the counter allergy medication that works for me the best is Zyrtec D. Zyrtec without the D is available on the shelves and but for me, it leaves my nostrils so dry and I can’t breathe. So I have to get the more expensive one, which is Zyrtec D, that doesn’t need a prescription but is behind the pharmacist’s counter.

The medical drug in it is called CETIRIZINE; PSEUDOEPHEDRINE.

There are variations of Zyrtec D. At CVS, they don’t have a clever name for its own brand of it. At Walgreens, they call it Walzyr D.

For my sister, Zyrtec D doesn’t work for her for some reason. Allegra works the best for her. Benadryl also doesn’t work for her. For me, Allegra sometimes works but not as well as Zyrtec D.

Feed Your Cat Omega-3 Fish Oil

This is a nifty trick I learned after I moved to the cold winter climate. When I was doing research to help get rid of all the dander white flakes I saw on my poor babies, Charlie & Nala, my vet told me to feed them some Omega-3.

The omega-3 or fish oil helps your cats produce more oil and hence their skin is more moisturized and flakes the dander less.

I puncture one capsule of fish oil per day per cat and mix it in their wet food for dinner everyday.

Designate a Cat-Free Room

This, I have a hard time with, because well, I only have one room. It’s just the open space kitchen connected to a living room and the bedroom. So when my cats are pawing at the door to my bedroom to be let in, I always cave.

But if you do have a house with multiple rooms, I would highly recommend having a room that is a cat-free zone. This gives your nostrils a break when your immune systems down and histamines are up.

Brush Your Cat Regularly

Even if you don’t use a dander-removing spray/foam or wipe as mentioned above, it’s good to brush your cat regularly with a de-shedding tool and a wire brush.

The massaging of the brush on your cat’s skin promotes the oil glands to produce oil.

Again, this helps with removing dander and therefore leaves the air in your home with less cat dander, which helps with less allergic reaction.

how to live with a cat if you have allergies brush hair

Summary

I hope you found this article helpful. I’ve been through the worst of it when I can’t stop sneezing uncontrollably and every opening on my face becomes a niagara falls. It is the most annoyingly helpless thing when your body attacks itself to fight off allergens. It’s even more annoying when that culprit causing the allergic reaction is your beloved cat!

I am a firm believer that you don’t have to let your allergies to cats stop you from having a furry cat friend in your home. As the famous playwright and artist, Jean Cocteau, once said, “I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” In other words, the cat embodies the soul of your home.

Start with one or two of the methods above on how to live with a cat if you have allergies. Stick with that method for a while and introduce another. Otherwise it will all be too overwhelming.

Thanks for reading and good luck.