Can cats cause asthma in people?

Can cats cause asthma in people?

We know that you love your feline friend but the sad fact is that your cat may be the cause of your asthma attacks. If you aren't ready to find a new home for Kitty just yet, there are a few things you can try to help reduce the cat-related allergens in your home, and possibly reduce the frequency of your asthma attacks. 

What is allergic asthma?

Asthma is a respiratory condition characterized by the narrowing of the airways and production of extra mucus which leads to difficulties breathing. For people who suffer from allergic asthma, attacks are triggered by exposure to various allergens in their environment. Common allergens that can cause asthma include air pollution, cleaning products, dogs and cats. The severity and frequency of asthma attacks can vary greatly from one person to another but symptoms typically include wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing.

What about cats triggers my asthma?

If your asthma attacks are being caused by your feline friend it could be due to exposure to your cat's urine, saliva or dander.

  • Urine - Your cat's urine contains a protein called Felis Domesticus 1 (Fel D1) which can trigger asthma symptoms in some people when inhaled.
  • Saliva - Kitty's saliva also contains Fel D1 as well as another protein called albumin which can be an issue for some people who suffer from asthma. But your cat doesn't have to lick you for you to become exposed, proteins found in your cat's salvia can stick to their skin while grooming, and can be found on fur or dander which can be inhaled.
  • Dander - Dander is your pet's dead skin cells, which can be found on furniture and floating in the air where it can easily be inhaled and cause you to have an asthma attack.

How can I reduce the amount of cat-related allergins in my home?

If you suffer from asthma, having a cat in your home is bound to cause your condition to flare up more frequently than it would if you chose to live pet-free.

That said if you are looking for ways to reduce your asthma symptoms without rehousing your cat, taking the asthma medications prescribed by your doctor is going to be step one. Another key step to living harmoniously with your cat will be to reduce your exposure to cat-related allergens in your home. Here are a few tips on how you may be able to reduce asthma causing allergens in your home:

  • Keep your kitty outside as much as possible when weather permits. Be mindful of very hot, cold or wet weather but allow them to enjoy time outside whenever the weather is nice.
  • Vacuuming frequently may help to reduce the amount of cat hair and dander in your home. Models equipped with a HEPA filter are particularly good at reducing household allergens and may help to reduce the frequency of your asthma attacks. 
  • Bathing your cat can help to significantly reduce dander in your home. We know that many cats hate water, but introducing bathing to your kitty while they are young, can get them used to the process, and some cats even enjoy it.
  • Keeping your cat out of the bedroom may help to prevent dander and other allergens from interfering with your breathing while you sleep. Never let your cat sleep on your bed, or next to you.
  • Wash your bedding frequently to rid sheets and blankets of any allergens that do make their way into your bedroom.
  • Dust your home frequently with a damp cloth to help trap and remove allergens from furniture and other surfaces.
  • Install a HEPA air filter for your home. Air filters can help to reduce allergens and improve the air quality in your home.
  • Resist relaxing with your cat on your lap. If you do allow your cat on your lap, be sure to change and wash your clothes frequently to remove problematic allergens.
  • Wash your hands immediately after petting your cat.

Are there any hypoallergenic cat breeds?

If you are longing for a kitty of your own but suffer from asthma triggered by cats, you may want to consider a hypoallergenic breed. While there is certainly no guarantee that these breeds will prevent your asthma attacks, they have been specially bred to produce less of the problematic Fel D1 protein and could a better choice for you.

Make sure that you spend some time with these cats before committing to owning one. It's best to find out whether or not these cats trigger your asthma attacks before laying down your hard-earned cash, and becoming attached to a pet you may not be able to keep.  Here are a few hypoallergenic cat breeds you may want to consider:

  • Balinese
  • Javanese
  • Devon Rex
  • Siberian
  • Sphynx
  • Russian Blue
  • Cornish Rex
  • Oriental Shorthair
  • Colorpoint Shorthair
  • Laperm
  • Bengal
  • Ocicat

The Bottom Line

The truth of the matter is that even if you love cats, you may not be able to live with one. Nonetheless, in some cases, it may be possible to reduce the allergens you are exposed to so that you can continue to enjoy a loving relationship with your feline friend.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

Do you have a pet in need of urgent care? Contact our emergency vets, or visit our animal emergency hospital at Carolina Veterinary Specialists right away! Our Rock Hill emergency vets are specially trained in emergency medicine and critical care for dogs and cats in need.

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