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Cat Allergies

Posted by Harry Shubin on

In our last newsletter, we mentioned the #1 reason cats are turned into shelters – litter box avoidance. (More on that in upcoming newsletters.) The #2 reason that cats are given up to shelters is allergies. There are a lot of myths surrounding allergies to felines, so perhaps it’s time for a pop quiz. Please use a #2 pencil, and fill in the circles completely…

True or False:

  • Long haired cats are more likely to cause allergies
  • If you’re allergic to cats, you should look for a hypoallergenic breed of cat
  • If you’re allergic to cats, you’re allergic to all cats
  • If you’re allergic to cats, you have to get rid of your cat

If you answered “False” to each of the above, congratulations – you won’t need that box of tissue!

Contrary to popular rumor, it’s not the cat fur itself to which you’re allergic – it’s a protein in the cat’s saliva. Of course, if a longhaired cat grooms more, then more saliva is produced, but not all fluffy cats groom the same amount, and helping your cat with the task with regular brushing can reduce the amount of time Fluffy spends licking herself. While some breeds are touted as “hypoallergenic”, the fact is that while some cats produce more or less of the protein in their saliva that causes the allergies, no one has done an empirical study to see whether the production of the protein is breed-specific, and maintained consistently across a large number of cats of the same breed. Because the amount of the protein seems to vary from cat to cat, you can be allergic on one cat, and not to another.

If you are sensitive to cat allergens, there is actually a lot that you can do to manage to coexist with a cat, and often avoid having to rehome kitty. Author and cat blogger Ingrid King addresses these solutions in her blog, The Conscious Cat, and gives helpful tips:


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