Living with a cat allergy

February 26th, 2004

I’ve always loved cats. I like their killer instinct and (in the big cat variety) the fact that they are at the top of the food chain. They hunt and they please themselves. Their independent nature makes them ideal pets with much lower maintenance than the domestic dog. As we all know, unlike dogs, they can take or leave their owners rolling bits of fluff at them and would happily scratch your eyes out if you pulled their tail once too often. Indeed I’d love a cat of my own to observe and stroke and tease with a ball of string. Unfortunately this will never be a reality as I’m utterly allergic to the moggy.

It’s not actually the cat itself that I’m allergic to, infact nobody is. It’s the saliva that they use to clean themselves with. This saliva dries and leaves behind a protein antigen that some humans are allergic to. In my case this involves me coming out in a rash and losing the ability to breathe. You’d have thought that the solution would be to remove the cat from the home when I’m in the area but this saliva becomes airborne and manages to get itself ground into carpets, furniture and clothes and stays there unless a pretty good cleaner removes any trace of the stuff.

Patients allergic to cats are allergic to the cat’s saliva. However, typical allergic symptoms are not as a result of coming in direct contact with the cat’s saliva. Instead, when the cat grooms itself by licking its fur and skin, it deposits its saliva on the fur. The saliva dries, leaving behind the protein antigen that is the source of allergy to cats. These allergens (cat saliva antigens) are very lightweight and are easily aerosolized. Once airborne, the antigen can spread to clothes, furniture, carpeting, or any other household item. Some people suggest washing the cat on a weekly basis – yeah right, you ever tried doing that with your arms remaining scar-free? No chance. Others recommend taking anti-histamines and such like (which I do if visiting somebody with cats for a cup of tea) but they wear off after a while. There are apparently ways to get immunised but I’m not overly familiar with them.

Anyway, my allergy prevents me from taking a trip down to London for some design training as the trainers train from their cat-infested home. The good news is that I’m 100% not allergic to dogs. And I really love dogs – much more than cats.

Let me know if you’ve found an effective way of living with a cat (or any other) allergy…

More about pet allergies


One Response to “Living with a cat allergy”

  1. Shay

    More of a dog man myself, would love to get one in the future.

    Anyway, your post reminded me of a quote by Winston Churchill along the lines of…Cats look down at humans, dogs look up at humans but pigs see you as their equal.