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Allergies: Not Just a People Problem
Watery eyes, sniffling, sneezing, wheezing, itchiness… these are all common allergy symptoms.  But are we talking about your allergies or those of your cat?

One unfortunate trait that humans and felines have in common is susceptibility to allergies.  Whether you are trying to cope with your tendency to sneeze hysterically when you brush your Persian, or his tendency to scratch like crazy at his collar, there are ways to make life easier on both of you.

Allergies in People
Allergies are one of the most common reasons that many people decide against having a cat.  But life with allergies doesn’t have to mean life without feline companionship.  If you already have a cat and suspect from your reactions when you pet him or her that you have allergies, you might try one or all of the following allergen-reducing solutions:

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  1. Groom your cat more frequently.  Try bathing your pet once a week with a mild oatmeal shampoo to lessen the presence of allergy-inducing dander (dried cat saliva).  If your kitty hates the tub, pet stores sell wipe cloths, similar to baby wipes, which will also cut down dander with regular use.
  2. Consider switching from curtains or drapes to mini-blinds.  Curtains grab dust and dander and hold them.  Mini-blinds, or other similar window coverings, are easily cleaned.
  3. Watch out for overstuffed furniture.  Your down-stuffed, comfy-cozy couch might be trapping allergens inside, causing dust mites and dander to fly every time you plop down for a rest.  Unless you don’t mind plastic covers on your furniture, replacing your furniture with less-stuffed models might be a good idea.
  4. Clean your house often.  Regular sweeping, mopping, vacuuming (preferably with a Hepa-filtered vacuum) will reduce the allergen culprits around your house.
  5. Change your furnace filter regularly.  New filters are recommended every month during the winter, but if your allergies seem particularly bad with the house all closed up, try changing them every three weeks.  Hepa filters are also helpful in sifting out dander from the air.

If your allergies are fairly minor, making a few modifications in the way that you groom your pet and keep your house could help relieve your allergy symptoms.  However, if your allergies are causing asthma, check with your doctor to make sure that having cats won’t have serious negative effects on your health.

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Allergies in Cats
There are four main types of allergies that can affect your feline, and they all manifest themselves in different ways. 

  • Contact Allergies: Contact allergies are caused when you have an especially sensitive-skinned cat, and are actually the least common of the four types.  If you notice that your cat seems uncomfortable with his or her flea collar or warm woolly bed, he or she may suffer from contact allergies.   Removing the cause will cure the symptoms.
  • Plastic and Metal Allergies:  Your pet’s food bowl may be causing a type of allergy.  Some cats have reactions to these materials including lesions on the mouth or lips called feline eosinophilic granuloma.  Prevent this type of allergy by tossing the metal and plastic dishes and replacing them with ceramic ones.
  • Inhalant allergies:  Just as with humans, the most common allergens that affect cats are those that are inhaled, such as pollen, mold, mildew and dust mites.  Rather than human-like respiratory difficulties, you will probably notice your cat itching severely in generalized areas.  Follow the same precautions as you would to protect yourself from allergens (changing furnace filters, cleaning, etc.), and talk to your veterinarian if your pet’s problems seem serious.
  • Food allergies: Allergies to food can manifest in several ways, including itching, vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory ailments.  Food allergies can be hard to pin down in cats because they develop over time and are not necessarily reactions based on changes in your cat’s diet.  To solve these problems, isolate the allergen in your cats diet via either trial and error, or with help from your vet.

Most pet allergies can be stopped in their tracks by the removal of the allergy-causing elements from your cat’s diet or environment.  In some cases, a veterinary visit will be necessary, as the administration of cortisone or steroid injections may be needed to relieve itching and respiratory symptoms, or antibiotics to treat a secondary infection.  When in doubt, always talk to your veterinarian.

In both cats and humans, allergies can be a lifelong inconvenience.  Proper treatment of these allergies and simple changes in your routines can make life much easier for both you and your pet.

A sympathetic ear, great listening skills, and boundless affection are all great side benefits of
cat ownership, but your cat may actually be doing more for you than you think,
learn more in our Health Benefits of Cat Ownership article. 

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