Many people have the misconception that if they are allergic to cats that it is the cat’s fur that they are allergic to. This is true to a point, except that it’s not the fur that people are allergic to, but rather the protein found in the dried saliva left behind after a cat has groomed him or herself, as well as the cat’s dander (minute flakes of skin) that it sheds under its coat.
This protein is known as feline saliva FEL D-1.
The cat’s dander contains oils (sebum) which help keep the cat’s coat and skin in a good condition. As these minute particles separate from the skin, they become airborne and literally stick to anything – this includes being spread to places where a cat doesn’t even visit. Wool is probably the most popular attractor of these little particles, so if you’re allergic to cats, avoid wearing wool!
So why are some people allergic to this protein and other’s aren’t? Well it’s like most allergens – it depends on the individuals own sensitivity to the allergen, and yes, with cats, not everyone is allergic, but many people are and this can cause huge frustrations in families where beloved cats are pushed to one side and even given up for adoption because a family member’s system is sensitive to FEL D-1.
A person who is allergic to cats will generally experience sneezing (often with a runny nose), asthma, an itchy throat, eyes and nose, watering eyes and sometimes even itchy skin. Personally I am not allergic to cats, but Magic has a habit of suckling (he will literally move from one finger to another on my hand, sucking the tips), but when he gets to my neck I go absolutely crazy with itchy skin. Funnily enough, it doesn’t have the same reaction on my fingers.
Some cats cause less reaction in allergic people than others, such as the Cornish Rex, Devon Tex and Sphinx as they have short hair, or no hair. The theory is that if there is less saliva and less hair, there are less particles floating around in the air for people to be allergic to.
So what do you do if you or a family member is allergic, but has absolutely no intention of finding another home for your beloved feline? Here is a simple trick that I learned many years ago that has saved me and many friends many times: Once or twice a day, take a damp facecloth and rub kitty down from top to bottom. The damp cloth will absorb the dander and dried saliva and prevent it from becoming airborne.
This will HUGELY impact any allergic reactions. Kitty will probably hate you for it, but believe me when I tell you I’ve tried it and it WORKS! I had a family member who was so allergic to cats that he would not visit. I tried the facecloth trick and voila, he was able to stay for an entire weekend without an itch or a sneeze.
– Article posted by Phillipa Mitchell