People with cat allergies react to specific substances that cats produce, such as saliva, skin flakes called dander, or urine.
The substances that cause these reactions are called allergens. A cat allergy can cause symptoms ranging from mild respiratory problems to a life-threatening syndrome called anaphylaxis.
Fast facts about cat allergies:
- Most people experience mild to moderate symptoms.
- Some people who have allergies may be able to live with cats.
- Researchers do not fully understand why some people develop cat allergies and others do not.
Why do people get cat allergies?
Some people who have adverse reactions to cats think that they are allergic to cat hair. It is not hair that causes the reaction though.
Instead, the problem is other substances, such as cat dander, cat urine, cat saliva, and other substances that may attach to a cat’s hair. These substances contain some proteins that can cause allergic reactions.
The symptoms of cat allergies vary depending on the protein someone is allergic to and their exposure to that protein.
The most common symptoms of a cat allergy include:
- an asthma attack in people who have asthma
- respiratory symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or a stuffy nose
- irritated or red eyes
- itchy skin
- a rash on areas of the body that have come into contact with cat allergens
How do you know if you are allergic to cats?
Allergy tests, including blood tests or a skin prick test, can determine whether a person has a cat allergy.
A skin prick test involves placing a tiny amount of common cat allergen just underneath the skin, then waiting for a reaction. Blood tests can test for specific immune substances associated with cat and other allergies.