Owning a cat is truly wonderful. Sure, they can be a little moody and tend to do whatever they want, but they are also super cuddly, sweet, and adorable companions that will always make you smile. Unless, of course, you're allergic to them. In that case, you'll still be smiling, you'll just also be sniffling a whole lot too. Unfortunately, though, many people don't even realize they're allergic to their cat, which is not ideal, so, here are the signs of a cat allergy for the sake of your own health.
Pet allergies are very common: in fact, a third of Americans are allergic to cats and dogs, and allergies to cats are twice as common as allergies to dogs. Allergies are caused by the protein in cat saliva, which ends up on their skin when they, for want of a better phrase, lick themselves. And, again, many people don't even realize they're suffering from this. When you think of someone who is allergic to cats, you might assume that they start sneezing the moment a cat goes near them. These are symptoms of pet allergies, but they certainly aren't the only ones. In fact, “on very rare occasions, people can actually have a severe anaphylactic-type reaction to their kitties,” says Dr. Ashley Randall DVM, owner of the West End Animal Wellness Center in Atlanta, Georgia, so it’s important to be on the lookout for potential triggers.
Plus, in a lot of cases, the symptoms of a pet allergy mimic the signs of any other type of allergy, Dr. Tierra Price DVM, founder of BlackDVM Network, and shelter and emergency vet in Los Angeles, explains to Bustle. This can cause issues due to the fact that the reactions are so similar. “Sometimes, these reactions are missed by people, and they won't necessarily recognize it as an allergy,” says Dr. Randall.
It's easy to overlook some of the symptoms that could easily be explained by something else, especially if you don't want to admit you're allergic to your cat. But having an allergy to pets doesn't mean you can't own one. In fact, Dr. Price says it’s completely fine to live with your cat “if your allergy is mild and you can still go about your daily life.” There are tons of ways to make the experience better, from over-the-country allergy medications to weekly shots from a doctor. Plus, as Nature reported in 2020, the race is absolutely on to “deliver the hypoallergenic cat.”
It’s also important to note that you can develop cat allergies at any time, even if you've never been allergic to anything else before. If you do, it can be a difficult ride when they’re severe, with Nature reporting that cat allergen treatments “cost US$800–1,000 annually, require up to 100 injections over 3–5 years, and are not always permanent or wholly effective.” Interestingly though, a 2018 study in Sweden found that children who had cats and dogs when they were young were far less likely to develop allergies in adulthood, so if you have small children, that’s something.
So, all this is to say: allergies are common and you might have them even if you didn’t have allergies to cats when you were younger. Herewith, the signs and symptoms to look out for.