What Are Cat Allergies
Allergies rank sixth in cost in the list of chronic ailments in the United States, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. More the half the nation has one or more allergies. Cats are wonderful pets but can be the reason for a lot of misery. 10-15% of the population have pet allergies with
being twice more prevalent. Nearly 40% of asthmatics are sensitive to cats.
There are five known allergens obtained from cats. The triggers are mostly derived from their saliva and sebaceous glands. The allergens are basically glycoproteins. The two major allergens are Fel d 1, a secretoglobin and Fel d 4, a lipocalin. The other minor allergens are Fel d 2, an albumin, Fel d 3, a cystatin and antibodies known as IgA. These allergens are also deposited in the cat dander (dried skin particles) and can be found in urine, saliva, skin and anal sebaceous glands.
Experts explain, â€œThe protein â€œFel d 1â€³ is produced in the cat salivary glands and sebaceous glands of the skin. Cats are fastidious groomers, so they deposit the Fel d 1 protein on their fur by licking themselves. Individual cats may produce more or less allergen; there is no relationship between the petâ€™s hair length and allergen production, and no such thing as a non-allergic breed. Male cats are more allergic than female cats, because testerone increases Fel d 1 production by the sebaceous glands.â€
It is very rare that someone gets cured of allergies. In some individuals, the symptoms recede with age. But the threat remains and the allergies can always recur.
Mechanism behind the allergy caused by cats
Allergies are basically an auto immune response of the body to certain proteins, in this case, the glycoproteins mentioned above. Some individuals have a hypersensitive immune system and react to proteins as if they were some bacteria or virus meant to cause harm. The immune system has certain regulatory T cells. The function of the T cells is to suppress the immune system and prevent it from reacting to these harmless antigens or proteins. The reaction of the immune system to these proteins causes an imbalance in the regulatory T cells. These T cells fail to prevent the overactive immune system from manifesting adverse reactions.
Besides this, in response to the proteins the immune system produces a force of antibodies to fight the allergen. These antibodies are called the Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. They react and bind with the proteins and causes the mast cells to release histamine. Histamine is the chemical which causes the adverse physical reactions like itching, inflammation, breathlessness etc. It dilates the blood vessels and causes the walls of the blood vessels to become permeable eablig leakage of fluids. This results in irritating nerve endings and causes superficial skin reactions.
Symptoms of Cat Allergies
The symptoms from the said allergy are as follows:
- Red, itchy and watery eyes.
- Nasal congestion.
- Runny nose and constant irritation of the nasal passage.
- Uncontrolled sneezing.
- Nasal drip at the back of the throat.
- Itchy throat and coughing.
- Shortness of breath or wheezing.
- Angioedema or swelling in body parts.
- Red, itchy and inflamed skin as in hives or urticaria.
- In rare situations, anaphylaxis can occur. A sudden congestion, drop in blood pressure, wheezing, confusion and loss of consciousness can happen.
- Symptoms worsen on being directly exposed to the animal.
Why is allergy caused by cats the most prevalent among all pet allergies?
The release of the said allergens by cats is hormonal in nature. These allergens are discharged in large amounts by male cats which are not neutered. The dander or flakes of dried skin are constantly airborne and enters the body as it is inhaled. They are sticky and can be present from any previous exposure to cats long after the actual cats are gone. They are extremely small sized particles and can easily enter deep into the lungs through the airways. Cat dander is one of the foremost allergens as far as asthma is concerned.
- The symptoms can be greatly reduced by taking antihistamines. Antihistamines are available over the counter like allegra, Claritin etc.
- Several other alternatives like herbal remedies, acupressure, acupuncture, hypnosis and aromatherapy can aid in curing the said allergy.
- Allergen Immunotherapy or getting vaccines is a good option. In this therapy, small amounts of the allergen are gradually administered until immunological tolerance sets in.
Preventive Measures for Cat Allergies
- You must make sure your cat is neutered.
- Do not pet them often. Wear mask while petting them.
- Wash hands well after petting them.
- Give them a bath everyday. Use a wet wipe several times a day to remove the collected pet dander and hair.
- Keep them away from the bed and bed room.
- Confine them to a particular area in the house.
- Brush your cat always outside the house preferably in a space away from the living room.
- As the allergens from cat always get air borne, it is important to use a HEPA enabled air purifier.