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      Allergic to cats?

      Cat allergy can be very heartbreaking to a cat lover. Sneezing, tearing eyes, runny nose, sinus headache, skin rash, and other symptoms can be mild and annoying or severe and life threatening. In reality, if the symptoms are very severe and the cause is tested and found to be cats, finding the cat a new home might turn out to be the only solution. However if the symptoms are moderate or mild, there is hope! There are methods to at least minimize the discomforts of allergies and live with a cat, and  immunotherapy offers desensitization from an allergen. 

      Warning signs of allergies
      Symptoms of allergy can take on many forms. Most common are nose symptoms which can include itching, sneezing and congestion. Eye symptoms can include redness, itching, swelling and watering. Throat symptoms include post-nasal drip, itching or hoarseness and the need to clear the throat often. Skin symptoms can involve an itchy rash or hives. Ear symptoms can include itching, plugging or popping in the ear. More serious symptoms involve the lungs. Symptoms with the lungs can include coughing, wheezing, a tightness in the chest, frequent bronchitis and a shortness of breath. Symptoms may be at their worst when grooming the cat, cleaning the litterbox, vacuuming or dusting. They may also be apparent on awakening in the morning if you cat sleeps with you. These symptoms may occur with any allergy, however, so  it is highly recommended that testing be done to determine the cause of the allergy and whether the allergen causing the problem is indeed the cat.
      It may not be the cat at all, but the litter you are using, dust particles cling to the cat. If you are using a specific brand of litter for your cat, try switching brands and washing the cat with a shampoo you KNOW you aren't allergic to. Many people are allergic to the different kinds of perfumes and deodorizers some brands of litter and shampoo use. 

       Unfortunately, some Doctors assume an allergy is a cat allergy if their patient has a cat and has allergic dermatitis or conjunctivitis or asthma. However, this is not always the case and only allergy tests can tell for sure.

      What is cat allergy from?
      Allergies are caused by allergens. The most likely allergen found in cats is in the sebum and is a protein called Fel d 1. Sebum comes from the cat’s sebaceous glands. These are found under the skin and are primarily located around the base of the tail. It is believed that these aid in keeping proper skin and coat condition. This sebum dries and flakes into tiny particles that are similar in size to that of aerosol droplets. Because these particles are so small they can adhere to pretty much anything including, carpet, furniture, walls and clothes. They can easily be moved from one location to the next and are often found in all environments including schools, doctor’s offices and homes that don’t have cats. Fel d 1 can remain in the environment for months and even years after the cat is removed.

      Are there some cat breeds who are less allergic than others?
      There is no scientific data at all to support the concept that one breed is less allergic than another. 

      Researchers studying ways to reduce cat allergenicity found some cats consistently shed lower levels of allergen. Unfortunately, there's no practical way to identify these "hypoallergenic" cats in advance. But an even more important allergy predictor is hormones. It turns out male cats shed substantially greater amounts of allergen than females. A neutered male, on the other hand, sheds significantly less.

      Cat allergen, the allergy causing material from cats, is not cat hair, but rather a protein present in the dander and saliva of cats. These allergens become airborne as microscopic particles, which when inhaled into the nose or lungs can produce allergic symptoms.

      The reason why people can acquire a new pet and not experience any of these symptoms until much later is due to the time required to produce these antibodies. It can take anywhere from three weeks to three years for the body to build up enough of the exact same antibody so that an allergen can cross-link two identical antigens. This cross-linkage is the signal to mast cells to spill their contents, resulting in typical allergy symptoms. 

      Unfortunately, if you are looking to buy a kitten, this doesn't help you very much. All kittens have soft, supple skins. At this early age, an allergic person can probably handle any one of them and not have much, if any, of a reaction. It is as the skin ages and becomes less supple and the sebaceous glands begin to produce more oils (sebum) that allergy problems begin to appear. 


      What can treat an allergy?

      Allergy desensitization shots or immunotherapy are an obvious and very effective way to work around a cat allergy. Immunotherapy will gradually make a person more and more resistant to the allergens. The goal of immunotherapy is to increase the tolerance 10 times. This is one of the most effective treatments because it treats the cause and doesn’t just hide the symptoms.

      What other things can help treat or minimize symptoms in daily life?
      Have your pet spayed or neutered. It has been found that the sebum produced by a cat is highest in unaltered males and lowest in altered males. Having the cat neutered can help reduce this production. Have someone else vacuum the house. Also it may he helpful to have a vacuum with a HEPA filter and by using bags that are extra thick and designed for those that suffer from allergies. It is suggested that you reduce the areas that can trap the allergens. Gradually replacing carpet with hardwood flooring and cover mattresses and pillows with air-tight casings may also ameliorate the problem. Since 1/3 of our life is spent sleeping, keeping the cat out of the bedroom can help excessive exposure. So keep the cat out of your bedroom! An air filtration system will reduce the amount  of allergen recirculated. Air filtration systems can vary in cost but can greatly improve the air that you breathe. Consult your veterinarian about products that you can bathe your cat in to help reduce the allergens. There are also carpet powders now that claim to help reduce the allergens too.

      Treat your other allergies. Few individuals are allergic only to cats. By controlling your allergies to pollens, molds and house dust, their tolerance for cats may improve significantly. People also can have varying degrees of sensitivities to different allergens. When someone is allergic to animal dander and saliva, he's probably also allergic to other substances found in and around the house. Dust, mold, mildew, pollens, flowers, trees, paint, perfume, soaps, cosmetics, and other substances can trigger allergic reactions. Whether a person has symptoms or not depends on how many of these allergens are in his environment at a particular time. 


      Allergies are cumulative. In other words, they build up. Every allergic person has a tolerance level above which an acute reaction takes place. This is often referred to as the "rain barrel" effect. Someone who is allergic to animals, for instance, may have no noticeable symptoms when his total exposure is below his allergy threshold (or the amount of a substance needed to produce a reaction). But collect enough other allergens in the same environment to exceed his allergy threshold limit, his "rain barrel" will overflow and symptoms will pop up. One of the most important goals in controlling allergies to pets is to minimize exposure to other allergens, such as those mentioned above, that trigger attacks. 

      People are not allergic to their pet per se, but to products of their pet. These include dander, hair or skin proteins, fur, saliva, blood, and even urine from rodents. By using a special pet shampoo, designed to reduce the airborne allergens your pet produces on a regular basis, and shampooing regularly, and by taking a few preventive measures to remove or decrease other allergens in the home, an allergy sufferer should be able to reduce many of the sensitivities to his pet.

      It probably goes without saying, but consult your doctor and take your medicine to control the symptoms. There are medications available such as eye drops, antihistamines, and nasal sprays that can help with itching, sneezing and inflammation. A good physician can help you with this problem and refer you to a specialist if necessary. Find out from a physician what your  particular allergens are and try to reduce them in the environment. In order to determine what exactly a person is allergic to, see an allergy specialist. These allergists will perform prick, scratch, or intradermal skin tests that examine reactivity to as many as 70-80 possible allergens. If you are allergic to six things, and can get rid of three of them, you may drop below your child's allergic threshold, and become symptom-free. Your physician may also be able to prescribe medications to lessen the symptoms associated with allergies or give you "allergy shots" to reduce their response to specific allergens. Using air cleaners or filters is not a bad idea, either. 

      While all this may seem discouraging, the good news is that some people can
      develop a lack of reactivity to the allergen following continued exposure (which is the reason allergy shots can work), or  through allergen immunotherapy (desensitization). 

      What do I do if nothing works and I can't keep my cat?
      It is our hope that everyone is aware that if their health precludes keeping their loved furry friend, there are options other than shelters and the streets available as evidenced by the many Rescue groups which are listed on other Feline Rescue pages who will take a cat in in such circumstances. It is unsafe and unfair for any indoor cat to be turned out. As well as the diseases and illnesses that can be caught out of doors, the indoor cat has no experience with outdoor life & so is often unable to defend against cars, animals, and other hazards or to effectively search for food.


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      The Program to help our military men and women have their cats to come home to even if they don't have friends or family that can take their pets when they are called for active duty

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