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What should we focus on when choosing a cat for an allergy sufferer?

What should we focus on when choosing a cat for an allergy sufferer?

Even as much as 10% of the population might be suffering from pet allergies. Cat allergy is, by far, the strongest and the most common of them all – that is also why there are so many studies concerning the issue. While the symptoms of allergy may be bothersome, it usually isn’t enough to stop us from wishing for some four-legged, furry friend. Is it possible for an allergy sufferer to have a cat? How should we manage allergy symptoms? Is there actually a hypoallergic cat breed?

What are the symptoms of cat allergy?

Cat allergy takes many shapes and forms, usually bringing about respiratory problems such as runny nose, sneezing, itchy throat or breathing difficulties. Itchy or watery eyes and are also common, as well as rash on the skin. The symptoms may occur when we are exposed to a pet, but direct contact is not necessary for allergic reaction to appear. As the allergens tend to fill the air and form the dust, they are bound to spread around the household.

One of the most common myths about cat allergy is that the main problem is the fur. Contrary to popular belief, the fur is only one of the places where the allergens gather. The major factor responsible for cat allergy in humans is a protein from secretoglobin family known as Fel d1 – it is produced by salivary and sebaceous glands, spreading on the skin and fur. It’s been proven that male cats produce more allergens than a female cat – it gets even worse when they are neutered.

Cat allergy – what can you do?

You’d think that avoiding cats should be enough to prevent allergy symptoms from occurring. However, avoiding the allergen may provide more difficult than it seems. As aeroallergens they are tricky to eliminate from our lives. If we decide to own a cat as allergy sufferers there are few rules that can make it easier. One of them is frequent cleaning, especially in all the places our cat likes the most. When cleaning you have to remember not only about the carpets, sofas or bedding but also about the curtains. Another useful solution is allergen immunotherapy, known also as desensitization. An allergy sufferer is given shots containing cat proteins in order to build up immunity to the allergen. However, desensitization takes time and requires specialist tests to be run beforehand.

Night vision – truth or myth?

It’s been a common belief that the unique structure of a cat’s eye enables them to see in the dark while their irises glow with a characteristic golden-green hue. However, the ability to move easily at night cats owe mostly to the right proportion of the receptors in retina and the presence of tapentum lucidum. This membrane responsible for “the effect of glowing eyes,” reflects the visible light back through the retina, increasing cats’ ability to see in poor lighting. Yet, to reflect on how cats see in the dark we need to understand that, in fact, they don’t see at all. They rely mostly on their superior hearing and unfailing vibrissae.

A cat for an allergy sufferer – are there hypoallergic cat breeds?

As mentioned above, the fur is not the major allergy factor. Interestingly enough, there is no correspondence between fur length and the concentration of allergens in the air. Hence, having a hairless cat such as Sphynx will not solve the problem. It may, however, resolve the issue of shedding – so troublesome when it comes to the other breeds. The safest cats to have are the ones who shed the least, such as Devon Rex, Cornish Rex or the Bengal cat. Yet, at the end of the day, we have to remember that there are no hypoallergic cat breeds – none of them has inactive allergens. That’s why having a cat as an allergy sufferer is not the decision to be taken lightly.

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