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Is Your Allergy to Cat Hair or Something Else? 

We love our furry friends: 7 out of 10 households in America have either a dog or a cat.1 But sometimes they can irritate our senses: cats are among the most common causes of allergic reactions, which can truly dampen our experience when we’re interacting with them or bringing an adopted cat home. It’s estimated that up to 20% of the world’s population has an allergic reaction to pets with fur or feathers, including cats, dogs, guinea pigs, and birds.1

Common reactions to a cat can include:2

  • Frequent sneezing and coughing
  • Runny or stuffy nose, nasal congestion
  • Red, watery, or itchy eyes
  • Hives or skin rash

In many cases, being around a cat can exacerbate asthmatic symptoms, which can lead to a tightness of the chest and shortness of breath. If you’re living with a cat, you might find difficulty sleeping at night. Some allergic sufferers may also experience skin symptoms, where areas of their body turn red and become itchy.

Cat fur isn’t always the cause of allergic reactions

It may seem like the most common cause of allergic reactions to cats is to their long, dense hair that covers their entire bodies, especially compared to our own bodies. However, it is not the hair that’s the cause of these symptoms, but what’s trapped inside.

A cat’s saliva also contains a certain protein called Fel d 1. This is an irritant that sticks to their fur and skin when they groom themselves. Cats are capable of cleaning themselves, and they are fastidious creatures, and when they find themselves in comfortable spaces, they often groom their own fur with their tongues.3 Many allergy sufferers are allergic to this specific protein, and it can spread itself around a home when cats grooms themselves, then shed their fur and dead skin cells naturally.

In addition, allergens can show up in a cat’s urine, sweat, and dander, which can circulate throughout a household.2

How cat allergies compare to other common irritants

The level of symptoms experienced by cat allergy sufferers can differ from animal to animal. Some cats produce more of the Fel d 1 protein than others.

Cat allergy symptoms are similar those caused by pollen, which makes sense, as pollen can be caused by small particles circulating in rooms and adhering to surfaces.

If you experience existing conditions such as sinus infections or asthma, allergies to cats may seem like they feel worse. Nasal passages may become inflamed with preexisting sinus conditions, while the chance of an asthma attack may increase and require medical treatment.

Preventing allergy symptoms before they start

Fortunately, there are many ways to manage cat allergies. Many easy solutions include:

  • Groom your cat regularly with dander-reducing wipes
  • Avoid letting your cat lick your skin or clothes
  • Wash your hands after playing with or petting your cat
  • Wash your cat’s bedding, toys, and surfaces that they sleep on
  • Change your cat’s litter regularly
  • Ventilate your home by opening windows or with an air purifier
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter
  • Avoid letting your cat into your bedroom, as allergies can feel worse at night

In short, there are ways to live with and take care of a furry friend, even if you have symptoms of allergies. There is no shortage of ways to control your cat allergies, from daily medication and doctor-recommended treatments for severe cases, to over-the-counter solutions that can help in the short term. Antihistamine tablets or nasal sprays like Flonase Headache and Allergy Relief and Flonase Allergy Relief can alleviate symptoms, while it’s worth consulting your doctor or medical professional to take care of longer-term symptoms.


  1. Pet Allergy. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Accessed 5/22/2023.
  2. Pet Allergy. Mayo Clinic. Accessed 5/22/2023.
  3. Can I own a cat if I’m allergic? Cats Protection. Accessed 5/22/2023.