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Cat charity offers advice for allergy week

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed

9th November 2012 - A cat charity is issuing advice to owners who find themselves allergic to their pets in an effort to reduce the number of cats being put up for rehoming.

The tips coincide with Indoor Allergy Week which begins on the 12th November.

Cats Protection, which takes in and rehomes unwanted cats, says it receives hundreds of calls a year from owners wanting to give up their cat due to allergies.

The feline welfare charity said recently that the harsh economic conditions had led to the number of unwanted cats reaching an all-time high and that it was struggling to cope. It is now seeking to cut the number of animals needing new homes because their owners find they, or other family members, have developed allergies.

Saliva, sweat and urine

Cats, as well as other furry and feathery animals, are a common trigger for allergies and asthma.

Pets are the second most important cause of allergy in UK homes, with 50% of children with asthma sensitised to the allergens of cats. Cat allergen is found in the animals' saliva, sweat and urine.

Animals frequently groom themselves, so the allergens coat the hair and skin cells (dander), which, when shed, spread throughout the home or other buildings. Once the saliva dries, it becomes airborne very easily.

"Ironically it’s cats’ fastidious cleanliness that may be implicated in the majority of human allergic reactions to cats," says Beth Skillings, Cats Protection’s clinical veterinary officer in a statement. "People generally assume the cat’s hair is the problem but that is not strictly speaking the case - rather it’s proteins which are spread through the coat by the cat grooming itself."

Top tips

Cats Protection recommends that owners try a few simple measures to control their symptoms before deciding they can no longer live with a cat. These include:

  • Having hardwood floors, instead of carpets and blinds instead of curtains
  • Avoiding wearing woollen clothing
  • Designating some areas as cat-free zones, particularly bedrooms
  • Opening the windows for at least one hour every day and moving the litter tray and cat bed away from air vents
  • Regularly cleaning rooms where the cat sleeps - vacuumed rooms should be allowed to settle for 10 minutes as vacuuming stirs up allergens. Air filters may also help
  • Fitting plastic covers over cushions and mattresses
  • Grooming your cat daily, outdoors, and wiping him with a damp cloth
  • Washing your hands immediately after petting a cat and not rubbing your eyes
  • Washing your cat’s bed regularly
  • Using conditioning products on your cat to reduce the amount of allergen released into the environment
  • Keeping your cat in optimum health, with good parasite control, and seeking veterinary advice in particular for any conditions that cause him to groom or scratch more frequently
  • Using medications such as anti-histamine tablets or nasal spray yourself, as advised by your doctor

Cats Protection says it is full to bursting with unwanted cats and is appealing to owners to discuss allergy testing with a doctor before taking any "drastic action" to relinquish their pet, particularly as dust mites are by far the most common trigger for house-born allergies.

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