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Cat allergy in humans is an allergic reaction to one or more allergens produced by cats. The most common of these allergens are the glycoprotein Fel d 1, secreted by the cat's sebaceous glands and Fel d 4, which is expressed in saliva. An allergic reaction is a histamine reaction that is usually characterized by coughing, wheezing, chest tightening, itching, nasal congestion, rash, watering eyes, sneezing, chapped lips, and similar symptoms. In some severe cases, reactions may progress rapidly to cause the victim's airway to become inflamed and close up, requiring emergency medical attention. Those with severe, life-threatening cat allergies face tremendous challenges due to lack of public awareness about anaphylactic cat allergies, and do not enjoy the same conscientiousness from the public as those with a food allergy might, due to widespread knowledge of allergies to allergens such as nuts or dairy.[citation needed]


Cat allergensEdit

Five cat allergens have been described in medical literature. The two major allergens are Fel d 1 (a secretoglobin) and Fel d 4 (a lipocalin). The minor allergens include Fel d 2 (an albumin), Fel d 3 (a cystatin), and cat IgA.[1]

Fel d 4 is the product of the cat major urinary protein gene. It is primarily expressed in the submandibular salivary gland and is deposited onto dander as the cat grooms his or her self. A study found that 63% of people allergic to cats have antibodies against Fel d 4.[2]


Symptoms of an allergic reaction to cats range from mild to severe, and include swollen, red, itchy, and watery eyes; nasal congestion, itchy nose, sneezing, chronic sore throat or itchy throat, coughing, wheezing, asthma, hay fever,[3] hives or rash on the face or chest, or itchy skin. If a cat has scratched, licked, or bitten someone who is allergic to cats, redness and sometimes even swelling of the affected area will occur. For those severely allergic, a reaction may resemble that of someone with a severe food allergy, and such reactions require emergency medical care.[4][5]

Coping with allergiesEdit

Lower exposureEdit

Allergens that are airborne survive for months or even years by themselves, hence removing anything that can trap and hold the allergens (carpet, rugs, pillows) and cleaning regularly and thoroughly with HEPA filters and electrostatic air purifier systems reduces risk. Frequent hand washing, especially after handling the cat, and washing hands prior to touching eyes, nose, or mouth, and limiting the cat's access to certain rooms, such as the bedroom or other rooms where much time is spent, may also reduce allergic reactions.


Cat allergies can often be controlled with over the counter or prescription medications. Antihistamines and decongestants may provide allergy relief.[6]

Allergy shotsEdit

Some allergy sufferers find relief in allergen immunotherapy, a periodic injection therapy designed to suppress the body's natural immune responses to the cat allergens.[7][8]

Synthetic epitope vaccineEdit

The synthetic epitope vaccine is an in-development vaccine to provide a long-term vaccine for allergies.[9]

Cat bathingEdit

Regularly bathing the cat may remove significant amounts of allergens from the fur.[10] Furthermore, regularly brushing the cat will reduce the amount of loose fur (and its attached saliva) in the air. Feeding the cat a high quality diet with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids will help keep the coat healthy and minimize dander.[11]

Hypoallergenic catsEdit

A hypoallergenic cat is a cat that is less likely to provoke an allergic reaction in humans. Although the topic is controversial, owners' experience and recent clinical studies suggest that Siberian cats, Devon Rex and Cornish Rex cats, Abyssinian cats, Balinese cats, and several other breeds,[citation needed] especially females, are likely to have low levels of Fel d 1, the main allergenic protein.[12]

From among the above cats noted, the most popular cat breeds to be renowned for their hypoallergenic quality are the Siberian and Balinese. These cats produce much fewer protein allergens in comparison to regular domestic household cats or other cat breeds. Cats that have some Balinese ancestry might produce lower amounts protein allergens.[citation needed] Cat breeds that often have some Balinese lineage include the Oriental shorthair, Oriental longhair, and some Siamese cats.

The common theory among these two hypoallergenic medium- to long-haired cat breeds is that their long-haired gene is associated with producing reduced amounts of allergens. This may be the case as the Balinese cat, a medium to long-haired cat breed (also referred to as the Long-haired Siamese cat) is regarded as hypoallergenic, whereas the Siamese cat, a short-haired breed, is not. Some Siamese cats might possess hypoallergenic qualities if they have Balinese ancestry. This might provide some evidence that the long-haired genes or traits within this cat breed have resulted in a cat that can genetically produce less amounts of the cat allergens.[citation needed]

In 2006, the Allerca company announced the successful breeding of a line of hypoallergenic cats. However, no peer-reviewed studies have been done to confirm their claims and many scientists and consumers are skeptical of the company's assertions.[13] The company has announced that on January 1, 2010 they will cease their breeding activities.[14]

Another company, Felix Pets, also claims to be developing a breed of hypoallergenic cat.[15]

Cat sex and colorEdit

Female cats produce a lower level of allergens than males, and neutered males produce a lower level of allergens than unneutered males.[16] In 2000, researchers at the Long Island College Hospital found that cat owners with dark-colored cats were more likely to report allergy symptoms than those with light-colored cats.[17][18] A later study by the Wellington Asthma Research Group found that fur color had no effect on how much allergen a cat produced.[19][20]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Adédoyin J, Grönlund H, Oman H, Johansson SG, van Hage M (2007). "Cat IgA, representative of new carbohydrate cross-reactive allergens". J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 119 (3): 640–5. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2006.11.637. PMID 17336613.
  2. ^ Smith W, Butler AJ, Hazell LA, Chapman MD, Pomés A, Nickels DG, et al. (2004). "Fel d 4, a cat lipocalin allergen". Clin Exp Allergy. 34 (11): 1732–8. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2222.2004.02090.x. PMID 15544598.
  3. ^ "Allergy to pets and animals". Archived from the original on 2012-01-02. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  4. ^ "WebMD - Cat Allergies". WebMD, LLC. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  5. ^ "Human Allergies to Cats". Foster & Smith, Inc. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  6. ^ Cat Allergies, WebMD,
  7. ^ Varney VA, Edwards J, Tabbah K, Brewster H, Mavroleon G, Frew AJ (1997). "Clinical efficacy of specific immunotherapy to cat dander: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial". Clin. Exp. Allergy. 27 (8): 860–7. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2222.1997.1220903.x. PMID 9291281.
  8. ^ Hedlin G, Graff-Lonnevig V, Heilborn H, Lilja G, Norrlind K, Pegelow K, Sundin B, Lowenstein H (1991). "Immunotherapy with cat- and dog-dander extracts. V. Effects of 3 years of treatment". J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 87 (5): 955–64. doi:10.1016/0091-6749(91)90417-m. PMID 2026846.
  9. ^ Larché, M.; Akdis, C.; Valenta, R. (2006). "Immunological mechanisms of allergen-specific immunotherapy". Nature Reviews. Immunology. 6 (10): 761–771. doi:10.1038/nri1934. PMID 16998509.
  10. ^ Avner DB, Perzanowski MS, Platts-Mills TA, Woodfolk JA (1997). "Evaluation of different techniques for washing cats: quantitation of allergen removed from the cat and the effect on airborne Fel d 1". J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 100 (3): 307–12. doi:10.1016/s0091-6749(97)70242-2. PMID 9314341.
  11. ^ Human Allergies to Cats.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2011-05-10.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Felis Enigmaticus
  14. ^ "Lifestyle Pets". Allerca. Archived from the original on 2009-11-01. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
  15. ^ Pepling, Racheal. (9 June 2006)."Hypoallergenic" Cats For Sale, U.S. Firm Announces. National Geographic News. Accessed 13 March 2010.
  16. ^ Sex difference in Fel d 1 allergen production. . Accessed 11 Jan 2011.
  17. ^ full study, cited in the Journal of the American Medical Association
  18. ^ Hussain S, Bassett C, Kaplan S, Schneider A, Silverman B (January 2000). "Correlation between the color of cat hair and severity of allergic symptoms in patients with allergic rhinitis". J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 105 (1 Part 2): S5. doi:10.1016/s0091-6749(00)90443-3.
  19. ^ "cited by Allergy New Zealand". Archived from the original on 2006-09-25. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
  20. ^ Siebers, R. Healy, B; Holt, S.; Peters, S.; Crane, J.; Fitzharris, P.; Fitzharris, P. (2001). "Fel d 1 levels in domestic living rooms are not related to cat color or hair length". J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 108 (4): 652–3. doi:10.1067/mai.2001.118788. PMID 11590399.

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