Let's face it - cat allergies are a fact of life. Cat owners are all too familiar with the social awkwardness created when entertaining allergic friends or family inside your cat-filled home. That said, it is still possible to have your feline friends coexist with your feline-allergic friends; and yes, they can even become buddies! With a little bit of research and a few handy products, allergies do not have to dictate your social life.
The first stop on your anti-allergy shopping spree should be over-the-counter medication. There are many brands and delivery methods out there, but most anecdotal evidence points toward Claritin being the most effective brand. My personal choice is Claritin’s RediTabs because they really do start to work in less than a couple of minutes. It’s best to take allergy medicine as a preventative measure about half an hour before you start rubbing your face in the kitty’s belly, but if you greet your guests at the door with a tab, that should solve most problems. Also remember that if your persistent allergies are fairly mild, you may build up immunity to the cats with time and exposure.
Because cat allergies come from the hair (or saliva to be more accurate), you need to focus on creating as much of a fur-free environment as possible. Wood, tile, or vinyl floors are ideal and vinyl covers work best with furniture (just ask your Great Aunt Martha). Carpet and fabric can be real fur magnets! Another recommendation is to have a separate wire brush just for getting hair out of furniture.
Speaking of brushes, nothing stops the spread of cat hair like going straight to the source! Regular cat grooming like brushing greatly reduces shedding and is the absolute best and easiest thing you can do to remove allergens from your environment. The most effective brush I've used has been the much-talked-about Furminator. The Furminator is quite a bit costlier than most other brushes but it is absolutely worth it as it picks up much more fur than other brushes. Just be careful not to overdo it and remove more of your cat’s hair then necessary. You can also supplement the occasional Furminator session with an easily-washable gummy brush which will help pick up the loose hairs. Your mileage with the Furminator, as with all pet products, will vary.
While cleaning and grooming routines will always be the most effective solution to fight cat allergies, it's also not a bad idea to keep an air purifier running to eliminate invisible microbial allergens. Unfortunately, this is where your investment could start to get costly, as the general consensus on air purifiers under $100 is that they don’t quite do the job. After reading what feels like every review for every purifier under the sun, I finally settled on the Winix PlasmaWave 5300 model which is a decent compromise between effectiveness and affordability at $150-$200.
If I am ever fortunate to live in a space large enough to require two air purifiers, well, I’ve already set my sights on the high-end-but-worth-it Rabbit Air Minus2A which you can even get with fancy artistic face plates if money is truly no object. I should also mention that all air purifiers do require a filter change a few times a year. It’s not a lot of work, but just another step to be aware of on your path to an allergen-free home.
And for those of you who wish there was a vaccine to make this all just go away, well, you might be in luck! Adiga Life Sciences, a biomedical research firm based in Alberta, has announced that they have reached a breakthrough in the quest for a cat allergy vaccine. While this is very exciting news indeed, it could still take 10 to 20 years for this kind of product to pass through the trials and regulation necessary to enter the marketplace.
Lastly, a few words about supposed “hypoallergenic” cats-- the whole subject can be very controversial so please use extreme caution when looking at any claims of allergen-free felines. While several breeds of cats are generally believed to produce fewer allergens and there is at least one company attempting to breed or engineer a hypoallergenic cat, the waters remain very murky.
The Michelson Found Animals Foundation's mission of saving pets and enriching lives is made possible by the generous contributions of Dr. Gary Michelson and Alya Michelson.