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Can You Develop an Allergy to Cats?

Stephanie Dube Dwilson
Woman sneezing next to cat because she's developing a cat allergy.
Some people love cats, but find themselves sneezing and getting red eyes when they're around them. If you're wondering, "Can you develop an allergy to cats?" the answer is yes, even later in life as an adult. If you're allergic to cats but want one, there are things you can try to get rid of cat allergies naturally, like brushing, vacuuming, and using anti-allergen sprays. Sometimes just being around one specific cat for several weeks or more is enough to lessen your allergy—if only for that one cat.

You Can Develop Cat Allergies as an Adult

Many people notice allergy symptoms from the time they're a child, including congestion, red and itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, hives, or even bouts of asthma. But sometimes these symptoms don't show up until early adulthood or even later in life. The symptoms may develop right after you pet a cat or hours later in the day.

Often, this means you are allergic to your cat's dander. But sometimes, an outdoor cat that brings in pollen or mold on her fur can cause an allergic reaction too.1 Only a doctor can tell you for certain what the source of your allergy is.

If you're sneezing a lot more around your cats, you might notice that your cats pick up on your distress and become a little anxious as well. A calming diffuser can help your cats know everything is still fine. These diffusers release a drug-free, odorless vapor that mimics the pheromones a cat releases and indicate an area is safe and secure.

Natural Remedies

If you want to know how to get rid of cat allergies naturally, there are a number of things you can try. Although not guaranteed, some of these remedies might ease your symptoms. First, try leaving one room, like your bedroom, allergen free. Don't let the cat in that room and use hypoallergenic bedding. This gives you a "safe space" free of triggers.

Next, you'll want to go the extra mile in keeping your home clean. Steam clean upholstery and wash shades, sheets, and blankets frequently. Dust often and vacuum with a HEPA filter. An air purifier with a HEPA filter might help as well. You could also try spraying your home with an anti-allergen spray.

Clean the litter box several times a week and use low-dust litter. Wash your hands after petting your cat. If you pet your cat then rub your eyes or touch your face, it might make your allergies worse.

Try to keep your cat extra clean too. This could include using vet-recommended wipes that cut down on dander or bathing your cat with an anti-allergen shampoo. Some cats are more likely to get used to bathing if you start when they're kittens or if you use warm (but not hot) water. Brushing can also help. You may need to try a couple brushes until you find one your cat likes. Encourage him with treats and start out with short brushing periods until he gets used to it.

A healthy diet with omega-rich foods that help your cat's coat and skin might help.

Other Options

Some people like to use over-the-counter antihistamines for less severe allergy symptoms. Others may choose to see their doctor for allergy shots that can help reduce the symptoms over time or for prescription eye drops that can ease itchy eyes. It's always a good idea to see your doctor if you have any medical questions.

Sometimes Symptoms Subside

Sometimes, allergy symptoms to one particular cat may subside over time. You'll typically still have allergy symptoms to other cats, but not the particular pet you have at home. It can take months or longer for this to occur and it doesn't happen for everyone.2 But when it does, it's an unexpected gift.

If you're noticing symptoms like sneezing and itchy eyes when you're around cats, you might have developed an allergy. Keeping a clean house and a clean cat can help reduce the symptoms. You might also want to talk to your doctor about other options.

1. WebMD. "Cat Allergies." WebMD.com, https://www.webmd.com/allergies/cat-allergies#1.

2. Dhar, Michael. "Can You Outgrow Your Allergies?" LiveScience.com, 28 August 2013, https://www.livescience.com/39257-outgrow-allergies-go-away.html.
Category: Cat Behavior | Comfort Zone