‘Purr-fect’ way to live with cats

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by Vetsavers of St Thomas’ Road, Spalding

Our Vet’s Life column this week focuses on a real pet subject – cats!

We’ve addressed some of the frequently asked questions about our feline friends.

Should I try handling a kitten to see if I’m allergic to it?

Often handling a kitten will not trigger an allergy. The kitten’s skin is more supple than an older cat and produces less oils (sebum).

As the kitten ages it will produce more sebum and therefore more allergens.

People can acquire a new kitten and not experience any allergy symptoms until much later.

It can take anywhere from a few months to a number of years for a person to build up the antibodies which cause allergies.

How can I reduce cat allergens?

Have your cat neutered or spayed.

Interestingly a spayed or neutered cat produces less allergens. Male cats produce more allergens than female cats.

It has been found that the sebum produced by a cat is highest in entire males and lowest in neutered males.

Consult your vet about products that you can bathe your cat in to help reduce the allergens.

Ensure your cat does not have fleas as this causes the cat to scratch and to throw more dander into the air.

Designate your bedroom as a cat-­free zone. Begin your programme of allergen reduction by washing bedding, drapes and pillows.

Better yet, replace them. Use plastic covers that are designed to prevent allergens from penetrating your mattress and pillows. Allergen­proof covers are available from most chemists.

Don’t expect results overnight.

Cat allergens are one-­sixth the size of pollens, and it may take months to reduce them significantly.

Restrict your cat’s access to designated areas inside your home.

If your cat is an indoor cat then allow your cat some time outside where dander will waft away in the wind. Brush your cat in the fresh­ air enclosure to prevent loose, allergen-carrying hair from dispersing through your home.

Ventilate your house. Opening windows and using fans can help increase air exchange and decrease airborne allergens.

Vacuum carpets. This will reduce the allergens. Cat dander settles onto carpets and soft furnishings, which act as a reservoir for the allergen, releasing it back into the air when touched.

Wool attracts allergens. Try to avoid wearing it.

Reduce your other allergies. Few individuals are allergic only to cats.

Keep the litter tray in a well-ventilated area and keep it clean!

Cat allergen is found in urine and is left in the litter box when your cat makes a deposit.

To help prevent allergic reactions to the litter box, use a brand of litter that is less dusty and have someone in the household who is not allergenic clean the box.

I’m having terrible cat allergy symptoms. Should I re­-home my cat?

Before taking the drastic measure of re­-homing your cat, first make sure that it is a cat allergy that you are suffering from. Your doctor can perform an allergy test to determine which allergens affect you.

Also remember that allergens from a cat can remain in your home for a long period of time after the cat has been removed and you may still suffer from symptoms.