Is My Cat Allergic To Me?
It's actually possible 😫
Every time you go to cuddle your cat, he starts sneezing — almost like he’s allergic to you or something.
It sounds crazy, but could it be for real?
According to Dr. Lydia Harbour, a veterinary dermatology resident at Dermatology for Animals in Phoenix, cats can be allergic to humans.
The Dodo reached out to Dr. Harbour to learn more about human dander allergies in cats, and what to do if you think your cat is allergic to you!
What are human dander allergies?
Pets aren’t the only ones who shed! People shed skin, hair and other materials throughout the day — and sometimes this dander can cause allergic reactions in cats.
Allergies to human dander aren't super common in cats, though.
“We do test for this on our intradermal allergy tests (IDATs), and I would estimate fewer than a quarter of my patients have a positive reaction (allergy) to this,” Dr. Harbour told The Dodo.
A lot of the time, if a cat is allergic to human dander, he’s also allergic to other things like mold and pollen, and these tend to cause more symptoms in cats than the dander allergy.
“More commonly there will be 10 to 30 or more positive reactions on a skin or blood allergy (serology) test relating to different pollens, molds and/or mites,” Dr. Harbour said. “Typically these are the more clinically relevant reactions.”
A skin or blood allergy test is the only way to pinpoint exactly what your cat is allergic to. “Skin testing is best, blood testing is easier and cheaper but not as accurate,” Dr. Sarah Wooten, a small animal veterinarian in Colorado, told The Dodo.
So, if you want to find out if your cat is allergic to you, talk to your veterinarian about giving your cat an allergy test.
Human dander allergy symptoms
It’s basically impossible to tell the difference between human dander allergy symptoms and allergy symptoms from another allergen, since they’re identical.
So if you notice signs that your cat has an allergy, you’ll need to take him to the vet so they can diagnose your cat properly.
Here are the signs of an allergic reaction in cats:
- Increased grooming
- Bald spots or thinning hair
- Ear infections
- Scabs and crusts all over the whole body (aka miliary dermatitis)
- Swollen face or head
“Severe reactions are typically respiratory in nature (severe sneezing; swollen, runny eyes) or skin related (itching, redness, hair loss),” Dr. Wooten said.
“Keep in mind that allergic reactions can mimic respiratory or skin infections, so it is important to get your cat checked out by a vet if they are exhibiting symptoms,” Dr. Wooten added.
What to do if your cat is allergic to you
If your vet confirmed that your cat has dander allergies (or another type of environmental allergy), they might prescribe a few different treatments.
One method of treatment is a series of allergy shots over time, which desensitizes your cat to the allergen. “It is the ONLY thing that can change the actual immune response,” Dr. Harbour said. “Everything else ... are simply Band-Aids.”
An over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine might also help with some of her symptoms.
If you do choose that route, Dr. Harbour recommends using OTC antihistamines along with an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to help with skin issues.
“Allergies can be treated with antihistamines, but these work best for the hay fever signs of allergy (sneezing; red, watery eyes), and much less so for the eczema (atopic dermatitis) aspect that most of our patients experience,” Dr. Harbour said. “There is evidence to support the use of antihistamines in combination with oral omega fatty acids.”
There are also OTC creams and lotions that can relieve your cat of her skin issues from allergies.
“Topical therapies that reduce bacterial and yeast overgrowth on the skin, support the skin barrier and moisturize the skin can be extremely helpful, and most of these are not prescription,” Dr. Harbour said. “The best shampoo/mousse/spray option should be decided with guidance from your veterinarian.”
Whether or not your cat is allergic to you, he’ll need to see a vet ASAP so he can get relief from his symptoms. And if he is allergic to you, don’t stress — there are ways to get him relief (plus you’ll have a funny story to tell)!
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