Is my cat the cause of my asthma attacks?

Is my cat the cause of my asthma attacks?

If your asthma symptoms are worse when you're at home, your cat could be the reason. That said, if you're not ready to find a new home for your feline friend just yet, there are a few things you can try that may help to reduce the frequency of your cat related asthma attacks. Our vets explain...

What is allergy induced asthma?

An asthma attack is a respiratory condition characterized by breathing difficulties brought on by the narrowing of the airways and production of extra mucus. Asthma differs in severity and frequency from one person to another, but symptoms generally include wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.

Allergic asthma is a form of the condition which is caused by exposure to allergens in the immediate environment. There are countless allergens which could be at the root of an individual's allergic asthma such as air pollution, cleaning products, dogs and cats. 

What is it about my cat that causes my asthma?

If your asthma is being triggered by a cat allergy, the attacks could be related to exposure to your kitty's urine, saliva, dander, or a combination of the three.

  • Urine - Cat urine contains a protein called Felis Domesticus 1 (Fel D1). It is this protein that is often responsible for triggering asthma symptoms when inhaled.
  • Saliva  - Your kitty's saliva also contains the Fel D1protein, as well as another protein called albumin which can be a problem for some people who suffer from asthma. These proteins stick to your cat's fur and skin as they groom, and can be found on fur or dander which can be inhaled.
  • Dander - Dander is dead skin cells shed by your pet. Allergy causing dander can be found on furniture and floating in the air where it can easily be inhaled and lead to an asthma attack.

Is there any way for me to keep my cat, but stop my asthma attacks?

If you know that your asthma is triggered by cats, choosing to have a cat in your home is bound to be problematic. Sharing your home with a cat is likely to cause your asthma to flare up more frequently than it would if you chose to live feline-free.

Nonetheless, if you love your cat and are determined to try and make the relationship work there are some tricks you can try that may help to reduce your asthma symptoms.

  • Always take your asthma medications as prescribed by your doctor.
  • When weather permits, keep your kitty outside as much as possible. Be mindful of very hot, cold or wet weather but allow them to enjoy time outside whenever the weather is suitable.
  • Vacuuming frequently may help to reduce the amount of cat related allergens in your house. Vacuums equipped with a HEPA filter are particularly good at reducing household allergens, and may help to reduce the number of asthma attacks you have. 
  • It may sound crazy but bathing your cat regularly can help to significantly reduce dander in your home. We know that many cats hate water, but introducing your kitty to water while they are young, can get them used to the process, and some cats even enjoy it.
  • Always keep your cat out of the bedroom. Restricting where your cat can relax may help to prevent dander and other allergens from interfering with your breathing while you sleep. Do not allow your cat to sleep on your bed, or next to you.
  • Wash your bedding frequently to rid sheets and blankets of any allergens that land in and on your bed.
  • Frequently dust your your home using a damp cloth to help trap and remove cat related allergens from furniture and other surfaces.
  • Install a HEPA air filter for your home. Air filters can help to reduce allergens and improve the air quality in your living space.
  • Try to resist the urge to relax with your cat on your lap. If you do allow your cat on your lap, be sure to change and wash your clothes frequently to remove allergens.
  • Always wash your hands immediately after petting your cat.

Is there such thing as a hypoallergenic cat?

If you suffer from allergy induced asthma brought on by exposure to cats, but really want to care for a kitty of your own, you may want to consider a hypoallergenic breed. There is certainly no guarantee that these breeds will prevent your asthma attacks, however these cats have been specially bred to produce less of the problematic Fel D1 protein and may be a better choice for you.

Here are a few breeds of hypoallergenic cats that you may want to find out more about:

  • Bengal
  • Colorpoint Shorthair
  • Laperm
  • Russian Blue
  • Ocicat
  • Sphynx
  • Cornish Rex
  • Burmese
  • Balinese
  • Siamese
  • Devon Rex
  • Siberian

While in some cases it may be possible to reduce the cat related allergens you are exposed to by choosing a hypoallergenic breed or by following the tips above, the fact may be that you just can't live comfortably with a cat in your home.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctors advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

If your cat is experiencing a veterinary emergency in the Winston-Salem area contact us right away, or head straight over. Our critical care vets are here 24/7 to care for your pet whenever your primary care vet is unavailable.

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At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, we accept new clients to our specialty services by referral only. Our 24/7 emergency service welcomes all clients.

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