Question: Why is it that I'm so allergic to cats, but not to dogs?
Answer: The answer, in a word, is dander. It's like dandruff. The trigger
for pet allergies is not their hair. In fact, cats that are short-haired
traditionally give off more allergen (allergy-causing substance). Proteins
found in the skin of pets trigger allergies in susceptible people. It
flakes off, gets in their fur as dandruff, and spreads when the pet grooms
itself with its tongue.
Veterinary research has shown that twice as many folks have cat allergies
as dog allergies. It may be that the protein in a cat's skin is more
allergy-provoking than a dog's, or simply that cats give off a greater
quantity of dander.
Since dander collects in carpeting, the fabric of furniture, and bedding,
it's better for pet-allergy sufferers to have hardwood or tile floors
and leather furniture. If you have carpeting, steam cleaning it every
three months will help reduce dander. Vacuum cleaner bags must have an
ultrafine-particle HEPA filter, or else vacuuming will just put more
dust and dander into the air. Allergic folks need to keep the dog or
cat out of the bedroom. Washing the floors and walls every so often is
a good idea, too.
Bathing dogs and cats every four to six weeks with a mild moisturizing
shampoo will greatly cut down on the dander volume and the severity of
For allergy medications, long-acting antihistamines like Claritin, Clarinex,
Allegra, or Zyrtec help a lot. If asthma is triggered by the pet allergy,
avoidance of pets is probably best. But if you're a pet lover and willing
to suffer for your feline, I'd suggest talking with your doctor about
treatment options like inhaled albuterol, inhaled steroids, and Singulair
(a nonsteroid, anti-inflammatory pill). A long-term approach to overcoming
pet allergies is allergy desensitization shots. It will take a couple
of years with regular injections, but it will help in the long term.