How to reduce Cat Dander
This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Michelle Wong, BVSc
Did you know that 10-20% of adults worldwide are estimated to have cat allergies? Cat allergies are the second most common cause of indoor respiratory allergy after dust mites.
Cat dander plays an important role in the release of allergens into the environment. Dander can become airborne, remain suspended for a period of time before landing on carpets, bedding, curtains as well as a person's hair, skin and clothes.
What is cat dander?
Cat dander is in fact, different from cat dandruff. Dry and abnormal skin often causes the unsightly white flakes of dandruff that can be found in the coat or on bedding. Dander, on the other hand, is invisible to the naked eye. These are microscopic particles from skin, hair or feathers that are shed normally in a healthy animal. Dander is tiny and light, easily becoming airborne and spreading quickly onto the surrounding furniture and carpets.
How does cat dander affect people with allergies?
Many people complain of sneezing or skin rashes after being in contact with or being around cats. There are at least 8 different feline allergens that can cause sensitivity reactions in humans. The predominant cat allergen is called the Fel D1 with up to 96% of susceptible individuals reacting to this specific protein.
The Fel D1 is produced by the sebaceous oil glands in the skin and salivary glands. Through grooming, these proteins can accumulate on the fur and skin. Allergens are then further spread into the environment as dander is shed from the cat. Dander inhaled through the mouth can potentially cause an asthma attack. Other symptoms of an allergic reaction in humans include a runny nose, sneezing, rash on skin or hives.
Most allergens are found on the cat's face and neck!
Allergens are highest in concentration around a cat's face and neck due to oil gland distribution. Cats tend to rub their neck and faces on surfaces as part of their natural behaviour, leaving their scent marks or pheromones to mark their territory. This kind of behaviour can also help transfer the allergens onto the sofa or person they are rubbing against. If you happen to be allergic, beware of smooching and hugging your cat as you can trigger a reaction like an itchy dermatitis on your face!
Do hairless cats have dander?
Yes! Hairless cats will have dander and can still cause allergies. Cats with no hair like the Sphynx breed will still have the same oil glands in the skin and salivary glands which produce the feline allergen. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat. Although each individual cat may vary in their production of the type and amount of cat allergen, they will all produce at least one type of allergen. These differences in allergen production are not related to the breed or their length of hair.
There is no hypoallergenic cat breed
Studies have suggested that intact male cats tend to produce more allergens while neutered cats have a significantly lower level of production. This could be another compelling reason to desex your cat besides preventing unwanted litters and stray kittens. If you are considering desexing, check out our article on Everything you need to know about desexing your pet.
How to get rid of cat dander
As mentioned above, desexing your male cat can help reduce the production of allergens. Always wash your hands after touching your cat. Avoid owning large numbers of cats as this can increase the concentration of allergens in your household. Bathing your cat regularly could also help. Use a gentle, nourishing shampoo and conditioner like Aloveen.
General household allergy control:
- HEPA filter vacuums and air purifier, as well as air-conditioners, are ideal as they can filter out dander
- Smooth floors such as tiling is preferred over carpet
- Vacuum regularly, at least once a week
- When washing sheets or cat beds, use high temperatures and detergents to remove allergens
- Avoid sweeping or dusting as these can aerolize dander
- Use damp cloths or mop instead to trap and remove allergens
- To prevent inhalation of allergens, wear a mask when cleaning or ask another (non-allergic person) to help
Best products for allergies
Proplan's Live Clear range is great solution to help owners or family members with allergies. This nutrition is designed to effectively neutralise the Fel D1 protein and reduce the amount of allergens in cat hair and dander. Weekly bathing could also help to reduce up to 84% of allergens. Regular grooming of your cat, although it will not reduce the amount of dander or allergens produced, can at least help to control the amount of loose hair shed into the environment. Loose hair can carry allergens through the air and settle on a range of surfaces and furniture items.
Pro Plan Liveclear Adult Chicken Formula is an everyday cat food that can reduce allergens by an average of 47% by the third week. By decreasing the active Fel-d1 in the saliva, the allergen that is transferred to the cat's hair and dander when they groom is reduced.
Aloveen Shampoo is a gentle hypoallergenic shampoo that may be used on both cats and dogs. It removes the allergens from the skin with the gentle foaming shampoo base, and then soothes the skin with both the superfine colloidal oatmeal particles and aloe vera.
Top rated grooming tool to reduce shedding and hairballs. Easy to use and clean, can help maintain a tidy coat free from debris and dirt. Long hair cats can benefit from daily brushing.