It’s estimated that one in six Americans is allergic to cats, dogs or both. How many cats are allergic to people? No one seems to know for sure. But in allergy testing cats and dogs in his practice, one veterinarian found that about five-10 percent have an allergic reaction to human dander.
It’s not the dander itself that causes humans to be allergic to cats. The real culprit is fel d 1, a glycoprotein that’s found in cats’ saliva and is also secreted by the sebaceous glands. Those glands are located at the base of the hair follicles and are the oily lubricants that keep the skin supple.
As cats groom themselves, they cover their bodies with the fel d 1 in their saliva, and those tiny but potent glycoprotiens drift all over everywhere, sticking to clothing, curtains, rugs and even walls.
While there have been many studies on why humans are allergic to cats, few scientists have looked at why some cats are allergic to humans. But veterinarian Nicki Reed and other researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Hospital for Small Animals looked at the causes of asthma in cats and came up with a list that includes human dandruff, household dust and cigarette smoke.
Dusty, scented cat litter was another culprit. Reed told National Geographic News the number of cats with asthma is increasing as more and more cats are kept inside and are unable to escape the irritants that cause those coughing spells.
If your cat has asthma, just making some changes in his environment might be all he needs to feel better. In addition to household dust and cigarette smoke, these are some common triggers of asthma in cats.
- Scented, dusty cat litter
- Cleaning products
- Perfumed laundry detergents
- Perfume and hair spray Dryer sheets
- Carpet fresheners
- Air fresheners
- Scented candles
- Feather pillows
- Ragweed, grass and tree pollens
- Fireplace smoke
Cats between the ages of two and eight are the most likely to develop asthma, and female cats are twice as likely to become asthmatic as male cats are. Siamese and Himalayan breeds seem to get asthma more often than other breeds.
It’s been years since I’ve used commercial cleaning products or air fresheners or burned scented candles because I know they can be toxic to cats. It make sense that they could also cause asthma.
But it never occurred to me that cats could be allergic to human dander until I stumbled across an article online. Not sure what to do about that. Cats shed, and apparently humans do, too.