Cat Allergies Got You Down? How to Naturally Reduce Symptoms

What Causes Cat Allergies

Cat allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune system to proteins found in cat dander, saliva, or urine. When exposed to these allergens, the body mistakenly identifies them as harmful and releases antibodies like histamine to try and get rid of them. This leads to symptoms of an allergic reaction.

The main allergens in cats come from:

  • Proteins in cat dander – Cat dander is made of tiny, often microscopic, flakes of skin shed by cats. These particles contain Fel d 1 protein which is the primary allergen.
  • Proteins in cat saliva – When cats groom and lick their coats, the allergenic proteins in their saliva get transferred onto the fur and dander.
  • Proteins in cat urine – Cat urine contains proteins like Fel d 4 that can trigger allergic reactions when contaminating household dust.

When inhaled, touched, or ingested, these allergens trigger antibody production and histamine release, causing the symptoms commonly associated with cat allergies. The allergens found in cat dander are extremely potent and can remain airborne as well as stick to surfaces and fabrics long after the cat has left the area.


Symptoms of Cat Allergies

The symptoms of cat allergies often resemble the common cold. The most common symptoms include:

  • Sneezing – Cats produce airborne allergens that can cause sneezing fits when inhaled by people allergic to cats.
  • Itchy eyes – Cat dander and saliva can irritate the eyes, causing them to become red, swollen and itchy.
  • Runny nose – Inflammation caused by cat allergens can lead to excessive nasal secretions.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, other symptoms may include coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing.

Conventional Treatments

There are several conventional medical treatments that can help relieve cat allergy symptoms:

Antihistamines: Antihistamines like loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), or diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can help reduce runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes caused by cat allergies. Antihistamines work by blocking the effects of histamine, the chemical released by the immune system during an allergic reaction. They come in pill, liquid and nasal spray forms.[1]

Steroids: Nasal steroid sprays like fluticasone (Flonase) and beclomethasone (Beconase) can reduce inflammation in the nasal passages caused by cat allergens. Oral steroids like prednisone may also be prescribed for short-term use to treat severe allergy symptoms.[2]

Allergy shots: Allergy shots or immunotherapy involves getting injections of small amounts of cat allergens over time. This helps your body build immunity and tolerance to the allergens. Allergy shots are often effective at providing long-lasting relief of cat allergy symptoms.[3]


One of the most effective ways to manage cat allergies is to reduce exposure to cat allergens as much as possible. This includes keeping the cat out of bedrooms and restricting it to only a few rooms. According to this source, carpets can contain 13 times more cat allergens than smooth floors, so it’s best to keep cats off carpeting.

Using HEPA filters can also help reduce allergens in the home. HEPA air purifiers with a high CADR rating for pollen and dust are recommended. Place them in rooms where the cat spends the most time, and keep bedroom doors closed. Regularly washing bedding on hot water settings also helps decrease allergens. When cleaning, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and avoid dusting techniques that stir up particles.

Natural Remedies

There are several natural remedies that may help relieve cat allergy symptoms without medication. Some of the most promising options include:

Quercetin – This antioxidant compound found in fruits, vegetables, and grains has antihistamine properties that may reduce allergy symptoms. Studies show quercetin can help stabilize mast cells and block the release of histamines [1]. Taking 500-1000 mg daily may provide relief.

Butterbur – Derived from the butterbur plant, this herbal supplement contains active compounds called petasins that have anti-inflammatory effects. Research indicates butterbur is as effective as antihistamine medication for relieving allergy symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny nose [2]. Follow dosage instructions on supplements.

Probiotics – These healthy gut bacteria can help regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation involved in allergies. Studies show probiotic supplements may improve allergy symptoms, especially when combined with other natural remedies [3]. Look for broad-spectrum probiotics with billions of live cultures.


Immunotherapy is a long-term treatment method that gradually exposes people with cat allergies to cat allergens, in order to desensitize their immune systems over time. According to an NIH study, allergen immunotherapy can provide longer-lasting relief from cat allergies compared to other treatments.

The most common types of immunotherapy for cat allergies are allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy drops or tablets that are placed under the tongue. These treatments contain trace amounts of cat proteins that the immune system reacts to. With consistent, regular exposure over months or years, the immune system builds up tolerance to the allergens and becomes less reactive when exposed to cats.

While immunotherapy does not provide an immediate cure, it can significantly reduce allergy symptoms and the need for medication in the long run. Studies show 70-80% of people with cat allergies see improvement with immunotherapy. However, it requires commitment to the lengthy treatment protocol for best results. Some potential side effects include localized swelling and itching from the shots or drops. Overall, immunotherapy aims to retrain the immune system’s responses to cat allergens over time (Citation).

Managing the Cat

There are a few things you can do to manage your cat that can help reduce allergens in your home:


Bathing your cat regularly can reduce levels of Fel d 1 allergen. Aim to bathe your cat every 2-4 weeks using a mild cat shampoo. Be sure to rinse thoroughly. Bathing too frequently can dry out your cat’s skin.1

Wiping Paws

Wipe your cat’s paws when they come inside to remove pollen and allergens they may have picked up outdoors. Use a damp, soft cloth or cat wipes.


Feeding your cat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce Fel d 1 protein levels. Talk to your vet about diet options or try a food made to reduce allergens like Purina Pro Plan LiveClear.2

Air Purifiers

Air purifiers can be an effective way to reduce cat allergens in the home. Look for air purifiers that use a combination of HEPA and activated carbon filters. HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are able to capture 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns or larger, including cat dander, pollen and dust. Activated carbon filters help remove odors and gases. Many experts recommend getting an air purifier with a CADR (clean air delivery rate) of at least 300 cfm for large rooms.

Some top-rated air purifiers for pet allergies include:

  • Winix 5500-2 Air Purifier
  • Coway AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier
  • Blueair Blue Pure 211+ Air Purifier
  • Alen BreatheSmart 75i Air Purifier

When using an air purifier for cat allergies, place it in the room where you spend the most time with the cat. Keep cats out of the bedroom if possible and run an air purifier in the bedroom at night. Change the filters regularly as recommended by the manufacturer.

Other Tips

Here are some additional tips for managing cat allergies:

Vacuum often, at least 2-3 times per week, to remove cat dander and hair from carpets, upholstery, and other surfaces. Be sure to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to trap allergens. Clean hard floors with a damp mop as well. Wash bedding frequently in hot water to eliminate allergens that accumulate on sheets and blankets. Use allergen-proof mattress and pillow covers.

Also wash your hands after petting or holding your cat to remove dander and saliva proteins. And keep your cat out of bedrooms so you have a dander-free place for sleeping. For severe allergies, you may need to exclude your cat from certain rooms or keep them outside. Ensure litter boxes are located in low-traffic areas and cleaned often.

When to See a Doctor

If cat allergy symptoms are severe or persistent, it’s important to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Signs that you may need medical care include:

  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, or chest tightness
  • Severe, persistent itching of the nose, eyes or skin
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue or throat
  • Hives or rash
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Sinus pain and pressure that persists for weeks
  • Frequent sinus infections or ear infections
  • Symptoms that interfere with work, school or sleep

A doctor can confirm cat allergy through skin or blood tests. They may prescribe medications like antihistamines, nasal sprays, eye drops or asthma inhalers to relieve symptoms. For severe cat allergies, allergy shots or other forms of immunotherapy may be recommended. Doctors can also provide advice on minimizing allergen exposure at home.

Seeking timely medical care is crucial for identifying cat allergies and preventing complications. Don’t hesitate to consult an allergist or immunologist if symptoms are significantly impacting your quality of life.

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