My Boyfriend Sneezes at Cats – How Can I Make Him Allergy-Free?

Understanding Cat Allergies

Cat allergies are caused by an immune system reaction to proteins found in cat saliva, skin cells (dander), and urine. These proteins are called allergens. When exposed to cat allergens, the immune system mistakenly identifies them as harmful and releases histamine and other chemicals to defend the body against them (1).

The most common allergy symptoms from cat exposure include sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, nasal congestion, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, skin redness, itching and rashes. Symptoms typically begin within minutes to hours after exposure and can range from mild to severe (2).

The main allergen sources from cats are dander, which sticks to fur and floats in the air; saliva, which transfers to fur when a cat grooms itself; and urine. Dander and saliva become airborne allergens when released into the air and are the primary causes of allergic reactions (3). Keeping a home clean does not remove allergens completely.





Reducing Allergens in the Home

There are several ways to reduce allergens in the home environment when living with a cat:

Bathing and grooming cats frequently can help reduce dander. According to Allergic to your cat? Easy tips to prevent and control your allergy, bathing your cat weekly with a pet-safe shampoo is recommended. Be sure to only use shampoos made specifically for cats, as human shampoos can dry out their skin. Regular brushing can also help remove loose hair and dander.

Using a HEPA air purifier can be very effective at removing allergens from the air. As explained in Top 10 Ways to Decrease Your Allergies to Cats!, HEPA filters capture tiny particles like pet dander that can trigger allergy symptoms. Place air purifiers in rooms where you spend the most time with your cat.

Frequently vacuuming carpets and dusting hard surfaces helps remove allergens that have settled around the home.Aim to vacuum at least twice a week if you have cats. Washing bedding and fabrics in hot water weekly can also help eliminate allergens that collect on surfaces.

Allergy Medications

There are several types of over-the-counter and prescription allergy medications that can provide relief from cat allergy symptoms. These include:


Antihistamines like cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), and fexofenadine (Allegra) can help reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itchy or watery eyes caused by allergies. They work by blocking histamine, the chemical your body releases when having an allergic reaction. For best results, antihistamines should be taken daily during allergy seasons.1

Nasal Sprays

Nasal sprays containing corticosteroids like fluticasone (Flonase) or triamcinolone (Nasacort) can reduce inflammation and congestion in the nasal passages. Unlike oral allergy medications, they work directly where symptoms occur. Using them daily provides ongoing protection against allergens.2

Eye Drops

For itchy, watery, or red eyes, over-the-counter eye drops containing antihistamines like ketotifen fumarate (Zaditor) or olopatadine hydrochloride (Pataday) can provide targeted allergy relief. They can be used as needed when symptoms flare up.3


Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is a long-term treatment option that can help desensitize people to cat allergens and reduce allergy symptoms over time. Immunotherapy works by gradually exposing the immune system to tiny amounts of cat allergens, with the doses increased incrementally over several months to years ( This allows the body to build up tolerance and stop overreacting to cat dander and saliva.

Allergy shots involve regular injections containing a serum with cat allergens. The shots modify the immune system’s response and can significantly reduce allergy symptoms in many people. It may take 3-6 months before symptom relief is noted ( Shots are usually given 1-2 times per week to start, with maintenance shots given every 2-4 weeks for 3-5 years. Allergy shots carry a small risk of side effects like redness and swelling at the injection site.

Sublingual immunotherapy is an alternative where liquid extracts are administered under the tongue. This is shown to improve outcomes for patients with cat allergies ( Doses are taken daily at home instead of regular injections. Sublingual immunotherapy may achieve desensitization more quickly compared to allergy shots.

Alternative Therapies

Some alternative therapies may help relieve cat allergy symptoms without medication. However, more research is needed to confirm their effectiveness.

Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. A small study found acupuncture reduced nasal symptoms in people allergic to cats (1). More research is needed, but acupuncture may help relieve sneezing, itchy eyes, and other allergy symptoms.

Salt therapy, also called halotherapy, involves breathing air filled with tiny salt particles in an enclosed space. Some evidence suggests it may reduce inflammation in the airways (2). You can find salt therapy rooms at specialized centers. Home salt therapy devices are also available.

Probiotics are beneficial gut bacteria that may influence immune responses. A review of several studies found certain probiotic strains reduced allergy symptoms (3). Probiotic supplements may help, but more research on probiotics for cat allergies is needed.





Lifestyle Changes

Making some lifestyle changes can help reduce allergy symptoms when living with a cat. Here are some tips:

Handwashing after petting or touching your cat can remove allergens from your skin and prevent spreading them around your home. Use soap and warm water and wash thoroughly after contact. Wearing gloves while petting can also help reduce contact with allergens.

Keeping your cat out of the bedroom can create an allergen-free space for sleeping. Use air filters and meticulous cleaning to reduce allergens in this room. You may also benefit from covering bedding with allergen-blocking covers and washing bedding frequently in hot water.

Wearing an N95 mask while cleaning litter boxes or areas with cat dander can prevent inhaling allergens. Be sure to wash your hands afterward. You may also consider delegation litter box duties to another member of the household.

Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds

Certain cat breeds produce lower levels of Fel d 1, the allergenic protein found in cat saliva, urine, and skin that causes allergic reactions in people. While no cat is 100% hypoallergenic, some breeds are considered better for allergy sufferers due to their tendency to shed less fur and produce less Fel d 1. Some popular hypoallergenic breeds include:

Balinese – This long-haired breed produces less dander than other cats and hardly sheds. Their silky fur traps loose hairs so they don’t circulate in the air as much. Balinese cats need regular grooming to prevent mats.1

Cornish Rex – Their short, fine, curly coat means they shed very little. Cornish Rex cats lack the outer coat layer that contains much of the Fel d 1 allergen. Their unusual coat needs extra care to maintain its texture.2

Devon Rex – Like the Cornish Rex, this breed has a short, soft, curly coat that produces less dander. Their shed hair doesn’t float around as much thanks to the tight curls. Regular brushing helps remove loose hairs.3

Oriental Shorthair – Considered one of the more hypoallergenic cats thanks to their very short, fine coat that doesn’t shed much. Weekly brushing helps remove any loose hairs. They still produce some Fel d 1 so mild allergies are possible.1

Allergy Testing

Allergy testing can help identify which specific allergens your boyfriend may be reacting to. There are a few different options for allergy testing in cats:

Skin Prick Test

A skin prick test involves pricking the skin with small amounts of potential allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, or cat dander. If a raised, reddened area forms at the prick site, it indicates an allergy to that substance. Skin prick tests are considered quite accurate for diagnosing allergies in humans, but may be less reliable in cats.

Blood Test

A veterinarian can perform a blood test to measure allergy antibodies in the bloodstream. This is known as serology or RAST testing. It can identify reactions to inhaled allergens as well as food allergies. However, some studies have found these blood tests for cats may have high variability and low repeatability in accuracy (source).

At-Home Testing

There are some at-home allergy testing kits available for pets, such as saliva or hair analysis tests. However, most veterinary experts do not recommend these tests as there is little evidence that they reliably diagnose cat allergies (source). Consulting a veterinary allergist for testing is recommended.

Once the specific allergens are identified through testing, this can help guide treatment and management options.

Long-Term Management

For people with persistent cat allergies, ongoing management is often necessary to control symptoms over the long term. Here are some common long-term strategies:

Ongoing medication – Many people need to continue taking allergy medications like antihistamines and nasal sprays regularly to manage symptoms. This may involve daily medication or medications taken as needed when allergy symptoms flare up (

Repeat immunotherapy – After the initial immunotherapy regimen of allergy shots, monthly maintenance injections are often needed for 3-5 years to sustain the benefits. Some people continue immunotherapy indefinitely if it continues providing symptom relief (

Air purifiers/vacuuming – Using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifiers to filter allergens from the air can help reduce allergen levels. Frequent vacuuming with a HEPA filter vacuum can also help remove allergens from carpets, upholstery, and other surfaces (

When Allergies Persist

If your boyfriend has tried various allergy management techniques but is still experiencing significant allergy symptoms, more difficult long-term solutions may need to be considered:

  • Rehoming the cat – Finding a new home for the cat with a trusted friend or family member is an option if allergies remain severe. While emotionally difficult, rehoming may be the best solution for your boyfriend’s health if other approaches have failed. Be sure the cat goes to a loving home.
  • Allergy shots – Allergy shots (immunotherapy) involve receiving regular injections of small amounts of cat allergens. Over time, this can desensitize the immune system to cat allergens. According to AAAAI, long-term allergy shot therapy can significantly reduce cat allergy symptoms in many people.
  • Separate living spaces – As a last resort, your boyfriend may need to reside in a separate living space from the cat, such as a different bedroom. Maintaining separate spaces and thorough cleaning can reduce allergen exposure. However, this may not be ideal for your relationship long-term.

If cat allergies remain severe despite all efforts, rehoming unfortunately may be the only option for your boyfriend’s health and comfort. Discuss options together and prioritize his wellbeing. With patience and perseverance, an allergy management plan may eventually work so you can keep your furry friend.

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