What Are The Long Term Effects Of Living With A Cat When You Are Allergic?


Living with pets can provide many benefits, but it can also pose health risks for people with allergies. This article will examine the long term effects of living with a cat when you are allergic. It will cover the symptoms and causes of pet allergies, as well as the potential long term effects. Strategies for mitigating allergies will also be explored, including immunotherapy, medications, lifestyle changes, and potentially rehoming pets. The goal is to provide a comprehensive look at this topic to help allergic pet owners make informed decisions about their health.


Some common allergy symptoms to cats include 1:

  • Sneezing or a runny or stuffy nose
  • Facial pain from nasal congestion
  • Coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and wheezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Hives or a skin rash on the face and chest

When exposed to cats, allergic reactions can result in respiratory symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and wheezing. Allergens from cat dander, urine, or saliva can also irritate the eyes, causing redness and itchiness. Some individuals may experience hives or a skin rash on areas of the body exposed to the allergens 2.


Cat allergies are caused by proteins found in cat dander, saliva, and urine. The main allergen is a protein called Fel d 1, which is primarily found in cat skin glands and sebaceous glands. When a cat grooms itself, tiny flakes of dander containing the Fel d 1 protein get released into the air. These particles can then be inhaled, triggering an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.

Saliva is another source of allergens. When a cat licks its fur while grooming, it deposits proteins from its saliva onto the fur. These proteins can then transfer to carpets, furniture, clothing, and other surfaces. Allergic reactions can occur from indirect contact with contaminated items.

Cat urine is also known to contain potent allergens. Exposure to cat urine proteins that have dried on litter boxes or other surfaces can provoke allergy symptoms in those with cat allergies. The severity of reaction depends on the amount of allergen exposure.

In summary, the major sources of cat allergens are dander, saliva, and urine. Inhalation, direct contact, or indirect contact with these allergens is what triggers unpleasant allergy symptoms in sensitive people. Understanding the specific causes is helpful for effective allergy management.

Long Term Effects

Living with a cat long-term when you are allergic can lead to some concerning health effects over time. According to the Mayo Clinic[1], regular exposure to cat allergens may cause chronic airway inflammation associated with asthma. Research shows that cat allergy can influence the severity of atopic dermatitis in people as well[2].

Three of the main long term effects of living with a cat when allergic are:

  • Asthma – Cat allergens can trigger asthma attacks and make asthma symptoms worse over time.
  • Sinus infections – Chronic nasal congestion from cat allergy can lead to recurrent sinus infections.
  • Skin irritation – Ongoing exposure to cat dander may worsen atopic dermatitis symptoms like red, itchy skin.

These long term health effects can negatively impact quality of life. Consulting an allergist can help determine the severity of your cat allergy and if living with a cat is manageable.


There are several ways to mitigate cat allergens in your home to reduce allergy symptoms. The most important is to keep the cat out of bedrooms, as cat dander accumulates on bedding and exacerbates symptoms at night (Top 10 Ways to Decrease Your Allergies to Cats!). Shutting bedroom doors and using HEPA air purifiers can help reduce allergens. Frequent bathing of the cat using cat-safe shampoos formulated to reduce dander can also decrease allergen levels (Allergic to your cat?). High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in heating/AC systems and stand-alone units effectively capture dander and should be used regularly.


One of the most effective long-term treatments for cat allergies is immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots. This involves being administered increasing amounts of cat allergen extracts over several years to desensitize your immune system (NIH, 2022).

Allergy shots for cat dander have been shown to significantly reduce symptoms and need for medication in the long run. After 3-5 years, many can tolerate exposure to cats without experiencing reactions (Wyndly, 2022).

Sublingual immunotherapy drops placed under the tongue are a newer alternative to injections. They deliver small amounts of allergens to build tolerance over time. Studies show sublingual immunotherapy can improve cat allergy symptoms long-term, though may be less effective than allergy shots (Scientific American, 2023).


There are several types of medications that can help manage allergy symptoms from living with a cat:


Antihistamines like cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), and fexofenadine (Allegra) can help block histamines and reduce allergy symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny nose. They come in tablet form and are available over-the-counter. Some longer acting prescription antihistamines may be more effective for chronic allergy relief (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pet-allergy/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352198).


Decongestants like pseudoephedrine can temporarily relieve nasal congestion and sinus pressure caused by allergies. They constrict blood vessels in the nasal passages. Decongestants are available as tablets, nasal sprays, and eye drops.


Corticosteroid nasal sprays like fluticasone propionate (Flonase) or triamcinolone (Nasacort) can reduce inflammation in the nasal passages. Inhaled corticosteroids may also help for respiratory symptoms. Oral corticosteroids like prednisone are used for short courses during severe flareups.

Lifestyle Changes

Making certain lifestyle changes can help improve your overall health and immune system, which may reduce cat allergy symptoms over time. Some recommendations include:

Get regular exercise. Moderate exercise 3-5 times a week helps boost immune function. Activities like walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming are great options (wyndly.com).

Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, nuts and seeds. These provide antioxidants and nutrients that support immune health (amazing-solutions.com).

Get enough sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours per night. Lack of sleep can impair immune function and exacerbate allergy symptoms (docsmedicalgroup.com).

Reduce stress. Chronic stress takes a toll on immunity. Try yoga, meditation, journaling, or other relaxation techniques to lower stress levels.

Avoid tobacco smoke. Secondhand smoke can irritate sinuses and worsen allergy symptoms. Make your home and car smoke-free zones.

Consider Rehoming

Rehoming a cat should only be considered as a last resort if allergy symptoms are very severe. While rehoming may provide immediate relief from allergies, it can be an emotionally difficult decision for the cat owner.

According to this Reddit thread, rehoming a beloved cat due to allergies can be “gutting” even when it seems like the only viable option. The original poster notes that they had postponed rehoming their cat while trying other allergy mitigation strategies, but ultimately the allergies were too difficult to manage.

While rehoming may become necessary in some cases, pet experts recommend first exploring other options to manage allergies, such as medication, air filters, frequent cleaning, and keeping the cat out of bedrooms. According to this article, rehoming should be a last resort if allergy treatments and lifestyle changes do not provide sufficient relief.

The decision to rehome a cat due to allergies should be made carefully and not taken lightly. Factors like allergy severity, ability to manage symptoms, emotional bond with the cat, and availability of alternative housing should be weighed first. Rehoming may be the right decision when allergies pose a serious health risk that cannot be controlled through other means.


To summarize, living with a cat when allergic can have significant long term health effects if not properly managed. The allergic reaction causes symptoms like sneezing, coughing, rashes, and watery eyes. While not life threatening, the constant inflammation from continued exposure impacts quality of life and can lead to chronic issues.

The most concerning long term risks are increased susceptibility to sinus infections, asthma, and respiratory issues. Medications can only help control symptoms, so immunotherapy or removing the cat from the home are the best options for protecting long term health.

Living with pets we are allergic to is difficult but manageable with medical help and lifestyle adjustments. For optimal health, reducing exposure through rehoming or keeping them out of bedrooms is ideal. With proper care, those with allergies can still enjoy their feline friends.

Scroll to Top