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Can Cats Cause Asthma in Humans? Do They Trigger Asthma Attacks?

Hallie Roddy

By Hallie Roddy

woman with cat allergy

Our pet cats are often some of our closest friends. Unfortunately, some of us shouldn’t be spending as much time around cats as we are. Cats can not only be a major source of asthma in adults, but they can even trigger asthma attacks without even being in the same room as you.

Your cat doesn’t have to be rubbing up against your face to trigger a reaction. Cats constantly leave behind allergens that float around in our home’s air by latching onto dust particles.1 They then land on our rugs, furniture, curtains, and other soft materials in the house.

Even if you are allergic to cats, most people aren’t willing to give up their furry friends. You are not alone in feeling this way. Instead, most people opt to take precautions rather than putting their cats up for adoption.

How Do Cats Trigger Asthma?

Asthma is a reaction, often inflammation, that occurs inside your airways when you breathe in or consume a specific allergen. You breathe the air with the allergens into your lungs and through your trachea until inflammation occurs. While there can be various causes, cats are potentially responsible for several common triggers.

Can cats cause asthma in adults? What about babies and children?

It doesn’t matter your age; some people are more sensitive to cat-specific allergens than others. Here are the culprits:

woman teary eyed due to cat allergy
Image Credit: Dmytro Zinkevych, Shutterstock

Dander

Dander is the dead skin flakes that originate near your cat’s sweat glands. The dead skin floats through the air and sticks to dust particles before being inhaled.

Saliva

Cat saliva is another potential allergen. Their saliva contains the protein called Felis domesticus. The protein gets transferred to your cat’s skin while grooming themselves, which can then get on your skin or stick to the dander that you inhale.

Urine

Cat urine is another allergen that is caused by proteins. Most asthma is triggered in people who get too close to cat litter or urine and inhale it.

cat pee stain in couch
Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

The Most Common Cat-Related Allergy and Asthma Symptoms

If you experience any of the following common symptoms, then you may have a cat allergy and need to consult a doctor to be diagnosed.

  • Persistent cough
  • Breathing quickly
  • Tightness in the chest area
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itchiness
  • Rash outbreak
  • Flaky skin
  • Itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Watering eyes
  • Sinus congestion
  • Hives
  • Swollen tongue, face, or mouth
  • Swelling of the airways
woman sneezing beside a cat
Image Credit: Motortion Films, Shutterstock

How Is Asthma Diagnosed and Treated?

Some doctors can make an accurate assumption about your allergic asthma based on a description of your home environment. If you only have symptoms when around a cat or in a home with cats where the allergens are higher, you likely have a cat allergy. However, further tests are needed to confirm. Once you’ve been diagnosed, the doctor will likely administer some type of treatment. Treatments include medications, inhalers, shots, and nasal sprays.

Allergy Prick Test

For these tests, your doctor with stick a needle with a small amount of allergen into your skin. When the area becomes irritated or swollen within a specific amount of time, they can safely assume that you are positive for that allergen.

Blood Test

Blood tests occur by having your doctor draw some blood using a thin needle. Once the sample is collected, they will send it to a lab and have them test for antibodies to specific allergens. A blood test is one of the most accurate tests they can perform.

Intradermal Skin Test

An intradermal skin test involves a doctor injecting a small amount of an allergen into your arms. It is similar to a prick test. If irritation occurs, you’re more than likely allergic to that substance.

How to Reduce Allergic Reactions from Your Cat

There is nothing wrong with refusing to give up your cat so long as you aren’t highly allergic and putting yourself in medical danger. Thankfully, there are ways to lessen your exposure to certain cat allergens.

  • Don’t allow your cat to sleep in bed with you.
  • Use a HEPA air filter to purify the air and remove allergens.
  • Replace your old carpets.
  • Vacuum on a daily basis.
  • Change your clothes after being near cats.
  • Bathe your cat more regularly.
  • Get a hypoallergenic cat instead.

The Bottom Line

Even if your cat is your best friend, they could very well be the source of your asthma. If you’re severely allergic, they could trigger asthma attacks and put you in danger. There are plenty of ways to reduce your exposure to allergens and treatments offered after being diagnosed. The more important thing is that you understand why this is happening and the steps you can take to live a healthy lifestyle with your cat still by your side.


Featured Image Credit: Image Point Fr, Shutterstock

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