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Pet Allergies

By Linnea Lundgren and Jeff Wals, MD

Like all allergic reactions, pet allergies are the result of an immune system reaction to a harmless substance; in this case, the reaction is to the proteins in pets' dander (dead skin flakes) and possibly saliva and urine (it depends on the breed). Unlike other airborne allergens that come from unwanted creatures, pet allergens come from a cute and cuddly animal, a four-legged or feathered friend whom we adore and who adores us.

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Pity pet allergy sufferers, for they endure endless bouts of misery because of their love of or the popularity of pets. After critter contact, many look like they've lost a boxing match: They have puffy faces; watery, swollen eyes; a runny nose; and red, irritated skin. Such reactions aren't always immediate, especially when sensitivity is minor or allergen levels are low. You might spend all day petting a sister's cat and only suffer a tiny itch.

But come 2 A.M., the immune system wakes up and soon you're wide awake rubbing your eyes, blowing your nose, and cursing the cat. Highly sensitive people usually don't have to wait 'til 2 A.M. (or later) for reactions to start. It seems they just look at the cat and experience skin irritations, nasal congestion, and breathing difficulties. For people with asthma, contact with a cat can trigger a severe asthma attack. Keep your home clean of pet dander.  Try the Best carpet cleaning in Boulder, CO 80301.

Why are cat allergies so common?

Cats, fastidious creatures that they are, are often the cause of allergies because they are so clean! The major allergen of the domestic cat is produced in the saliva and sebaceous (oil) glands in the skin. Cats' constant cleaning causes this allergen to be spread on their fur. When it dries, it flakes off with the slightest movement. Cat allergens are as sticky as tape, so they easily adhere to clothes, carpets, and furniture (Keep those areas clean with a professional.  You'll breathe easier when you call the best carpet cleaning in Boulder, CO 80301. We're the professional experts in pet dander removal fro carpet, upholstery and Oriental rugs). Since they're so transportable, these allergens turn up in places cats never visit: cars, offices, aircraft and even the bathtub.

Cat Washing Tips

Of the many actions people take to reduce pet allergens, washing a cat ranks right up there with disposing of dead cockroaches or cleaning out scum-filled toothbrush holders. Flying claws and sharp fangs, combined with an angry attitude, do not make for an enjoyable bathing experience for the human washing the cat. You may be able to avoid such theatrics if you condition the cat to tolerate baths when it's a kitten (notice the word "tolerate" and not "enjoy"). Without the benefit of conditioning, the bathmaster must do everything possible to make a soak in suds less traumatic for the scaredy-cat.

Speak in a soft, gentle voice, avoid jerky movements, set the cat slowly in the warm water, and wash/rinse it gently. Afterward have a treat ready; that is, if the cat hasn't left home. Ideally, a nonallergic person should do the washing, but finding a willing person is about as easy as cleaning the cat. Whoever has the difficult job, make sure they're dressed in armor, or at least a long-sleeved shirt and goggles, just in case paws and claws turn into propellers. To adequately reduce dander, cats should be washed once a week using warm water and a mild cat shampoo. Good luck.