Avoiding Cats May Not Eliminate Allergic Reactions

Avoiding Cats May Not Eliminate Allergic Reactions
Avoiding Cats May Not Eliminate Allergic Reactions Avoiding Cats May Not Eliminate Allergic Reactions

The most common recommendation for allergy sufferers is to avoid the allergen.

For this reason, physicians and allergists often recommend removing the cat from the home or, at a minimum, exclude the cat from the main living areas of the home.1,2

Some owners may rehome or relinquish their cat, while others may isolate their cat in one room of the home. While this may help in some cases, it is not a preferred or guaranteed solution. Isolating a cat in one part of the home, or even avoiding cats altogether, may not eliminate allergic reactions.

The facts

Isolating a cat to one area of the home may reduce allergens in other areas of the home, but the allergen will still move about the home in the air and on other soft surfaces like clothing.

  • The structure of Fel d 1 (the major cat allergen) makes it “sticky,” and it will attach to clothing and other surfaces resulting in its dispersal into surrounding environments.2-9
  • The small size of Fel d 1 allows it to be airborne for long periods of time, making it one of the easiest allergens to inhale or to be moved around the home, even without disturbance.2-4,8-10
  • Fel d 1 can be found even in homes without cats. Studies have shown that Fel d 1 can be carried on clothing into schools, offices and many other public places.1-4,9,11

Some owners may choose to remove their cat from the home altogether in an effort to mitigate their allergies. However, this may not prevent an allergic reaction.

  • It can take many weeks for the Fel d 1 levels to sufficiently decrease, and allergy symptoms are not likely to resolve immediately if a cat is removed from the household.12,13
  • Cleaning surfaces and soft materials like blankets, couches, and carpets, as well as filtering the air can help reduce cat allergens in the home.1,2,12,13

Fel d 1 easily becomes and remains airborne in dander and dust particles and is passively transferred on clothing;2-4 as a result, the allergen can be found almost everywhere including schools, homes without cats, public transportation and public buildings in levels that may trigger allergies in sensitized individuals.16,18-21

Find out more

  1. Dávila, I., Dominguez-Ortega, J., Navarro-Pulido, A., Alonso, A., Antolin-Amerigo, D., Gonzalez-Mancebo, E., Martin-Garcia, C., Nunez-Acevedo, B., Prior, N.,…Torrecillas, M. (2018). Consensus document on dog and cat allergy. Allergy, 73, 1206-1222. doi: 10.1111/all.13391
  2. Salo, P.M., Cohn, R.D., & Zeldin, D.C. (2018). Bedroom allergen exposure beyond house dust mites. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, 18, 52. doi: 10.1007/s11882-018-0805-7 
  3. Bonnet, B., Messaoudi, K., Jacomet, F., Michaud, E. Fauquert, J.L., Caillaud, D., & Evrard, B. (2018). An update on molecular cat allergens: Fel d 1 and what else? Chapter 1: Fel d 1, the major cat allergen. Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology, 14, 14. doi: 10.1186/s13223-018-0239-8 
  4. Zahradnik, E. & Raulf, M. (2017). Respiratory allergens from furred mammals: environmental and occupational exposure. Veterinary Sciences, 4, 38. doi: 10.3390/vetsci4030038 
  5. Grönlund, H., Saarne, T., Gafvelin, G. and van Hage, M. (2009). The Major Cat Allergen, Fel d 1, in Diagnosis and Therapy. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, 151, pp.265-274.
  6. Morgenstern, J.P., Griffith, I.J., Brauer, A.W., Rogers, B.L., Bond, J.F., Chapman, M.D. & Kuo, M.C. (1991). Amino acid sequence of Fel dI, the major allergen of the domestic cat: protein sequence analysis and cDNA cloning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 88, 9690-9694.
  7. Duffort, O., Carreira, J., Nitti, G., Polo, F. & Lombardero, M (1991). Studies on the biochemical structure of the major cat allergen Felis domesticus I. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, 132, 1-12.
  8. Liccardi, G., D’Amato, G., Russo, M., Canonica, G., D’Amato, L., De Martino, M. & Passalacqua, G. (2003). Focus on Cat Allergen (Fel d 1): Immunological and aerodynamic characteristics, modality of airway sensitization and avoidance strategies. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, 132, 1-12.
  9. Luczynska, C., Li, Y., Chapman, M. & Platts-Mills, T. (1990). Airborne concentrations and particle size distribution of allergen derived from domestic cats (Felis domesticus). Measurements using cascade impactor, liquid impinger, and a two-site monoclonal antibody assay for Fel d I. American Review Respiratory Diseases, 141, 361-367.
  10. Black, K.R., Murphy, B., Filep, S., Brook, J., Subbarao, P., Turvey, S.,...Chapman, M.D. (2018). Comparison of Fel d 1 and Fel d4 levels in house dust samples from the Canadian CHILD birth cohort. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 141, AB7 (abstract number 20). 
  11. Kelly, L., Erwin, E. and Platts-Mills, T. (2012). The indoor air and asthma. Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, 18, 29-34.
  12. Wood, R.A., Chapman, M.D., Adkinson N.F. & Eggleston P.A. (1989). The effect of cat removal on allergen content in household-dust samples. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology83, 730-734.
  13. Custovic, A., Simpson, B.M., Simpson, A., Kissen, P. & Woodcock, A. (2001), Effect of environmental manipulation in pregnancy and early life on respiratory symptoms and atopy during first year of life: a randomized trial. Lancet, 358, 188-193.
  14. Bartholome, K., Kissler, W., Baer, H., Kopietz Schulte, E. & Wahn, U. (1985). Where does cat allergen 1 come from? Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology  76, 503-506
  15. Dabrowski, A., Van der Brempt, X., Soler, M., Seguret, N., Lucciani, P., Charpin, D. & Vervloet, D. (1990). Cat skin as an important source of Fel d 1 allergen. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,  86, 462-465.
  16. Liccardi, G., Calzetta, L., Baldi, G., Berra, A., Billeri, L., CaminatiM.,...Passalacqua, G. (2018). Allergic sensitization to common pets (cats/dogs) according to different possible modalities of exposure: an Italian Multicenter study. Clinical and Molecular Allergy, 16. doi: 10.1186/s12948-018-0081-z 
  17. Platts-Mills, T.A.E., Vervloet, D., Thomas, W.R., Aalberse, R.C., & Chapman, M.D. (1997). Indoor allergens and asthma: report of the Third International Workshop. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 100, S2-S24. doi: 10.1016/S0091-6749(97)70292-6 
  18. Almqvist, C., Larsson, P.H., Egmar, A.C., Hedren, M., Malmberg, P., & Wickman, M. (1999). School as a risk environment for children allergic to cats and a site for transfer of cat allergen to homes. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology103, 1012-1017.  
  19. Almqvist, C., Wickman, M., Perfetti, L., Berglind, N., Renstrom, A., Hedren, M., …Malmberg, P. (2001). Worsening of asthma in children allergic to cats, after indirect exposure to cat at school. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine163, 694-698.  
  20. Gulbahar, O., Sin, A., Mete, N., Kokuludag, A., Kirmaz, C. & Sebik, F. (2003). Sensitization to cat allergens in non-cat owner patients with respiratory allergy. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 90, 635-639.  
  21. Martin, I.R., Wickens, K., Patchett, K., Siebers, R., Lewis, S., Crane, J.,...Smith, S. (1998). Cat allergen levels in public places in New Zealand. New Zealand Medical Journal, 111, 356-358.