Dander refers to the minute particles of dead skin that are constantly being shed from your cat (and other mammals).
It is often said that cat dander causes allergies and in some ways that is correct, but not entirely.
The actual cause of allergies is a protein known as Fel D1 (which stands for Felis Domesticus1) which is produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin and is also present in your cats’ saliva and to a lesser degree in the urine. Your cat is constantly shedding minute particles of dander containing the Fel D1 protein and also transferring the same protein via the saliva to his fur when he grooms himself, which is also constantly being shed.
Due to the minute nature of dander, it can remain airborne for several hours after it is shed into the environment, after which it settles on walls, carpets, furniture etc. Cat dander can be found even in places where cats haven’t been such as schools and other public buildings. The main reservoirs of cat dander in the home are carpets, soft furnishings such as sofas and bedding. We then breathe in these particles through the nose and mouth, leading to an allergic reaction to susceptible individuals.
Studies suggest that up to 50% of people suffering from cat allergies have never owned a cat. Allergies don’t develop the first time you encounter the allergen, it takes time for a reaction to build up. Often people have owned a cat for several years before they develop an allergy.
Male cats produce more of the Fel D1 protein than female cats, but neutering males significantly reduces levels. It has also been suggested that dark coloured cats may produce more Fel D1 protein than light coloured ones.
What are the symptoms of allergies to cats?
Allergies may be mild to severe. Common symptoms include:
Itchy, red, watery eyes.
Sneezing and/or a runny nose.
How to reduce cat dander in the home:
Keep cats out of bedrooms.
Desex your cat.
If possible, replace carpeting with floorboards or tiles.
If you can not replace carpeting, vacuum frequently and steam clean often.
The use of HEPA filters around the house can help to reduce levels of dander from the air.
Use a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filters.
Wash your cat on a weekly basis to reduce dander levels.
Keep cat litter trays in a remote area and have somebody who doesn’t suffer from allergies take care of litter tray duties if possible.
If you have been exposed to cat dander, wash all clothes on the hottest possible setting.
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