Your first question might be ‘what is pet dander and why bother to try and reduce it’? For a person who is sensitive to allergens, it can be a distressing problem. Dander is the name given to tiny particles of skin that your cat sheds. It accumulates in the air and settles in the environment around your home.
Dander has ragged edges which helps it to stick to everything it touches and it is very light. This means it travels freely by air. A protein within the dander (known as Fel d 1) causes allergic reactions. This protein can also be found in urine, as well as the saliva of your cat.
How does it affect us?
If you suffer from allergies, dander can cause a real discomfort. Some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction to dander include the following:
- Itchy or watery eyes – not only do they drive you almost mad, but your eyes end up red and puffy
- Wheezing – your breathing becomes harder as the body reacts to the allergen and air passages narrow in defense of your body
- Non-stop sneezing that is often quite violent in nature
- Coughing bouts due to phlegm
- Ear infections
A prolonged attack can trigger asthma and secondary infections such as bronchitis. But why do some people suffer and not others?
Some people are more sensitive to allergens than others. For the pet dander sufferer, their body interprets the protein within the skin flakes as a foreign invader and creates a specific antibody to attack the invader. Your body goes into fight mode and is ready to do battle. The sneezing, coughing and inflammation of the body is nature’s way of trying to rid the dander from your system.
First the Bad News
Dander is very mobile as it is so light, makes it spreadable. Once it touches something like your jersey or your hand it sticks like glue because of those rough edges. It latches onto people or belongings, making it difficult to avoid because it is easily transferred. If your cat’s not feeling well or affected by rapid hair loss, things can get worse.
A plethora of dander-laden fur floating in the environment will have your body on high alert and prone to an allergy attack. Take your cat to the vet to find the cause and get your cat treatment.
Now the Good News
There are measures you can take to help eliminate dander. This is reassuring for devoted cat owners or for someone prone to allergies who wish to adopt. With careful management, dander can be a thing of the past. Let’s look at the steps you need to take to have an allergen-free home.
How to Eliminate Dander in Your Home
The secret to controlling dander is to be excessively clean. Frequent bouts of cleaning should include your furniture, carpets, floors, curtains, your clothes, and your pet’s toys! And if possible, your cat!
But be warned, not all cats welcome the idea of a wet bath! Some will panic and claw at you, so don’t push the issue. For example, a gentle rub down with a soft damp cloth while they are relaxing is just as good.
- Use a glove or a brush to groom your pet and remove the dead cells lurking in the fur. It may pay to wear a mask while you groom your pet or get another family member who is not affected to do it.
- Resist the temptation to wash your pet frequently, as too much washing can dry the skin out and cause more flakes floating around. Rather than bathing your cat use a special wipe for grooming their coat that contains a conditioner.
- There are anti-allergen sprays you can use on your curtains, furniture, couches or pet bedding that have enzymes that break down the problem proteins of dander. Just check a small patch to ensure it is safe on fabrics first.
- Your vacuum cleaner can make a world of difference. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter (high efficiency particulate air) and clean not only the floor, but include the curtains, furniture, and rugs as well. Stay away from bagless cleaners to prevent exposure to the allergens when you empty the dust container.
- Keep your pet off your bed and pillows, and preferably out of the bedroom. You want your sleeping area to be a dander free zone.
- Wash your pets toys often to remove any dried saliva.
- Wear a mask when cleaning your cat box as the urine is a strong allergy causing product.
- Use an air cleaner machine in the home; one with a HEPA filter is ideal.
Using these steps regularly can make a massive difference to the effect that dander has on your life.
You may want to consider replacing the carpet with tiles or timber as carpet acts as a trap for dander. Doing so will reduce the time you have to vacuum. A quick mop over the floor using a mild laundry detergent can lift away any dander clinging to them. If you need carpets in your home, go for ones with a low pile and steam clean the carpets often.
Diet Can Play a Vital Role Against Dander
One sure way to reduce dander is to feed your cat a high-quality pet food and add some fish oil supplements. A good diet will help to maintain a healthy skin condition and prevent dry skin that can flake off. Keeping your cats skin healthy through diet and good grooming will help the allergy sufferer.
Foods that are high in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids will soften the skin. If you are changing Catto’s diet, introduce new foods or brands slowly to avoid giving your cat digestive problems. Zinc is a great supplement to add to their diet but always check with your vet first.
Wash Your Hands After Handling your Pet
Remember how Grandma always used to say ‘Have you washed your hands after touching the cat?’ Well, it seems she was ahead of the ball game.
After you have been playing with your cat, grooming them, or just chilling out with them, make sure you wash your hands afterward. If you don’t, the minute you touch your face you will be spreading dander and risk an allergic reaction!
It takes just a minute or so to clean your hands which will remove any dander that you may have picked up from your kitcat. Keeping some special anti-allergy wipes nearby is even easier!
Clean More Often
Cleaning your house and your pet is vital in the battle against dander. But don’t forget to wash your cats play stations as well. The cat tree that they love, the scratching post, the tunnels they run through, their beds! All these items can harbor dander.
Make a regular habit of giving these items a good brush-down outside, and either clean with warm water and detergent and leave to dry in the sun, or use allergenic tissue wipes to clean them up.
Are There Any Cats That Don’t Get Dander?
Technically speaking, the answer is no. Most cats produce dander (their skin sheds dead cells) so they cannot be classified as ‘hypoallergenic’. But some breeds are prone to drop less, or they produce less of the protein which creates dander.
These breeds are as follows.
- The Russian Blue is almost hypoallergenic with their soft short, dense fur which sheds less than most other breeds.
- Siberian Cat is said to have fewer allergens that affect people however that has not been proven scientifically as yet.
- A Sphynx cat is almost hairless but does have skin that feels like suede. They do produce dander but are easier to wipe down.
- Balinese cat produces less of the protein Fel d 1 that causes the allergen.
- The Rex Cat claims to be almost hypoallergenic – they have no top coat, only a fine undercoat that’s simple to clean.
- Bengal Cats have a uniquely fine pelt that requires less maintenance than other breeds. They don’t groom themselves as often as other breeds, therefore have less allergen rich saliva on their coat
- The Javanese Cat has only one of the three layers of coat that most cats have. They have a fine top coat and no undercoat which means less hair to groom and shed.
If you don’t have a cat as yet but want one, you may want to consider one of these breeds if you are prone to allergies.
Let’s Recap The Dander Issue
The steps outlined above to eliminate dander will only work if you are diligent and carry out these tasks regularly. Consider wearing a soft mask over your nose and mouth while having a snuggle with your pet or during grooming will help. After all, having a pet is all about companionship which means close contact.
When it comes to dandruff, you just have to be prepared to vacuum more often, groom your pet regularly, and provide a nourishing, rich diet for them. With a little extra effort, you can enjoy the wonderful companionship that a cat offers, while minimizing the effects that dander can cause.
About the Author
Jean Brewer is a professional pet writer that contributes regularly on PurrfectKittyCat, where she writes about cat care tips & advice.