Is your indoor air going to the cats?
Thinking of allergens, there are a few stars that get most of the attention. There’s pollen, of course, as well as mold and dust. Right up there with them is the felis catus, a.k.a. the domesticated housecat.
Most people are surprised to learn that the irritant is not the cat’s hair. It is the oil the skin of the cat produces, called sebum, which increases in quantity as the cat ages. That is why handling a kitten but not having any reaction is a poor predictor of whether that person will later develop symptoms.
Untold numbers of cats are either put up for rescue or are abandoned each year because their human guardians wearied of the itching and sneezing that set on after their new kitten settled in and grew up a bit.
There are solutions other than disrupting the strong emotional bonds our feline friends make with their families.
My work with Panasonic focuses on ventilation, specifically the predictable, uneventful exchange of polluted indoor air with better (that is, less polluted) outdoor air. And indeed, exhausting all allergens can lead to a better quality of life.
Other steps can be taken along with an improved ventilation system. Here are some of them, according to Vetsavers of St Thomas’ Road:
- Have your cat neutered or spayed. Interestingly, a spayed or neutered cat produces less allergens. Male cats produce more allergens than female cats until they are neutered, then they produce less than females.
- Consult your vet about products that you can bathe your cat in to help reduce the allergens.
- Ensure your cat does not have fleas, as they cause the cat to scratch and to throw more dander into the air.
- Designate your bedroom as a catfree zone. Begin your program of allergen reduction by washing bedding, drapes and pillows. Cat allergens are one-sixth the size of pollen particles, making it easier for them to become deeply embedded in fabrics; therefore, it may take months to reduce them significantly.
- If your cat is an indoor cat, give him or her some time outside, where dander will waft away in the wind. Brush your cat outdoors to prevent loose, allergen-carrying hair from dispersing through your home.
- Vacuum carpets. This will reduce the allergens. Cat dander settles onto carpets and soft furnishings, which act as a reservoir for the allergen, releasing it back into the air when touched.
- Cat allergen also is found in urine and is left in the litter box when your cat makes a deposit, so keep the litter tray in a well-ventilated area and keep it clean.
Of course, it may turn out that the allergy isn’t related to the cat after all, as reactions can develop to allergens even later in life. Pollen that is innocuous in one’s 20s can become a bane in his 30s.
Ken Nelson Ken Nelson is the Northwest Regional Sales Manager for the Panasonic Eco Products Division, specializing in ventilation solutions for residential and multi-family living environments. Over the past four years, Ken has spoken throughout the Northwest, teaching and training builders, building science advocates and professionals on the physics of moisture and air movement in homes of all sizes, types and age.