How to Reduce Cat Dander Allergy IMMEDIATELY

Upset cat after being washed to treat cat dander allergy
It may not be immediate but 3 minutes is close enough.  It’s plenty of time to fix cat dander allergy.  But for building your cat’s trust… not as much. (source)

If you (or your child) suffer from a cat allergy, then you know it can be miserable.  Cat allergy is one of the strongest allergens and is capable of causing allergies, asthma, and eczema to worsen!

Its no wonder so many articles, products, tonics and crystals sell themselves as a cat allergy remedy.  I’m working on a full article on natural remedies for cat allergies.

Until that article is complete, I wanted to review a common question I get when someone asks how to reduce cat dander:  “Does bathing your cat help reduce cat allergy symptoms?”

I will go through that question for you today and explain how 3 minutes (and a few dozen band-aids) can help your cat allergies.

I dedicate this article to the brave and heroic men and women of the scientific community who tested different ways of bathing cats.  May your scars be a badge of scientific pride and your PTSD at every pet store be mild.

Who should read this article?

You should read this article:

  • If you or your child have a cat dander allergy and are willing to “do anything” to feel better
  • If you want a natural remedy for cat allergies… and have a spare pair of chain mail gloves
  • If you have assembled your shark tank and ready to test cat bathing as a possible cat allergy remedy, I will cover:
    • Recommended allergy shampoo for cats
    • Evaluation of cat dander wipes
    • Best recommendation for topical antibiotics
    • Best advice for when you need to see your doctor for cat bites

I know some of you don’t have a cat dander allergy… and never cared about giving cats baths… but want a quick funny and interesting article… then skim away!

  • Remember, even if you don’t have cat allergies, 1 out of every 10 people you know DO
  • And wouldn’t it be great the next time they have cat allergy complaints to say “I know bathing your cat can reduce allergies” and watch them to see if they’re REALLY committed to feeling better.

This was a fun article to write.  I started with a plan to do a quick article… but the number of scientific studies focused on HOW to wash a cat was too impressive to resist (OK, to be honest, I can’t tell if I’m impressed or bothered by this).  But if you’re like me, you’ll find this article entertaining if nothing else.

Overview

 

What part of the cat causes your allergies?

To understand how to reduce cat dander, you need to know WHAT AND WHERE causes cat dander allergy.  This is a small and often overlooked fact that most doctors don’t even know… and most people believe incorrect information.

So let me first clear up whether you have a cat pelt allergy, a cat dander allergy, or if you are allergic to cat saliva.

What causes cat allergies?

Pop quiz:  Guess what part of the cat causes cat allergy?

Bathing your cat can help with cat pelt allergy
Bathing your cat is easy and adorable… right??!!

Answer:  The cat allergen is a protein produced by in the cat’s saliva, on their skin, and in their urine (so pretty much everywhere).

If you are allergic to a cat, then you will get symptoms:

  • If the cat licks you (you are allergic to cat saliva)
  • If the cat rubs on you (the antigen in the skin and tongue makes the cat pelt one huge Amazon allergy package)
  • If the cat head butts you (you’ve just been marked… with allergen!)
  • Or if the cat is nowhere near you… the cat dander allergy protein sticks to the cat pelt.  Allergy symptoms become airborne and are now part of a semi-coordinated assault.

Where on the cat is the most allergic?

OK, no one was wondering this.  But since SCIENCE studied it, I will share:

cat pelt allergy highest around the neck and face of your cat
Your cat’s face and neck are the HIGHEST area of cat pelt allergen

This chart just proves that cats are out to get you.  I mean, the most allergenic part is your cat’s face and neck and it’s the part they love to smash into you you when you’re awake… or asleep!

This information is helpful in two ways:

  1. If you bathe your cat, the face and neck are a good place to start
  2. If you pet your cat, go for the back or chest (I’d include legs, but then you’ll just get scratched).

How much does bathing work as a natural remedy for cat allergies?

OK, now for the good stuff.

Reducing cat dander in your house is a way to improve symptoms while keeping your cat!

Multiple studies have shown that bathing your cat DOES WORK:

  • One study found bathing your cat could reduce cat allergen by 44-79% 1
  • Another study found bathing cats reduced the allergen on their head/face by 97%2
  • Cat hysteria increased in 100% of cats getting baths source: my guess

For a comparison, here is a comparison of before and after bathing for cat dander allergy:

Bathing reduces cat pelt allergy
Bathing DOES reduce cat dander allergen!

So, yes, bathing your cat CAN help reduce your cat dander allergy and is a great natural remedy for cat allergies.

But… only if it’s done the right way.

If you want a natural remedy for cat allergies, giving them a bath can reduce cat dander allergy…. but only if’s done correctly and often enough.

What is the proper scientific way to wash your cat to reduce cat dander?

Yes, this actual question has caused scientists find an answer.

There are 3 scientifically tested methods of washing cats:

  • Rinsing with water (specifically, distilled water… because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )
  • Washing with shampoo and water
  • And water immersion

 

Rinsing with water

In a very heated argument starting in the late 90’s, early cat dander allergy research showed rinsing a cat with water was unhelpful.  But in a rival study (where a vet’s office rinsed the cat once a week) there was a 44% reduction in cat dander.

Thus the first cat bath formula was created:

cat + water = reduced cat dander allergy + angry cat

There was not a standardized “method” for how long or how much water to use.  And based on this, you’d think that simply rinsing your cat with water was the solution.

Rinsing with shampoo

However, a decade after the first formula was “discovered,” other allergists asked whether shampoo should be used to reduce cat dander.  They had good rational for this question (it’s the same reason everyone uses shampoo):  shampoo cuts surface tension and emulsifies, allowing removal of dirt and dander from the hair and skin resulting in truer cleansing.3

When compared between water and shampoo, the shampoo reduced cat dander by 128% more than water alone… but was still only 44% reduced.1

So should the magic cat allergy remedy be:

cat + water + shampoo = more reduced cat dander allergy + angry cat + start an allergy shampoo for cats business?

Not so fast.

Immersion washing

I’d like to meet the people who invented this method because I’m sure a severely cut and angry scientist “invented” it AFTER trying the above methods.

But the cat immersion technique is at least recorded.  Here’s your step-by-step guide to reducing cat dander through the immersion technique:

  • Immerse your cat up to their head in tap water
  • Massage the cat pelt for 3 minutes
  • Then put into fresh water and repeat for 3 minutes
  • Then towel dry

As a cat owner, this technique sounds miserable.  But it showed a MUCH LARGER improvement in reducing cat dander allergy:

cat + water + shampoo + immersion method = most reduced cat dander allergy + angry cat + best dander allergy relief!

Compared to the 44% cat allergen reduction using water and shampoo, the immersion technique had a 79% reduction in cat dander allergen (many Bothans died to bring us this information).

Science complete

I’m sure you’ve gotten to this part and are thinking “OK, I’m sold!  Reducing cat dander by 79% is great!  I will draw a bath in my claw-foot tub now and bathe with my cat.  No problem!”

Well… there’s one small (OK, HUGE) point left to discuss:  how often do you need to wash your cat to get this cat allergy remedy?

How often do you need to wash your cat to reduce cat dander allergy?

Short answer:  all the freaking time!

Long answer:  it depends on the method you use.

Remember, the goal is not just to piss off your cat but to improve your symptoms.  The best measure of cat dander reduction isn’t how much of the cat protein can you wash off your cat, but how much is in the air.  Remember, the airborne cat dander allergen causes the majority of your allergy, asthma and eczema symptoms.

When you use a water rinsing method, the effects will last for the rest of that day but will be back to normal in 24 hours.

Cat pelt allergy levels return to normal 24 hours after bath
Cat dander allergy levels return to normal 24 hours after the bath.

Note:  there was a small dip on day #2 but it was not statistically significant.

Think about washing your cat like spraying water on a dusty road:  the water dampens the cat pelt and allows the antigen to stick to it, but the next day the dander is free to fly through the air causing allergy symptoms once again.

Is there benefit over time to keep washing your cat?

So the next question is whether washing your cat once a week, every week, can improve cat dander allergy over time.

This chart shows that using the immersion method, there WAS sustained reduction of cat dander in the air by continuing to wash your cat over time.  BUT this effect worked more for some cats and not others (there was no data on what cats it worked best).

Science Complete Again!

Now you know the outcome of years of research:  using cat baths as a natural remedy for cat allergies will give you a reduction in cat dander for the day of the bath and, if you do it long enough, you might or might not see additional long term symptom improvement.

Where do you sign up?  How about you start with my (non-sarcastic) starter kit below!

What products do you need for reducing cat dander?

OK, so you’re ready to immerse your cat in water for 3 minutes while massaging their pelt with shampoo (and rinse for 3 more minutes) to get 24 hours of relief and a possibility of long term improvement?

Then you’ll need this starter kit:

  1. The Best allergy shampoo for cats
  2. Best bandaids for your hands and arms
    • You can’t go wrong with Band-Aid Brand for those small wounds
    • And here’s a Combat Application Tourniquet for those big gushers (ironically, it spells out CAT)
  3. Best recommendation for topical antibiotics
    • From an allergy perspective, this topic deserves another post because topical antimicrobials frequently cause contact skin allergies.
    • Until I finish that post:
  4. Best advice for when you need to see your doctor for cat bites
    • First, cat bite statistics:
      • 1% of ER visits are due to animal bites
      • Kids get bit more often than adults
      • 37.1 percent of cat bites result in infection
    • Cat bites are worse than scratches because they introduce a puncture wound into the body.  This can cause:
      • Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
      • Tenosynovitis (infection or inflammation of tendons or joints)
      • Septic arthritis (severe infection of the joints)
    • You should go to see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
      • Fever
      • Redness or swelling (or if it’s painful or tender)
      • Pus or drainage
      • Swollen lymph nodes
    • In addition, you doctor should PROPHYLACTICALLY start antibiotics if
      • There are deep puncture wounds (I’m looking at you, Mr. Cat!)
      • Wounds in areas of vein or lymphatic compromise
      • Wounds on the hand or near bones or joints
      • Wounds on the face or genital area (Ouch!)
      • Wounds requiring surgical repair
      • Wounds in immunocompromised people

 

Is there a bath alternative?  Are Cat Dander Wipes Effective?

I’m sure you’ve read through this post and are interested in possible benefits of using cat baths as a cat allergy remedy.  But maybe you… I don’t know… value your fingers or appreciate that blood belongs on the inside.  Isn’t there an alternative?

This is AMERICA!  Of course there’s an easier way.

One of the most recommended bath alternatives are cat dander wipes.  These products are like Luke’s baby wipes but have a few purposes:

  • They can help clean your cat from dirt, oil/grease, etc
  • They help stop your cat from getting dry skin
  • They can help reduce shedding
  • They might help if you’re allergic to saliva or with your cat pelt allergy

 

Surprisingly, the Tomes of Cat Washing literature do NOT explore cat wipes.  I’d volunteer as tribute, but counting to 10 with all my fingers is important.

Overall, I can’t tell you that cat wipes are a practical alternative to bathing, but it might be worth a try.

These two articles do a decent job of reviewing cat wipes:

  1. Cat Dandruff Clinic’s article:  Cat wipes: more than average baby wipes
  2. Community Concern for Cat’s article on cat allergy
  3. Dr. Foster and Smiths Pet Care Tips for People with Cat allergies

 

Summary

If you or your child suffers from a cat allergy, then I need not tell you how miserable it can be.  From allergy symptoms, asthma attacks and eczema flares, cat allergies can have you crying “I’ll do anything to fix my cat allergies.”

Really?  Anything?  Because now it’s time to put that to a test.

This article first reviews that there’s no specific allergy to cat saliva vs cat pelt allergy but one, united, cat dander allergy (your cat’s face and neck contain concentrated allergen but cat dander is found throughout their body).

wet cats look like gremlins
This method works. But as a side effect, you can never feed your new Gremlin after midnight.

We then focused on how to reduce cat dander through baths by focusing on three main areas:

1.  First, bathing your cat CAN help reduce cat dander allergy between 44-79% and reduces the dander on the face up to 97%.1,2.  It also reduces the amount of non-bleeding skin on your arm and body.

2.  Second, the immersion method of bathing (with shampoo) will give you the best reduction of cat dander following the bath.

3.  This reduction will last an impressive 24 hours… giving you enough time to find bandaids and tylenol to mend your wounds

4.  Weekly washing will add up over time for some cats… but no others.  And there’s no way to know if yours will be on the beneficial side of that statistic

5.  If you get bit by a cat, you have sustained a puncture wound that gets infected 37% of the time.

You should see your doctor or urgent care if you get any of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Redness or swelling (or if it’s painful or tender)
  • Pus or drainage
  • Swollen lymph nodes

 

In addition, you doctor should start antibiotics if :

  • There are deep puncture wounds
  • Wounds in areas of vein or lymphatic compromise
  • Wounds on the hand or near bones or joints
  • Wounds on the face or genital area (Ouch!)
  • Wounds requiring surgical repair
  • Wounds in immunocompromised people

     

    Next Steps

    I tried to add some entertainment with this article, but the information is good.  Bathing your cat CAN reduce cat dander allergy and is something to consider.  Whether you actually do it or not… well, that’s up to you.

    But I can reassure you I have PLENTY of other ways to help you feel better without having to get rid of your cat… and without having to bathe your cat.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.  And if you liked this post, send out a like on my Facebook page:

     

    Sources:

    1. Evaluation of different techniques for washing cats: quantitation of allergen removed from the cat and the effect on airborne Fel d 1.  Avner DB, Perzanowski MS, Platts-Mills TA, Woodfolk JA.  J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1997 Sep;100(3):307-12.
    2. Fel d 1 production in the cat skin varies according to anatomical sites.  Carayol N, Birnbaum J, Magnan A, Ramadour M, Lanteaume A, Vervloet D, Tessier Y, Pageat P.  Allergy. 2000 Jun;55(6):570-3.
    3. Washing the cat requires shampoo.  Goetz DW.  J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Mar;119(3):758; author reply 758-9
    4. Cat shedding of Fel d1 is not reduced by washings, Allerpet-C spray, or acepromazine. Klucka, C.V., Ownby, D.R., Green, J., and Zoratti, E.  J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1995; 95: 1164–1171
    5. Duration of airborne Fel d 1 reduction after cat washing.  Nageotte C, Park M, Havstad S, Zoratti E, Ownby D.  J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006 Aug;118(2):521-2.
    6. Animal danders.  Erwin EA, Woodfolk JA, Custis N, Platts-Mills TA.  Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2003 Aug;23(3):469-81. Review.

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    Comments

    1. Hey I have bad allergies to cats, some bug me more then others and of course mine bug me the worse. I’m not willing to give my baby up so that u so much for your hard work and get articles. I’m at the point where I want to do the shots “immunotherapy”. ( which they had a vaccine out which I heard was ready a few years ago :/ ). My problem is my doctor said she hasn’t heard of the shots and only wants to push pills. I’m in Winnipeg Canada not to sure where u are. I was wondering on the off chance u know where I can get this done at? :). Anyways thanks again u r awesome.

      Susan clayton

      • Susan,

        Thanks for your kind words and YES, immunotherapy is a great option if you have a bad cat allergy because they can essentially change your immune system to tolerate cats! I’m going to reply to your email so that I can get some more details but I will certainly give you some great advice!

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