Do cats cause asthma?

Pets make a significant difference to people’s way of life. It is quite unfortunate that some health concerns prevent people from enjoying the company of these animals. About 70 % of households in the US have pet dogs and cats. More people that would want to have pets are prevented from doing so because of allergic reaction to these wonderful animals. The whole family will be deprived the joys of having a cat or a dog as pets if one family member suffers from allergies given that people with allergies are known to be allergic to dogs and cats as well. Allergic people are more wary about keeping cats. It is generally believed that aside from the allergic reactions, cats can also cause asthma. Contrary to popular belief, cats do not cause asthma. However, these animals can certainly trigger an asthma attack.

Asthma is a recurring medical concern characterized by the narrowing and swelling of the airways to the lungs. The narrowing of the airway passage can be due to airway (bronchi) inflammation and to the contraction of the muscles surrounding the air passage. Excessive mucus is another reason for the narrowing of the airways. During an asthma attack, the bronchial tubes contract thereby making it difficult for the air to come in and out. Breathing is made more difficult by the production of sticky mucus. An asthma attack is characterized by breathing difficulty and shortness of breath. The feeling of tightness in the throat would make a person wheeze and cough.

Asthama is considered to be an environmentally induced disease. Asthma attacks can be associated with excessive physical exertion and with cold temperatures. The most common cause of asthma though is allergy that is triggered by dust mites and by pollutants like exhaust fumes of vehicles and cigarette smoke. Asthma is widely associated with animal fur. People with asthma are therefore advised to keep away from pets like dogs and cats. However, there is no truth to the common belief that cats cause asthma. Studies have confirmed that asthma is caused by cat allergens. A person sensitive to these allergens can have an asthma attack even if there are no cats around.

The dander cats shed contains the proteins shed by the cat’s glands. These allergy provoking substances are also present in the saliva, urine and to a lesser extent in the cat’s hair. These proteins that stick on the cat’s fur and are being shed shed with the dander are very potent. People sensitive to these allergens will immediately suffer asthma attacks after exposure to these allergens. Some cats would produce these proteins more than others. Male cats are known to produce more allergens than female cats. These allergens are sticky…they will stick to clothing, on furniture and practically on any surface. Cat allergens can spread easily because they are light enough to get airborne. This is why a person sensitive to cat allergens would still have asthma attacks even without being exposed to cats.

The good news is that asthmatics can still have a pet cat or live in a household where cats exist. It is possible to reduce cat allergens that trigger asthma attacks without giving the pet cat away. The amount of allergens can be reduced by bathing the cat regularly to reduce the amount of allergens that would get airborne. The cat can be trained to be an outdoor pet. Opting for hardwood floor instead of wall to wall carpeting, washing the seat covers and vacuuming more frequently as well as using HEPA filters would significantly reduce the amount of allergens inside the home.