Hosting Guests Allergic to Cats? Here's How You Can Reduce the Sneezing
Some people may adore feline fur babies, but have to do so from afar, as their cat allergies cause uncomfortable sneezing, itching, and wheezing. Depending on what their allergist recommends, they may rely on a medical remedy that provides relief for a couple of hours.
But what if you're hosting guests allergic to cats who are staying with you all day or overnight? Because there's no such thing as hypoallergenic cats (although some people with cat allergies might react less strongly to certain breeds), the key is to clean your house, clean the cat, then clean some more! Here's what we mean.
Why Are People Allergic to Cats?
It's not because of cat hair—well, not technically. It's actually a series of feline proteins that people react to: Fel d 1 through Fel d 7, present in cat urine, saliva, and dander.
These proteins are inhaled or come into contact with a person's eyes, nose, and skin, and this irritation causes hives, itchiness, sneezing, and watery eyes. Fel d 1 protein is the most common aggravating factor, although each cat produces varying levels of the protein series—and each person reacts differently, too, which is why people have less allergic reaction to some cats compared to others.
Unfortunately, when tidying up for your guests, you can only do so much. Purvi Parikh is an allergist and immunologist with Allergy and Asthma Network. She says cat allergen proteins are extremely difficult to get rid of in your home.
"They're present even in non-cat owners' homes—and islands where cats have never been—because they travel easily on people and stick to them," she says. "They're part of their house dust."
Bottom line: Guests allergic to cats likely can't stay with you for very long, but you can make them more comfortable during a short-term visit with additional tips from Sarah Wooten, DVM.
How to Prep for Guests With Cat Allergies
1. Give Your Home a Thorough Cleaning
Make your scrub-down more effective by using a vacuum containing a high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filter, which traps allergy-inducing particles. Remember: Microscopic dander particles are everywhere. So sweep and mop thoroughly, and vacuum rugs and furniture frequently—particularly in the days leading up to your guests' arrival.
2. Keep Your Guest Bedroom a Cat-Free Zone
Keep your curious kitty out of the room where guests will sleep a few weeks ahead of time. This cuts down on potential cat allergens that may lurk in the room and disrupt their ability to sleep. Even when you close off the area, continue to dust and vacuum in there often, because we all know how cat fur floats in the air!
3. Invest in a HEPA Air Filter or Air Purifier
Wooten recommends investing in a HEPA air filter or air purifier. HEPA units can remove allergens from the air in your home, which may ease symptoms for allergy sufferers.
4. Wipe Down Your Pet With Unscented Baby Wipes
Though they may not especially enjoy it, Wooten says wiping your cat down with unscented baby wipes can reduce loose hair and dander. Guests allergic to cats might have an easier time in communal spaces without having a major reaction if kitty happens to sashay nearby.
5. Consult Your Vet About Changing Food
If you're really looking to cut down on your furball's allergy-inducing effects, Wooten suggests talking with your vet about trying Purina's LiveClear cat food. It's marketed to bind the Fel d 1 protein that's made in cat saliva in order to reduce the impact of allergic reactions.
You can also give your guests a gift basket featuring their preferred over-the-counter nasal sprays, allergy medication, and eye drops.
However, despite your most dedicated efforts, Parikh says it's probably best for people with allergies to avoid homes with cats while on vacation. So have an open discussion with potential visitors about the length of their stay, how they usually react around cats, and whether staying elsewhere is a better option.
Additional reporting by Lauren Levine Corriher.