If you’ve read other articles on my allergy blog, you know that I’ve suffered from allergies for decades. The allergy symptoms I experienced were present as a child, however, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I was tested for almost 100 allergens, with almost a showing a positive reaction.
Cat allergy, among many others, appeared as a strong reaction on my allergy test. Throughout my life I had infrequently been around cats so it wasn’t an allergy I was worried about. On the few occasions I was around cats, I definitely noticed an increase in symptoms for several days after my exposure.
Below, I’ll share more about symptoms of cat allergy, as well as my thoughts on how well they work and allergy shots cost.
Approximately 10% of the U.S. population experiences pet allergies. Cats, because they are a popular household pet, make up a large percentage of pet allergies.
Cats tend to live indoors where they share space with humans (think couches, beds, carpets, and chairs). They keep themselves very clean but long-haired breeds can shed quite a bit.
Some cats are social, while others hide and are rarely seen. In either case, the hair and skin that they shed, also known as dander, can cause health problems for their housemates.
One of the reasons cat allergy is so problematic is due to the size of the allergy-causing protein. Cat allergens are microscopic, measuring only 2.5-10 microns. You may see cat hair around the house, but you won’t actually see the allergy-causing protien. It’s invisible without a microscope.
Because of the allergen’s size and weight, it can be stirred up rather easily. A ceiling fan or someone walking down a hallway can cause cat allergens to become airborne where they can remain suspended in air for hours.
Symptoms of Cat Allergy May Include:
- Congestion of the nose and ears
- Red, itchy, or watery eyes
- Post nasal drip
- Dry cough
I often experienced a congested nose and a worsening of eczema. The nasal congestion led to nights of poor sleep and I’d wake up fatigued.
Do Allergy Shots Work For Cat Allergies
In my experience, allergy shots for cat allergies work great! My allergic reaction to cats has disappeared since I began allergy shots several years ago.
My weekly, then monthly, shots also contained allergen extracts from dogs and other household pets that I tested positive for. It’s important to understand a few things:
- Most allergic individuals are allergic to several things (if you’re only allergic to 1 thing consider yourself lucky)
- A single allergy shot can contain a mixture of allergy proteins for several animals, so you usually need only one shot for several pets.
- Allergy shots contain the allergens you are allergic to. Over time, your allergist increases the dose of allergen extract and you build tolerance. Compared to other medicine, cat allergy shots are a more natural way to treat allergies.
Length of time
What discourages most people from getting allergy shots is the amount of time required. Allergy shots often cure allergic disease, however, improvement takes place over a period of years.
Most patients begin with daily shots of a small dose then work their way to a stronger dose of allergen (read more about my experience with allergy shots). Over a period of years, the frequency of shots reduces and by year 3-5 it’s common to receive 1 allergy shot per month (this is called maintenance dose).
My allergies were severe enough that antihistamines weren’t enough. I had trouble getting through the day.
I didn’t like the idea of weekly injections, but I felt like it was my only option. I decided to get allergy injections knowing that it would be a long-term investment in my health and I wasn’t disappointed.
Are Cat Allergy Shots Painful
We’ve all experienced getting a shot at a doctor’s office. They aren’t enjoyable and sometimes they are painful. It really depends on the type of injection we receive.
Certain shots are meant to go into the muscle while others remain in the superficial layers of skin. Some shots use thick needles while others are small.
When I began allergy shots, I was thankful to see a tiny needle that was to be inserted in the fatty tissue of my skin. It wasn’t as painful as I expected and over time I became used to the process (check out my article on the side effects of allergy shots).
How Much Do Cat Allergy Shots Cost
Another reason people decide against allergy shots is due to the price. Most insurance policies will cover a percentage of allergy immunotherapy. If you have excellent health insurance, they will cover the majority of the cost.
Allergy injections become expensive when they are out of pocket.
When I was without health insurance, I paid $1000 every few months for treatment. With insurance I only pay about $90 every few months. The difference is night and day! The initial allergy test with a doctor consultation can cost $1500 and yearly check-ups are required.
Alternatives To Cat Allergy Shots
If your cat allergy symptoms are mild, you might be wondering what you can do on your own, without having to use injections. If you have a cat at home it will be difficult to avoid the allergy-causing proteins, even if you clean religiously.
Carpets and fabric furniture catch and hold onto dirts and dust. Even if you’re using the best HEPA vacuum on the market (the Dyson), you won’t be able to clean all the dust in your carpets and couches. If possible, use hard flooring like tile, wood, or linoleum and opt for leather or sythetic leather furniture instead of fabric. Hard floors and leather are much easier to clean and maintain when it comes to dust and dirt.
You can also choose to keep cats out of the bedroom. Let them roam the rest of your house but reserve the bedroom for humans. You’ll be spending 8 hours a night sleeping there so if it’s free from cat allergens, you’ll likely sleep better. While you’re in the bedroom, cover your mattress and pillows with Mission Allergy’s dust mite covers. Mission Allergy is the best on the market and breathable so you’ll sleep well and protect yourself from cat and dust mite allergens.
Lastly, consider using HVAC filters with a high MERV rating. Most HVAC filters you’ll find at the hardware store are more basic. 3M and Nordic Pure have several high-quality filters that actually clean the air in your home when they are running. One of my best tips is to let the fan run a few hours each day. The fan doesn’t use much electricity and it will filter much of the air in a home just like an air purifier.
Bottom line, cat allergy shots work well for people with serious allergies. Though the easiest option is to avoid cats, some people prioritize their furry creatures and opt to get allergy shots.
It’s important to know that allergy immunotherapy for cats (and other pets) take time. It might take a full year to recognize improvements. For this reason I always recommend people be patient and take a long term outlook on cat allergy shots.
It took me 2 full years to see an allergy test with no reaction to cats (though I still react to other allergens after 5 years).
The therapy isn’t painful, though it could be an inconvenience to people with busy schedules. It also costs a significant amount of money if you have the minimum health insurance coverage. If you have good health care insurance, I’d recommend making an appointment with an allergist and learning more about the process.
Cats are wonderful companions but don’t let an allergy make you ill. If antihistamines aren’t providing relief, consider allergy shots which can actually cure your symptoms!