In the United States, as many as 30% of people have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. Are you one of them? Here are eight facts about pet allergies that might surprise you:
The American Pet Products Association says that 67% of U.S. households have a pet.¹ That’s 84.9 million homes—and, for allergy sufferers, a whole lot of fur, fluff and feathers. But even pet-free homes harbor irritants: More than 90% of all U.S. residences test positive for animal allergens, regardless of pet presence.² That’s because pet allergens are easily spread through shedding hair or fur, and are hard to get rid of once they settle in.
In fact, cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies.³
Allergy sufferers react specifically to the proteins contained in pet saliva, urine and dander (dead skin cells) that disperse as our beloved family members shed. Pet hair can also trap mold, pollen and other outdoor allergens, doubling the trouble.
Human dander can actually cause allergic rashes or respiratory reactions in animals, the same way theirs can trigger a reaction in people with allergies.
Pet allergens cling to walls, furniture and clothing, and can hang in the air for months (and throughout multiple washes) even after a pet is gone.
A truly non-allergenic breed of dog or cat doesn’t exist. (Nope, not even the hairless varieties.) Allergic dander in cats and dogs isn’t a function of length or texture of fur.
Cat allergens are “stickier” than just about any other type of allergen. And as felines go, male cats produce more of the allergen protein that humans react to (Fel d1) than female cats do.
According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association,⁴ children raised in a house with two or more pets during their first year of life may be less likely than children raised in critter-free dwellings to develop pet allergies.