Seeing your baby and cat grow up together is one of the sweetest things in the world. Preparing to have a baby or introducing a new cat into your growing family is always a very exciting and busy time. However, if you notice that your baby has watery eyes or they’re sneezing around your cat (or if you want to be prepared before introducing them), you may wonder if babies can be allergic to cats. It is possible—but it’s unlikely. In this article, we will explain how and why babies are allergic to cats and how to tell if your baby is allergic to cats.
Do Babies Get Pet Allergies?
Babies can develop pet allergies, specifically to saliva and dander. However, it is rare for a pet allergy to show any symptoms before the baby reaches between the ages of one and two. That is because babies are much more likely to show allergy reaction symptoms to food at this age. However, they can show symptoms toward pets.
What Causes an Allergic Reaction in Babies
There are common misconceptions about cats and other pet allergies, the main one being that hair causes them. However, it’s not the hair that causes allergies, but dander and saliva. Pet hair does play its part, but the baby will more commonly come into contact with flakes of skin that fall off a cat’s coat and saliva.
Contact causes an allergic reaction in a baby due to the body’s production of histamine and around 40 other chemicals. This reaction is designed to fight off any allergy-triggering proteins entering the body and setting off the immune system.
Fel d 1: The Culprit
Fel d 1 is a protein that all cats produce. This protein is excreted from a cat’s sebaceous glands, which is then spread along the skin and down the fur. Fel d 1 is the most significant cause of cat allergies in people.
This is why even removing the pet from the home can take time to become effective. Dander spreads far and wide in the home and becomes part of household dust.
How to Tell if Your Baby Is Allergic to Cats
There are some telling signs that your baby might be allergic to your cat.
Sadly, removing a cat from home doesn’t immediately relieve symptoms. Because symptoms are so similar to those of other allergies, such as dust or pollen, it can make it very difficult to pinpoint the cause.
Will I Need to Rehome My Cat?
Having a baby who’s allergic to cats doesn’t always mean you need to rehome your cat, depending on how severe the baby’s allergy is. Extra cleaning and washing can help reduce dander around the home. Using an air purifier and keeping the cat and baby separated from each other are also helpful in reducing the symptoms.
Rehoming your cat could be your last resort if your baby has a severe allergy. However, we know that most owners would not make this decision lightly.
What Is the Most Hypoallergenic Cat Breed?
While no cats are 100% hypoallergenic, as they all produce Fel d 1, some are considered less allergenic than others because they produce less of it. There are hairless cats with tightly curled fur and cats with short, dense coats that all seem to shed less dander, so based on this, here are our suggestions on cats that are less allergenic than others:
Can Having Cats Around the Home Help With Future Allergies?
Research suggests that having pets in the home (including cats) is beneficial for those who may suffer from allergies in the future. People with a family history of asthma, for example, can have a smaller chance of developing it if they had pets in the home as a child. This is also seen as almost a dose rate, meaning that the higher dose (or larger number of animals the child lives with), the less likely they are to develop allergies in the future.
In a study delving deeper into this phenomenon, children aged between seven and eight were evaluated for asthma and other allergies, such as allergies to pollen and animals. Their parents were then asked about the pets their children lived with and were exposed to within their first year of life.
The results were fascinating: they discovered that there was a dose-response association between the number of cats and dogs the child was exposed to and allergies in later childhood. This means that the more cats and dogs children are exposed to as a baby, the less likely they are to have allergies. For example, 49% of children who lived with no pets as a baby have some allergy, but this fell to 0% of children that had five or more pets in the home. This shows that cats can be even more than beautiful companions, as they can help protect babies from future allergies.
We’ve discovered that babies can have allergies to cats, although it’s rare for them to show symptoms before the ages of one and two. These allergies can manifest in very similar ways, such as sneezing and runny noses, which are caused by a particular protein that cats release.
This protein (Fel d 1) gets put into the baby’s environment, such as in household dust via dander and clothes. There are certain things a parent can do if they discover their baby is allergic to cats, such as cleaning more frequently and keeping them separate as much as possible. But unfortunately, they may have to rehome their cat if the allergy is severe.
Featured Image Credit: Sharomka, Shutterstock