Guests With Cat Allergies? 5 Tips to Make Them Comfortable

If you have cat allergy-prone visitors in your home, follow these tips to keep everyone happy.

A cat in a Christmas Santa hat sitting with an ornament.
A cat in a Christmas Santa hat sitting with an ornament. Photography by Irina Kozorog / Shutterstock.

Having a feline housemate or two doesn’t have to mean closing your doors to guests with cat allergies. It does mean that you should think about doing a bit of additional prep before playing host.

Make allergy-prone guests more comfortable with our pointers and expert advice from Dr. David Rosenstreich, chief of the Division of Allergy & Immunology at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

Man with cat allergies sneezing.
Hosting guests with cat allergies this holiday season? Here’s how to make them comfortable! Photography by Art-Of-Photo on Thinkstock.

1. Give your kitties their own room for the evening

Though giving your cat regular baths can reduce allergens on their fur by up to 84 percent, studies have shown that you’d have to bathe your cats every two or three days to get those results, and baths can’t control the allergens released once they go back to grooming themselves. Makers of anti-dander topical solutions such as Allerpet claim that they can reduce the effect of pet allergens, but there isn’t much recent data to support that, and “it’s not clear to me that those really work,” Dr. Rosenstreich says.

Thanks to oil glands on their heads and necks, cats have especially high concentrations of allergens in those areas — and every piece of furniture they twine around or human they head-butt helps to get cat dander circulating around your home all over again. The most effective way to keep your little buddies from aggravating your guests’ allergies is to isolate them for the duration of the visit — with everything they need to be comfortable, of course.

2. Clear the air before guests with cat allergies come over

As allergens go, Dr. Rosenstreich explains, particles of cat dander are far smaller than dust particles — think five microns in diameter (a micron is one millionth of a meter) versus 20 microns in diameter. That means that they circulate easily and tend to remain airborne, and that the best way to deconcentrate them is to provide as much ventilation as possible by opening windows and using fans. Soft floor coverings such as carpets harbor 13 times the allergens you’ll find on surfaces like hardwood, so roll up and remove area rugs wherever you can, then run your vacuum (a model with a HEPA filter will remove 99.97 percent of all particles 0.3 microns in diameter or larger from your environment) or use a wet or static mop to clean the floor (dander is water-soluble). Avoid dry tools such as brooms and feather dusters, which will just kick those tiny dander particles back into the air.

3. Keep a little something in your medicine cabinet

An over-the-counter antihistamine is worth its weight in gold for an allergy-prone guest who didn’t take one before they arrived at Cat Central (though if you can, warn them to do so 40 minutes before they come over — so much the better). Non-sedating products such as Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin “are all equally potent,” Dr. Rosenstreich notes. He adds that Allegra’s active ingredient, fexofenadine, offers an optimal balance of potency without drowsiness. (On the drowsiness-to-jitteriness spectrum, Zyrtec is associated more with the former, Claritin with the latter.)

4. Step away from the anti-allergen spray

The artificial scents and other chemicals in commercial allergen-reducing room-and-furniture sprays have the potential to be just as irritating to people who react to cat dander as the dander itself, especially if their pet allergies trigger allergic bronchitis or asthma. There’s also little evidence that active ingredients such as tannic acid can truly “denature” (or render inactive) the products in dander; a 2012 research roundup cited by the National Institutes of Health reported that topical treatments haven’t been proven to significantly reduce the health effects of cat exposure. In other words, “room freshener” spray isn’t likely to do any good, and it could make your guest feel even worse.

5. Plug in an air purifier

Experts are divided on whether or not portable air purifiers can provide consistent relief from allergens and environmental pollutants (because they aren’t considered medical devices, they aren’t regulated by the FDA), but if you’ve got one, turn it on before your guests arrive (and after you’ve closed your windows and doors; Dr. Rosenstreich notes that air purifiers are only effective in closed spaces). If nothing else, they’ll know you’ve gone the extra mile to welcome them — which is, of course, the hallmark of a gracious host.

Tell us: What are your tips and trick for dealing with guests with cat allergies?

This piece was originally published in 2017.

Thumbnail: Photography by Irina Kozorog / Shutterstock.

Read more about managing allergies on Catster:

About the author: Lauren Oster is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She and her husband share an apartment on the Lower East Side with Steve and Matty, two Siamese-ish cats. She doesn’t leave home without a book or two, a handful of plastic animals, Icelandic licorice mints, and her camera. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

8 thoughts on “Guests With Cat Allergies? 5 Tips to Make Them Comfortable”

  1. My Mom is DEATHLY ALLERGIC to cats. Several years back I had to get my 10 cats & myself away from my abusive ex-husband. We had absolutely no where to go live except my Mom’s house.
    I kept my cats in my own bedroom. My cats & I lived with her for 3 months.
    Every single week I used that product called Allerpet-C on all of the cats. Never once did my Mom’s allergies ever flare up at all.
    3 months later, my cats & I moved into a place of my own. That particular week I didn’t put the Allerpet-C on any of the cats.
    Woukdn’t you know it, my Mom was driving in my new neighborhood & decided to stop over & see my new place. She never called me ahead of time, so I had absolutely no idea she was stopping over. She barely got inside the front door & IMMEDIATELY went into an EXTREME SUPER SEVERE ANAPHYLACTIC REACTION. I had to quickly call 9-1-1 for her. The paramedics came & quickly drove her to the hospital. The hospital was less that 2 miles away but she almost died on the way to the hospital.
    Praise God they were able to revive her !
    However, this proves to me that
    Allerpet-C stuff does do the job it claims, it does save many many lives.
    In fact that product has been on the market for as long as I have been doing cat rescue ( almost 32 years now).
    It is sold at local pet stores, but due to the fact it is such a popular product, the stores have a difficult time keeping the store shelves stocked. But they are always willing to special order it for the customers who want to purchase it.
    I highly recommend. Allerpet products for anyone who is allergic to animals.
    Allerpet-D is for dog allergies, Allerpet-B is for bird allergies & Allerpet-C is for allergies to cats, rabbits & guina pigs as well as hamsters.
    YES ALLER-PET DOES WORK AS IT CLAIMS. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it to people all the time !!!

  2. kayla engle-lewis

    There may be a better thread on this site for your question, but my experience with bringing a new outdoor cat into the home is that the behavior did decrease, but took over a year. But I did not try the spray bottle which is a good idea. I don’t like to do let cats outside, but I let our newest cat who I found as an adult in a parking lot, out for a few hours each day because it keeps him from bugging the other cats. . We don’t live near a busy road-wooded property and mild winters-but I do worry about predators. So far that has worked out and his aggressive behavior is reduced greatly when he gets out. If the new cat is really aggressive, probably good idea to keep him spa rate from other animals while you are out. Hope this is helpful and good luck. Your new cat is likely thankful for his new home.

  3. I keep fabrics to a minimum by having leather couches and wooden chairs at the table. I wipe down the leather and wooden furniture before company arrives. I put away the couch throws and pillows and don’t use cushions on the wood chairs.

  4. My parents are deathly allergic to cats. While they can’t stay long when they visit me, I make sure that I don’t vacuum and dust at least 2 days before they arrive. This minimizes the particulates in the air.

  5. I am terribly allergic. I also have mice! 1 1/2 years ago I got Saul. My vet walked me through everything including my allergies. I brush regularly and I take a damp papertowel and wipe him down from nose to tail, including paws and belly. He allows this. And I can count on one hand the times I’ve had an allergic reaction. I too use an air purifier, but wiping him down has allowed me to be near him and develop a bond. Try it!

  6. Pingback: Guests With Cat Allergies? 5 Tips to Make Them Comfortable |

  7. Almost 2 week’s ago, I found a small one-eyed, intact male cat in a tree behind my house. Because he willingly answered my cat calls and came to me out of the free, I felt he might be someone’s kitty. Advertising my find on Facebook sights in my township, perusing lost kitty sights and hanging out posters in the area, got me no where. So I took kitty out of my garage after 4 days there and brought him into my home where I have four cats ranging in age from 2-1/2 to 1 yr old. 2 males and 2 females. All of my cats have been to the vet and fixed. For the most part they get along.

    First thing we did was to name kitty, “One-EyedJack.” We call him Jack. He is a sweetie. All my cats are indoor cats, so I have never bathed them. An occasional good wipe down with a wet kitty cloth is the most I do. Jack, being unfamiliar to us, was given a bath. With the exception of towing his displeasure, he did not even try to scratch or bite me, I made an appointment with the vet and had him neutered and checked out, chipped and shots given, like all my others.

    I gave thie background info above to give a an idea of Jacks temperament, at least in terms of humans. With out cats his temperament varies. My oldest and largest male, Pumpkin, has some sort of PTSD. We adopted him for a Lady whose home was a disaster area and smelled as bad. Dogs barked from outback as well as upstaiars where she also kept 10 week old Pumpkin. Needless to say, the slightest noise will send him hiding in the closest place possible for hours. Jack is half Pumpkins size and still challenges him, although he figures out pretty quickly not to continue. Gremlyn is my calico who bonded fiercely to me as a baby. Where ever I am, she is sure to be close. Jack seems to like to get a reaction out of her, but I am afraid he may lose his right eye ,too, if he isn’t careful. Then there is cuddly, fluffy, mild mannered and possibly one time scientist who loves to eat and observe. Jack messes with her, but not so much. Gypsy isn’t into aggression and just high tails it to a hiding place where she can assess the situation. Purry, aptly named due to the fact that he will purr at the drop of a hat given any attention at all. Purry, his mom and six sibs were fond in the trash when approx. 1-2 week’s old. They were all nursed by a woman who found them and than found them good homes. Purry is a mama’s bo and looks much different from my other cats. He has some oriental characteristics…pointier higher ears, more slanted eyes, a small , sleek almost, dainty build. He reminds us of the royal cats of Egypt. As for intelligence, he is lacking, but he makes up for it with loving purrs for anyone who pets him.

    Jack is stock, approx a year old ( same as Purry) and aggressive. Purry seems to be the most consistent beneficiary of Jacks aggression. He is not used to this so ke runs away and whimpers, but he can and does fight back some. I find him hiding from Jack and I fell bad. After one day of watching this intereaction, I have taken to using a spray bottle to to dissuade Jack from continued aggressive behaviors such as nipping at Purry’s heels, grabbing him be the neck, pouncing on him, following him, etc… I also try to divert Jack’s attention with toys and ply. Am I doing anything correctly and for how long should I continue. My husband and I are not here 24/7 to maintain appropriate behaviors, but I thought we could do our best when we are her??

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