Human Health

Living With Cat Allergies

living-with-cat-allergies

When someone is allergic to cats, the most common advice given by physicians is to get rid of the cat. Allergies are also one of the top five reasons why cats are returned to shelters. However, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, nearly 10 million people choose to share their homes with cats and dogs despite being allergic.Continue Reading

Don’t Take Cat Bites Lightly

cat_bites

The information in this post is not a substitute for medical care. If you have been bitten by a cat, see your doctor or visit an urgent care facility. We cannot answer questions about whether your bite needs medical attention in the comments section. 

It can happen even with the most loving, docile cat: an overexcited cat nips her guardian while playing, or accidentally bites her guardian’s finger while accepting a treat. In more extreme cases, redirected aggression can cause a cat to lash out at her guardian and cause severe damage. And of course, most of us will pet stray cats we meet along the way, but not all seemingly friendly cats remain friendly after being approached by strangers. Regardless of how a cat bite happens, it is not something to take lightly.

Why cat bites can be dangerous

Cat bites only account for 10-15% of animal bites reported by emergency rooms, but they pose a much greater risk of infection. Continue Reading

Breakthrough in Cat Allergy Research Offers Hope for New Treatments

cat_allergies

When someone is allergic to cats, the most common advice given by physicians is to get rid of the cat. Allergies are also one of the top five reasons why cats are returned to shelters. However, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, nearly 10 million people choose to share their homes with cats and dogs despite being allergic.

Contrary to what most people believe, cat allergies are not caused by cat hair, but  by a protein called Fel d1 found in a cat’s saliva, urine and dander (dried flakes of skin). Researchers at the University of Cambridge found that when the dander is released in the presence of a common environmental bacterial toxin called lipopolysaccharides, or LPS, it activates an immune receptor called TLR 4, triggering allergic reactions, which can range from itching and sneezing to asthma attacks. Continue Reading

5 Health Tips from Your Cat

Reiki_cat

Cats are good for your health. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that a 10-year study at the University of Minnesota Stroke Center found that cat owners were 40 percent less likely to have heart attacks than non-cat owners. According to research discussed in this news report, people with pets save the Australian health service about $880 million per year and save Germany about $6.6 billion per year.

There is much information out there about how to live healthier on the internet, in books and on television, but you may have one source of healthier living much closer than you think: your cat. I’m all about learning from our cats when it comes to living a conscious, happy life, so why not learn from them when it comes to our physical health?Continue Reading

Can you give your cat the flu?

can_you_give_your_cat_the_flu

With flu season upon us, it’s time to think about boosting your immune system so you don’t get sick. And if you need even more incentive to stay healthy this winter, consider this: it turns out that humans can give the flu to cats.

The first case of a cat getting the flu from humans was identified in 2009, when the H1N1 (swine flu) strain was identified in a cat in Iowa. Since then, there have been a handful of other cases of the flu being passed from humans to cats, dogs or ferrets. Veterinary researchers at Oregon State University and Iowa State University are working to find more cases of this type of disease transmission and better understand any risks they pose to people and pets.

Even though this phenomenon appears to be rare, it’s something to be aware of if you get sick this winter.

If your cat were to get the flu, Continue Reading

Conscious Cat Sunday: the benefits of stretching

cat_stretching

Stretching is an important part of healthy living: benefits range from increased flexibility and mobility to better athletic performance and decreased risk of injury. A regular stretching program has been part of my daily routine for more than 30 years. I’ve had minor back problems ever since I was a young adult, and twice daily stretching exercises have most likely helped save my back again and again.

And who better to teach us the importance of stretching than our cats? Have you ever seen a cat get up from a nap without thoroughly stretching first?

Stretching is actually an instinctive activity: most people stretch without having to be reminded before they get out of bed. It appears that our bodies naturally protect us from injuring ourselves by moving too fast after a period of inactivity. Depending on your age, and what kind of physical condition you’re in, you may find that even getting up from being seated at your desk for a long period of time will result in aches and pains unless you stretch first.Continue Reading

Cats are good for your health

 cat at window

In recent weeks, there have been numerous reports of cats who could detect serious illness in their humans, and who even saved their humans’ lives. We previously reported on a woman in Wisconsin whose newly adopted cat alerted a family member that she was having a seizure. There’s a cat in England who “diagnosed” her human’s breast cancer before doctors found it, and a cat in Virginia who saved her human from dying from a brain aneurism.

Several studies have shown dogs’ ability to distinguish people with both early and late cancers from healthy controls. It is believed that dogs can identify VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that are present in a person’s breath who has cancer. Seizure dogs alert their owners to an impending epileptic seizure; how dogs do this is a mystery, but some trainers and researchers think they detect subtle changes in human behavior or scent before an episode occurs. I have not found any research done with cats, but I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to assume that cats would be as sensitive to changes in a human’s body chemistry as dogs – if not more so.

Cats and their humans often mirror each others’ physical and emotional states.Continue Reading

Living with cat allergies, and cats

black and white cat with flowers

When someone is allergic to cats, the most common advice given by physicians is to get rid of the cat. Allergies are also one of the top five reasons why cats are returned to shelters. However, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, nearly 10 million people choose to share their homes with cats and dogs despite being allergic.

Contrary to what most people believe, cat allergies are not caused by cat hair, but  by a protein found in a cat’s saliva, urine and dander (dried flakes of skin). How could one tiny little protein cause the wheezing, sneezing, runny eyes, hives, asthma and even breathing problems that some people experience when they’re around cats? People with allergies have oversensitive immune systems that mistake harmless things like cat dander for dangerous invaders, and mount the same response as they would against bacteria or viruses. The symptoms of the allergy are the side effects of the body’s battle against the perceived threat.

Even though you may never be able to get rid of your allergy symptoms, you don’t have to give up your cat. There are a lot of things you can do to help you cope with allergy symptoms and still enjoy the love and companionship of your cat.

Petfinder.com offers the following tips:

    1. Designate your bedroom as a cat-free zone. Begin your program of allergen reduction by washing bedding, drapes and pillows. Better yet, replace them. Use plastic covers that are designed to prevent allergens from penetrating on your mattress and pillows. Allergen-proof covers are available from medical supply outlets. Don’t expect results overnight. Cat allergens are one-sixth the size of pollens, and it may take months to reduce them significantly.
    2. Restrict your cat’s access to designated areas inside your home. If you have a safe outdoor enclosure, allow your cat some time outside where dander will waft away in the wind. Brush your cat in the fresh-air enclosure to prevent loose, allergen-carrying hair from dispersing through your home.
    3. Eliminate allergen traps such as upholstered furniture and rugs. Carpet can accumulate up to 100 times the amount of cat allergens as hardwood flooring, so replacing the wall-to-wall with wood will keep allergens from accumulating as much. If ripping up the carpet is not an option, have it steam cleaned as often as needed.
    4. Vacuuming blows as many allergens through the air as it removes, so when you vacuum, use an allergen-proof vacuum cleaner bag or a vacuum cleaner with a high efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filter.
    5. Get some fresh air. Highly insulated homes trap allergens as well as heat, so open the windows to increase the ventilation in your home, and run window fans on exhaust. (But remember to always screen windows so kitty stays safely indoors.) Also, clean the air inside your home. Although nothing will remove all of the allergens present, running an air cleaner with a HEPA filter will help.
    6. Wipe the dander away. Bathing a cat often is suggested as a way to reduce the dander, but experts disagree on its effectiveness. “Bathing a cat was once believed to be helpful,” say Dr. Robert Zuckerman, an allergy and asthma specialist in Harrisburg, PA, “but the cat would have to be washed almost daily.” Instead, daily use of products such as Pal’s Quick Cleansing Wipes™ will remove saliva and dander from your cat’s hair and are less stressful for felines who prefer not to be rubbed in the tub.
    7. Spray allergens away. Anti-allergen sprays are a convenient way to deactivate allergens, including those produced by pets. Allersearch ADS, made from plant-based, non-toxic substances, can be sprayed throughout the house to take the sting out of household dust by rendering allergens harmless.
    8. Clean the cat box. Cat allergen is found in urine and is left in the litter box when your cat makes a deposit. To help prevent allergic reactions to the litter box, use a brand of litter that is less dusty and have someone in the household who is not allergenic clean the box.
    9. Take your medicine. Over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops and aerosol inhalers will help reduce the symptoms, although they do not eliminate the allergy. If you prefer to take a holistic approach, try Nettle tea, a bioflavinoid called quercetin or acupuncture. In recent studies antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E have demonstrated significant anti-allergen effects.
    10. Get tested. An allergy specialist can determine the exact source of your allergic reactions by a simple prick of the skin on your arm or back.
    11. Look at the whole picture. Because allergies rarely come individually wrapped, other culprits, such as dust mites and pollen, may be causing reactions, too. “An individual rarely has a single allergy,” says Zuckerman. “A cat owner may be able to tolerate contact with the cat in winter, but when spring arrives, all the allergies together may prove unbearable.”
    12. Build up resistance. There is no cure for allergy to cats, but immunotherapy may help increase your tolerance. Immunotherapy involves getting allergy shots once or twice weekly for up to six months, then monthly boosters for three to five years. Some individuals develop complete immunity, while others continue to need shots, and still others find no relief at all.

There may also be hope in the form of a vaccine for allergy sufferers. Science Daily reports that researchers have developed a vaccine that successfully treats people with an allergy to cats. The vaccine, developed by immunologist Mark Larché, professor in the Department of Medicine in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and Canada Research Chair in Allergy & Immune Tolerance, is said to be effective and safe with no side effects. Read the entire report about the vaccine on Science Daily’s website.

Are you living with cat allergies and cats? What has helped you?

Image: morguefile.com

Related reading:

Natural allergy relief

Allergy relief from a Neti Pot

 

Research Says Cats Have Healing Powers

tabby cat sunset

Guest post by Liz Eastwood

Believe it or not, our sweet-bundles-of-fur are probably saving us a bundle in medical bills.

This is another reason I’m into natural cat care—not only is it more ecological and vet-bill preventative, but our cats contribute so much to our well-being that we want to give them more life-extending love. Wait til you hear all this!

While cats in particular have healing powers, research on pet companionship in general is also impressive.

According to research discussed in this news report, people with pets save the Australian health service about $880 million per year and save Germany about $6.6 billion per year. The research found that people with pets:

  • need fewer visits to their doctor each year
  • have fewer sleeping difficulties
  • are less likely to need heart condition medicine

I was really excited about some research I found on cats in particular.

Cats may reduce heart attack risk by 40%

While a study showed that both cats and dogs  reduced stress-related blood pressure more than ace inhibitor medication, a study at the University of Minnesota found that cats in particular may reduce your chances of a heart attack by 40%.

The study, which looked at 4,435 Americans aged 30 to 75, showed that those who did not have a cat had a 40% higher risk of having a heart attack and a 30% greater risk of dying from other heart diseases than those who have or have had a cat.

I was diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia many years ago. That’s a crazy erratic, racing heartbeat that happens periodically in varying degrees of intensity and threat.

I did not have a cat at the time. A bit later I lived with cats again and a bit later I stopped having arrhythmia. Didn’t think much of it.

Fast forward many years to when my only cat, Bastet, was dying. I started having bouts of terrible heart arrhythmia symptoms. After she died it got worse–and by worse I mean nearly constant.

It stopped the day we brought home two new purring youngsters named Phil and Joel. The arrhythmia disappeared that day and hasn’t returned since. Were there other factors that may have affected my heart arrhythmia in these cases? Probably. But the timing of the healing was uncanny.

What’s at the root of a cat’s healing power?

There’s certainly some mystery as to exactly how cats and dogs manage to be good for our health. So far my investigation has uncovered these research nuggets about the healing power of kitty cats:

  • Stress symptoms are lowest in people with cats

In a study by Dr. June McNicholas, stress symptoms were lowest in cat owners, second lowest in dog owners, and highest in people without pets.

  • Purring heals—a lot of things!

The Fauna Communications Research Institute found that every cat in their study created purr vibrations within the range that is medically therapeutic (20-140 Hz) for:

  • bone growth and healing
  • pain relief
  • swelling reduction
  • wound healing
  • muscle growth and repair
  • tendon repair
  • joint mobility
  • dyspnea (shortness of breath) relief

Wow!

Other good news about having an animal friend at home

Well, this has been humbling!

Excuse me while I go see what Phil and Joel are up to.

Liz Eastwood is a writer and holistic nutritionist and the author of the Natural Cat Care Blog where she shares tips, insights and the joy of soul companion cats.

Image: Morguefile

How To Live With Pet Allergies Without Giving Up Your Pet

It always breaks my heart when I hear about someone who had to give up a pet because a family member became allergic.  And I often wonder whether there wouldn’t have been options  before  making such a drastic, and painful decision, which is why I was delighted to come across this article on Adopt-a-Pet’s blog.  Yes, the tips presented below require some effort, but isn’t the effort worth it if it means keeping a beloved family pet?

Tips to Reduce Pet Allergies

Guest Post by Jennifer, Adopt-a-Pet

You can reduce or even eliminate allergies to your family pets, just by following some very simple steps.  Cats and dogs are the most common pets that cause human allergic reactions. While it is rare for a human’s allergies to a pet to be so severe (and unresponsive when all these tips are used) that they can no longer live with that pet, that doesn’t mean they are fun. So try our easy tips below, and you won’t have to give away your family dog or cat to solve an allergy problem in yourself or your kids!

Step 1: Reduce allergens in your life.

The more your body is having to put up a “fight” to allergens, the harder it is for it to win. Do you know everything you might be even slightly allergic to? An allergist can test you for a few dozen allergens, but in the battle against allergies, it may be easier to start out with reducing as much as possible the most common allergens in your life. Pet dander, dust, mold, pollen… they all float in our home’s air and stick to every surface! When you reduce ALL the allergens in your home, you reduce your allergic reaction to your pet. Here are just some ideas how:

  • clean your house daily with natural, perfume free cleaning products
  • vacuum what you cannot mop, such as couches, your mattress
  • get a sealed “allergy” vacuum – that filters & traps dust/allergens inside
  • use pet hair rollers daily (or more often!) on fabric surfaces – we like the sticky washable ones
  • replace carpet with hard surface flooring, or keep pets out of carpeted rooms
  • if you cannot remove carpet, steam clean monthly (or weekly/biweekly)
  • if you must have rugs, replace wool with cotton, & wash using 140 degree+ water weekly
  • replace curtains with hard surface window coverings that can be wiped down weekly
  • invest in high-quality HEPA air purifier – starting with one in the bedroom
  • cover mattresses and pillows with specially designed allergy covers
  • wash blankets weekly on hot using hypo allergenic laundry soap
  • wash your clothes and  yourself in non-perfumed soap and shampoo
  • leave your shoes at the door to avoid tracking allergens inside
  • try eliminating or drastically reducing dairy (milk, eggs) from your diet
  • try eliminating other common food allergens from your diet (wheat, soy, peanuts)
  • avoid scented body care products

Step 2: Reduce allergens from your pet

If you are having a reaction to a newly adopted pet, often simply letting another family member or friend (or paid pet cleaner) handle that pet and cleaning as much as possible for you, while you slowly over a few weeks get used to that new pet, can be a huge help. Here are some other tips to try to help as well:

  • wash your hands immediately after handling your new pet
  • brush your pet daily – dogs outside your home, cats in a bathroom with a closed door, surfaces wiped off  afterward (ideally done by a nonallergic family member)
  • after brushing, using a towel dampened with water, wipe off their fur, then wash towel (do not reuse)
  • bathe dogs weekly – use a gentle moisturizing unscented pet shampoo, or alternate one week with just an unscented conditioner
  • once a week, wipe down pet using a pet allergen reducing liquid like Allerpet for Cats or Dogs (about $7) available in pet supply stores or online.
  • use a damp towel to wipe down pets that go outside, before they come inside, to wipe off outside allergens
  • clean litterboxes daily, outside, and wash out completely weekly
  • use unscented dust-free cat litter
  • wash pet beds weekly in unscented laundry soap & hot water
  • wash your pet’s toys weekly
  • feed your pets premium food (helps keep skin healthy)
  • if your pet has dry or flaking skin, with your vet’s approval, feed a skin & coat supplement
  • keep pets out of your bedroom… or at least off the bed!

Then, slowly, one by one… You may need to start out using ALL the tips above to reduce your allergies enough to be comfortable. But then, try not using one, for a few weeks, and see how you do! For example, let’s say you’d prefer to have your pets sleep in your bedroom. However, at first, you may do best with no pets in you bedroom, keeping the door closed. Then in a few weeks (or months), try the door open with a baby gate or screen keeping pets out. Then allowed them in the room but not while you are in there sleeping. Then try your pets sleeping on the floor… and then, if you want, a pet on the bed! If at any point your allergies become uncomfortable, take one step back.

How I got to be an “expert” on pet allergies… I suffered from allergies my entire childhood. I had asthma and hay fever and was allergic to pretty much anything that bloomed or walked on four legs! I spent the latter half of my childhood living in the lush countryside with all sorts of animals, so I have decades of experience dealing with allergies to pets. I still have to follow many of the steps below to keep it that way, and new pets and certain times of the year or environments (a field of goldenrod) will make my nose and eyes tingle, but that mild reaction is just a faint reminder of the full-blown inability to breath, itchy eyes, and runny nose symptoms I used to suffer from on a daily basis.

I now live in a home with many dogs and cats and am almost totally allergy (and medication) free!

Disclaimer: these are just my personal tips. They are not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.

Adopt-a-Pet.com (formerly 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com) is a non-profit pet adoption charity that helps shelters, humane societies, SPCAs, pet rescue groups, and pet adoption agencies advertise their homeless pets to adopters for free. We’re all about getting homeless pets into homes. We use the power of TV, the Internet and a toll-free phone number to connect adopters with shelter pets and help pets go from alone to adopted. We’re working to help the good people at shelters and rescue groups find homes for their pets.” target=”_blank”>Adopt-a-Pet.com is a non-profit pet adoption charity that helps shelters, humane societies, SPCAs, pet rescue groups, and pet adoption agencies advertise their homeless pets to adopters for free. They’re all about getting homeless pets into homes. We use the power of TV, the Internet and a toll-free phone number to connect adopters with shelter pets and help pets go from alone to adopted. We’re working to help the good people at shelters and rescue groups find homes for their pets.  Hundreds of thousands of pets are waiting for new homes – and you can find them on Adopt-a-Pet’s searchable database!

Photo by Photos8.com

Natural Allergy Relief

Allergy season has arrived, and this year, it seems to be particularly bad in the Washington DC area – unfortunately, for many, this is the downside of the wonderful spring weather we’ve been enjoying.  For many allergy sufferers, relief comes in the form of prescription or over-the-counter drugs, but there are a number of natural remedies that provide equal, if not better, and safer relief.  Here are some natural remedies that may help:

Saline Nasal Rinse

This is the single most effective thing you can do to help prevent seasonal allergies.  Using a Neti Pot regularly to rinse out nasal passages helps get rid of irritants and prevents them from settling long enough to cause a reaction.  For more information on how using a saline rinse can help you during allergy season, click here.

Strengthen Your Immune System

Allergies are a disorder of the immune system – they occur when the immune system responds inappropriately, excessively, or not at all.  People with healthy immune systems tend to not suffer from allergies. 

Herbs

“Using nature-based products can be a very useful way to handle mild allergies and a useful adjunct for more significant allergies, and there are many types of treatments you can safely try,” says Mary Hardy, MD, director of integrative medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.  Among those generating the loudest buzz right now is the European herb butterbur (Petasites hybridus), which, says Hardy, “has had some very impressive clinical trial results.” *

Supplements

Many naturopathic doctors also believe that certain nutrients can help soothe seasonal allergies.  In particular, grape seed extract and a flavanoid compound called quercetin, can be helpful in reducing allergy symptoms, especially when combined with vitamin C.  All of these occur naturally in certain foods, but supplementation may be more effective.

Hot, spicy foods

Hot, spicy foods help thin mucous secretions, which can help clear nasal passages.  The most frequently recommended spices for this purpose include cayenne pepper, hot ginger, and fenugreek, as well as the traditional onion and garlic.

Diet

Food allergies and food intolerances may be more closely linked to seasonal allergies than we realize.  Food sensitivities that lead to upset stomach or allergic reactions present a load on the immune system, reducing its ability to cope with the challenges seasonal allergies present.  If you suffer from food allergies, be especially conscious this time of year of what you eat and avoid your trigger foods.

Environment

If you’re sensitive to pollen, keep the windows closed on days when the pollen count is high.  Wash clothes you’ve worn outside before hanging back in your closet.  Take a shower to wash pollen out of your hair before going to bed.  If you are highly susceptible, you may want to consider wearing a facial mask while you’re outdoors.

Be aware that even natural remedies can be toxic if not used properly, and especially when used in conjunction with conventional allergy medications.  If you have moderate to severe allergies, you may want to seek the advice of a physician before self-treating.

* Source:  WebMD.com