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Why can People Grow out of a Cat Allergy?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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It can be disappointing for children who want a cute, cuddly cat, but who are prevented from owning one because of sneezing, itchy eyes, and even hives. In fact, there are some people who cannot even visit homes where a cat is or has been present. Fortunately, it is possible to grow out of a cat allergy or at least become less reactive in the presence of felines.

A cat allergy is an immune system response; it occurs when a person’s immune system sees a cat’s saliva, urine, or dander as harmful and requiring defense. In response, the body develops antibodies to the cat, and each time the person is exposed to it, her immune system reacts and causes such symptoms as sneezing, runny nose, congestion, post-nasal drip, and itchy eyes, nose, throat, and roof of the mouth. An allergy may also be marked by coughing, pain, and pressure in the face, and swollen skin under the eyes. Sometimes, allergies can even lead to itchy skin and rashes.

A person who has asthma may have an even more serious reaction to cat allergens. In addition to any of the other symptoms, she may also experience breathing problems, pain, or tightness in the chest, wheezing, and sleep difficulties. The sleeping problems are typically due to wheezing and couching that interrupts sleep frequently or makes it difficult for the person to fall asleep in the first place.

Some people, particularly children, do eventually grow out of cat allergies. This may be because they develop immunity to the allergen, or they may get used to it. Others still have the allergy but develop a less intense response to exposure. As such, they may not notice their symptoms as much as they did before.

Unfortunately, many people do not grow out of these allergies, and they may have a reaction for their entire lives. To deal with them, many take allergy medicine when they are around cats, and some get injections, especially when they keep cats as pets in spite of allergies. Others may simply avoid cats altogether.

If a person wants to keep a cat as a pet despite allergies, he cannot depend on the possibility of growing out of them. To help minimize allergen exposure, it may help to bathe the cat on a regular basis. Frequent vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, and cleaning may also help, as can opting for wood or tile flooring instead of carpets and blinds instead of curtains. This is because carpets, curtains, and upholstered furniture harbors allergens. It may also help to keep the pet out of the bedroom and use air filters to reduce allergens in the air.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a TheHealthBoard writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By anon305887 — On Nov 28, 2012

I used to be allergic to cats -- really allergic. I'd sneeze, my eyes would get watery, I couldn't breathe, and I'd get a strange rash on my arms. But later I found out it was because as a kid I never had real contact with cats.

Then when I got older, there was a little feral kitten that was all alone outside my house. I couldn't leave him out there by himself so I took him in and I had crazy allergies, but after about one or two weeks, my allergies just started going away. I later found out that you develop immunity against allergens with exposure. Now I can be around cats with no problem.

By lighth0se33 — On Nov 18, 2012

I wish I could grow out of my cat allergy! The very skin on my face starts to swell if a cat rubs up against me, so I have to stay away from them.

My cat allergy hurts my eyes most of all, though. They start itching so badly, and if I rub them, my eyelids start to swell. Tears just stream out of them uncontrollably.

I take a daily antihistamine that is supposed to last twenty-four hours, but if I come in contact with a cat, I can hang it up. I have to go take the maximum dosage of a stronger four-hour antihistamine.

By orangey03 — On Nov 18, 2012

@John57 – I think it might be possible for someone to be allergic to some breeds of cat but remain unaffected by others. I have noticed that I have a bad reaction to Siamese cats, but regular domestic yellow-haired cats do nothing to irritate my sinuses.

By healthy4life — On Nov 17, 2012

It's terrible when your parents get rid of your pet as part of your cat allergy treatment. I was six years old when we adopted a stray pregnant cat who soon had kittens, and after I had already gotten attached to the kittens, my dad took them away “to live on a farm.”

I struggled with my allergies to all kinds of things for years, and I even took weekly allergy injections. However, when I was in my late teens, I suddenly noticed that my friend's house cat did not bother me at all.

I still had allergies to pollen, dust, and a few other things, but the cat was not one of them. Either the allergy injections had worked over time, or I had just grown out of it.

By cloudel — On Nov 17, 2012

Bathing is not a good cat allergy cure. Cats hate water, and you may become covered in scratches, which are extra bad for someone who is allergic to cats in the first place.

My sister is allergic, and ironically, she works at a vet clinic! She takes allergy shots to deal with her problems, and for the most part, they work. However, she has been bitten by cats a couple of times, and the infection and pain that set in sent her to the doctor for pain medication and a tetanus shot.

By andee — On Nov 03, 2012

I have been allergic to cats for as long as I can remember. As a young girl I always wanted a cat, but never could have one. This is something I never outgrew and I think it has even become worse as I have aged.

Now if I even walk into a home where there is a cat I immediately start to have the classic symptoms of a cat allergy. This is not only miserable and annoying, but also makes me feel bad for everyone else around me.

If I know someone has a cat, I will avoid going to their house just because I don't want to end up being so miserable and making them feel bad at the same time.

By John57 — On Nov 02, 2012

It's really strange, but my daughter was allergic to cats yet she didn't have any trouble with our cat. It makes me wonder if someone can build up an immunity to a certain cat, yet be allergic to other cats they come in contact with.

We had a cat for most of the time our kids were growing up, and as long as the cat didn't sleep on her bed, she never had any problems. If she went to another house where they had a cat, she would have an allergic reaction.

By LisaLou — On Nov 01, 2012

My son has asthma and if he is around cats, dogs and horses very long he starts sneezing and his eyes get red and itchy. I feel so bad for him because he would love to have a cat but I am afraid it would just make him miserable. Nobody else in our family is allergic to animals like this. I hope this is something he will grow out of someday, but I don't think we should get our hopes up about it.

By plaid — On Oct 04, 2010

@turtlez - I think aside from being able to treat a cat allergy this happens with a lot of different allergies. Many people grow in and out of allergies without knowing it. I grew up with cats and didn't become allergic until I was in my 20s, then all of the sudden I was good to go again. It's very strange and funny even.

By turtlez — On Oct 04, 2010

@bbpuff - The trend is actually very similar with dogs and other animals as well. I think you're right in your theory with the long hair on cats because people are typically more allergic to long haired dogs as well. My husband has a cat skin allergy only which is really weird (I think). He breaks out but has no itchy or watery eyes or anything like that.

By bbpuff — On Oct 04, 2010

@wecallherana - I really think that it has to do with your overall exposure to animals that determines whether or not you will be allergic and/or how much you will be allergic to them. You can always have an allergy. Cats are particularly bad for people with other allergies because they usually have long, fluffy hair - and I think that's what gets most people.

By wecallherana — On Oct 04, 2010

It sounds really weird, but I have cat allergy symptoms come and go since I was 16 or 17. It's been about ten years. I wasn't allergic until about the time I graduated high school. Then I was pretty miserable. It is funny, though, because my boyfriend is also now allergic and he wasn't before and he just turned 30 this year.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a TheHealthBoard writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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