Almost half of U.S. households have one or more pets. While dogs, rabbits, birds and other pets are a common cause of allergic reactions, cats are the most allergenic, or allergy-causing, pet. Almost 28% of the homes in the US have at least one cat.

The cause of allergic symptoms is not the animal's fur but the proteins secreted in its saliva and oil glands that it sheds as dead skin cells called dander. These same symptom-producing proteins are also in animal urine and feces. Dander is so small that it becomes airborne and finds its way into sensitive noses and airways. To get rid of animal dander, follow these steps.

  1. Check with new landlords or real estate agents. Before renting or buying property, find out if furry pets or birds have lived on the premises.
  2. Get a nonfurry friend. Any furry pet, including dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, ferrets, guinea pigs, and even horses, can cause an allergic reaction if you're sensitive to pet allergens. That doesn't mean you have to go without a pet. Try a turtle, fish, snake, hermit crab, or other animal without fur or feathers.
  3. Dust-proof your home. House dust contains a number of allergens, including animal proteins.
  4. In extreme cases, you may need to remove your pet from your home. Be sure to confirm through allergy testing that you are allergic to your pet. Removing the pet can be heartbreaking, but it may be the most effective way to avoid symptoms. Keeping the dog or cat out of your bedroom or outdoors is only a partial solution. Place the pet with a caring friend or relative who is not allergic. If getting rid of your pet is not an option, see Keeping a Pet to Which You're Allergic for tips to reduce symptoms.

After removing your pet, thoroughly clean to remove pet proteins. It may take as long as 2 months before your symptoms disappear. Follow these steps to help.

  • If you allowed it to sleep on your bed, you'll probably need to replace your bedding. Otherwise, it may take weeks or months to remove all pet allergens from certain fabrics.
  • Either replace floor coverings or have floor coverings and upholstery thoroughly cleaned to remove pet proteins.