There are only a few types of cat allergy people in the world. First, there are those who are allergic but could not imagine life without their feline family members. Next, there are those who are very allergic to cats… and therefore cannot have a cat indoors. Whether they want a cat or not… it just isn’t in the cards. And, then there are people who claim to have a cat allergy to avoid either owning a cat… or avoid visiting someone with a cat. For the most part this article is directed at the first two types of people. The kind of people who want to know if there is an air purifier for cat allergies.
So is there a purifier for cat allergy sufferers? Of course. But to be honest… most purifiers will help with cat allergies to some degree.
Why are we Writing About Cat Allergies?
The obvious reason is that there are people out there looking for ways to improve their quality of life. They either own a cat… or want a cat; but they don’t want to suffer every day. We want to help those people. However, there is another reason we selected this topic. We were reading some blogs about the topic and the recommendations were just ridiculous. There are some pretty prominent sites that are basically saying… here are three (or four, or five) purifiers that will definitely help with your cat allergies.
When sites make claims like that on such a general topic it drives us crazy. And, we’re going to tell you why they’re wrong. We’ll provide some examples of the recommendations they’re making… and try to give you some takeaways that will actually help you choose a purifier.
Finally, we are going to tell you what else you’ll need to do to live with cats as an allergy sufferer. There is no single machine that you magically plug in and your allergies just disappear. You will need to make some other changes to reduce those allergies. As allergy sufferers ourselves… we can tell you that air purifiers do help, but they are not magical appliances. Any site that leads you to believe that X, Y, or Z purifier is the cure all; is either unethical… or grossly uneducated.
What is the Root Cause? Saliva? Hair? Something Else?
First let’s get the facts out in the open. What actually causes cat allergies? To understand that, we first need to understand allergies in general. Without getting to detailed, an allergic reaction is you’re body’s immune system trying to fight off an “intruder.” Here’s a great article on allergies and how they work if you want the whole story. But, generally speaking… the process is pretty simple.
In everyone’s body you will find antibodies. When your immune system thinks it sees an intruder it sends those antibodies to various cells to help fight the intruder. When the antibodies reach the cells it triggers an allergic reaction, which is a way for the body to get rid of (or otherwise eliminate the intruder). Different people have different antibodies that signal the cells to go into defense mode, and that’s why some people are allergic to pine trees and others are allergic to cats.
So the root cause actually varies from person to person when it comes to cat allergies. Some people are allergic to proteins in urine or saliva, while others are triggered by compounds found in dander (aka dead skin). However, cat hair is typically just a vehicle that store or move the allergens from the cat to the allergy sufferer. It’s actually very difficult to self diagnose what you is triggering your allergies. You might be allergic to something your cat contacts and brings into your home. This is especially true if you have an indoor/outdoor cat. You’re cat allergies might actually be something totally unrelated to cats, dogs, etc.
What is wrong with other site’s purifier advice?
There is no shortage of review sites these days. It seems like even purifier sites are popping up left and right. Then there are huge sites that review everything from headphones to mops to…. yes, you guessed it “the best air purifiers for cat allergies.” The problem with allo of this is that most of them are just randomly recommending a purifier or five. The worst offenders are just copying those bad recommendations and repackaging them as their own ideas.
The problem with recommending purifiers blindly is that there are only a few things you really need in a purifier to help with allergens. The most critical stuff involves things like where you’ll place the purifier(s), avoiding gimmicks, and the overall build quality.
So without naming any names lets explore some of the claims and recommendations that the sites on the first page of Google are making.
- The first site we found recommends 8 totally unrelated air purifiers as the absolute best for your cat allergy problems. Now, they do recommend some awesome purifiers like the Rabbit Air MinusA2 and BioGS 2.0… but then they recommend some random sub 100 dollar purifiers without offering any explanation why they’re on the same page as purifiers costing five times as much. There’s no mention of why or how they remove allergens. It’s just regurgitated specs and fairly well laid out sales material.
- The next site that pops up in Google… basically the same exact thing. The difference is that there is some general purifier knowledge added to the mix. But, there’s really nothing that tells you, the consumer, how to make a decision for yourself. Is purifier X better than Y when used in a small space near a litter box? Who knows? But, if the purifier has the word “pet” attached to it it must be the best air purifier for pets, right? We do need to give them credit for sprinkling in some facts about pet ownership and a paragraph about how it’s dander… not hair that causes allergies.
- The third is a cat-specific website. Good news, right? Wrong. It’s another copy of the two sites above… but they add some really, really terrible advice about purifiers. They actually recommend using an ozone generator to alleviate your cat allergies. Never, ever use an ozone generator with pets or people in the room. Ozone is a powerful tool… but it is very irritating and dangerous to anything that breathes. We don’t expect people to geek out over purifiers like we do, but at least know when you’re recommending a dangerous product to your readers.
We had to stop there… the next few were basically more of the same. Random purifier recommendations with a few superficial pros and cons. Maybe a fact here and there copied from a reputable purifier site. They also push the purifiers on the page as a one stop solution for curing your allergies. That does nothing but set you up for disappointment. We’ll cover what you actually need to do below, but first let’s try to figure out what’s going on with these sites.
So, what are they doing wrong?
The first problem is a result of not knowing much about how mechanical filtration works with larger particles like dust and dander. They’ll get lucky and recommend a really good purifier (because its a top seller on Amazon), but then they’ll tell you that a completely different purifier is also good (because it’s a top seller below 100 bucks). The problem is that the small purifier is typically full of gimmicks and junk filters. All the site does is say here is a purifier and here’s why it’s good or bad (generally speaking that is).
Another big problem is that the sites have no reasoning set up to explain why one purifier is the right one for a set of conditions. It’s sad too… because finding an air purifier for an easy job like filtering cat dander is pretty easy. There are just a few things you really need to consider.
- Does it have a HEPA filter? You should always look for a HEPA filter, the larger the better (and longer lasting).
- Is there a prefilter? When you’re filtering anything that’s mixed in with large contaminants (like cat hair) you need a prefilter to protect the HEPA filter from premature clogging.
- Is it large enough for the room(s) where it will live. Just look at the coverage recommendation and multiply by about 1.5 or 2x if you’re trying to filter out allergens effectively. We hate to see a desktop purifier recommended for any application under the sun.
- Where are the intakes and where does cleaned air exit the machine? Nine times out of ten you’ll want something that blows air upward, there’s less chance for blowing more dust and hair around the room. Thus making things worse. You may also want to consider where the air enters the machine. Some purifiers can be placed against or even mounted to a wall. On the other hand… some (usually 360 degree intake models) need to be placed as far as 3 feet from the wall (like the Honeywell 50250-s).
- Bonus points for Activated Carbon. Activated carbon will help remove odor (and VOC’s), it will not help with allergies specifically, but it’s pretty common in good purifiers and is always nice to have in a home with pets.
That’s it! You do not need ion generators, UV-C lamps, or anything else really. They don’t hurt, typically, but they will do little to nothing for you allergies. And, you definitely do not want to use an Ozone Machine unless you know what you’re doing. Okay, enough of us bashing the unethical review sites… let’s get into how an air purifier actually helps remove allergens from the air in your home.
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How do Air Purifiers Work for Cat Allergies?
It’s actually pretty simple. They trap allergens that were floating around in the air in a filter. They do not suck up allergens from a carpet our couch. But, we’ll get into that later. For now just know that when you move around or stir up dust in your home, stuff gets airborne. And airborne “stuff” is usually what you inhale to trigger an allergic reaction in your respiratory system, eyes, etc.
A purifier will help with that. A purifier, however, will not help with skin reactions to coming in contact with an allergen. It may help reduce the chances that you will come into contact, but that’s about it.
Back to pulling allergens from the air. So how big are cat allergens? Bigger than dust? Smaller than sand? Unfortunately it’s hard nail down a specific measurement. The things that invade your body and tell your immune system are microscopic, but they are never floating around solo. They’re usually attached to dander, dust, or hair. Hair is huge, dust is pretty big, and dander is much smaller. In fact, dander can break down to be smaller than a micron… but most of it (75 percent-ish) is smaller than 10 microns, but larger than five. And, while that too small to see with the naked eye, to a HEPA filter it’s enormous.
So how do purifiers work on cat allergies? Since the allergens are typically transported by something fairly large, an air purifier captures the large transport items as they pass through the filter. A HEPA is probably overkill, but we recommend that any purifier you buy is equipped with a HEPA filter. It’s not needed to help with your cat allergy, but it will help capture other things (as small as .3 microns) that may be bad for your health.
Other Purifier Benefits for Cat Owners
You’re probably here because you asked a search engine “what is the best air purifier for cat allergies?” Or something to that effect. And, while purifiers do help with cat allergies there are a lot of other benefits. From reducing odor to capturing pollen and dust, air purifiers can help clean just about anything from the air in your home or apartment. Here are just a few benefits beyond alleviating your own allergies.
1. Reduces other Allergens
This one is pretty obvious. Many of us with allergies don’t have just one trigger. One person might be slightly allergic to birds or dogs, but when pine tree pollen starts falling… life gets miserable. Purifiers are a great way to remove pretty much any allergen from the air in your home. We had no clue how much better Spring could be with an air purifier in our home. If you have any allergies a purifier is a cornerstone of getting through the tough seasons.
2. Captures Litter Box Dust and Odor
Beyond the allergies, one of the biggest problems with cat ownership is the litter box. They stink, they create dust, and cats track the stuff through your home. A purifier isn’t going to stop your cat’s paws from transporting dust to your favorite couch on their paws. But, it will help with the litter box dust they stir up when they use the kitty toilet.
Another benefit is that if your purifier has a filter with activated carbon, it will help capture some of the smell. You’ll still have to scoop and keep things clean, but that purifier will help with any residual odor, or the smell created between cleanings. We recommend that pretty much any purifier you buy comes with activated carbon.
3. Great for guests allergic to cats
If you own cats and have friends with allergies there’s a good chance people are avoiding visits to your home. Whether it’s for dinner or for the weekend, cat allergies can easily drive a wedge between you and your friends. A purifier and a some elbow grease will remove that barrier to entertaining in your home.
Beyond friends with cat allergies, a purifier will give your out of town guests relief from unexpected allergies during their visit. We live in the high desert and visitors assume that it is basically an allergy free zone. Then they get here in the spring and are bombarded with pollen from pine trees to the west and Junipers to the east. Pair that with other allergies (grass, dust, etc.) and our friends and family are begging for a ride to the store to pick up some allergy meds.
Adding a purifier or three to our home really helped us provide a refuge from the allergens for our guests. We also have a handful of humidifiers on hand to help visitors adjust to our arid climate.
Bottom line if you own a cat and want to host parties or out of town visitors, a purifier will help. And, if you want cat allergies keep your mother in law’s visits short… just toss the purifier in a closet.
What other Products and Chores Help with Cat Allergies
1. Cat Free Zones (or Kitty Relaxation Rooms)
One of the easiest ways to help reduce allergic reactions is to keep cats out of the bedroom. Your cat might love napping on a cozy pillow in your guest bedroom, but it will be torture to your guests. And, if you or your partner have cat allergies… keeping the bedroom barricaded from the cat will help ensure a good night’s sleep. Want to sell the idea to your cat? Just tell him that the rooms he can visit are “Kitty Relaxation Rooms.”
It might be hard to say no to mittens or watch your cat paw the door for a few nights, but in the long run it’s worth it. Your bedroom is filled with allergen absorbing fabrics (bedding, rugs, curtains, etc.). Keeping the cat out is a great way to avoid flare ups. Plus it will make the purifier in your bedroom more effective at keeping the allergens you track in to the room under control.
2. Vacuums that Help fight Allergies
People think (or hope) that you can fix all of your dust and allergy problems by buying a purifier. Just set it and forget it, right? Wrong, a purifier is just one weapon in the clean air battle. A vacuum is a must if you have fabric covered furniture, pillows, or carpet. Just make sure that it has a true HEPA filter. That way you’re capturing contaminants instead of just blowing the small stuff around your home. We like Miele and Dyson vacuums with HEPA filtration. They work great, they’re built to last, and they suck more than the cheap ones at your local big box store.
3. Dust High and Low
Most of the dust and cat dander floating around you home was recently on the floor. It might seem like the dust floating around in the sunlight defies gravity, but in reality dust falls pretty quickly. You, your cat, your kids, your HVAC system, etc. are stirring up dust. You walk across the floor… dust is kicked up into the air, it soon falls to the floor or another surface. Then your dog runs through the living room… and it’s back in the air. It’s a vicious cycle. But, without it an air purifier wouldn’t be able to do its job.
But there is obviously a benefit to a bit of prevention. There is a staggering amount of dust and dander even on a floor that looks ultra clean. If you’ve ever swept a large room you’ve probably been surprised once or twice at just how much dirt was actually on the floor.
We aren’t really fans of brooms, they tend to launch way too much stuff into the air. We are however, huge advocates of dust mops. In our home and office we use one every single day. They work incredibly well and are a great way to keep dust off the floor and out of the air you breathe. Other options like Bona mops and swiffers are good too, but we use those much less regularly than our trusty dust mop. They dust mop is just so easy… we can clean a huge amount of floor in minutes.
You’ll also want to dust shelves, TV’s, tables, etc. They tend to collect a lot of the dust you stir up walking around the house. Then when you set something down on a couch or move something from the shelf, the dust is airborne again. If it makes it to curtains or fabric covered furniture… it becomes much more difficult to remove. Take care of it while it’s easy to get to with a good duster or rag.
4. Super Allergic? Bathe Your Cat on the Regular
A lot of people think that cats bathe themselves? While that’s partially accurate, a cat’s tongue is not as good as an actual bath. Giving your cat a quick bath every few days will reduce the allergens they spread by as much as 70-80 percent. Now this is probably not practical for most cat owners, but if you have allergies and love cats it’s a small price to pay.
5. Improve your cat’s diet
This is something that never occurs to most pet owners, but dry skin does create more dander. Thus, if you can keep your cat’s skin healthy allergies will be less severe. One of the biggest contributors to the condition of your pet’s skin and coat health is diet. Experiment with higher quality foods that are higher in good healthy fats. You may also experiment with supplements, but whatever you do it’s probably best to consult your veterinarian. One of our dogs has a pancreas problem so a high fat diet could kill her. That means any change to her diet is something we take very seriously. Ask your vet how to improve your cat’s diet for better skin health.
6. What about a Humidifier for Pet Allergies?
Picking up on the last tip about keeping dander under control through skin health… a humidifier is a great tool in arid climates. It’s great for both you and your cat’s skin… plus there are many other benefits associated with maintaining ideal humidity in your home.
Final Thoughts on a Air Purifier for Cat Allergies
It’s true that many people think cat hair is the trigger to their allergy problems. But, it’s actually proteins in their dander and saliva, that can be carried on your pet’s hair. If hair and allergies are your concern we do have some recommendations for the best air purifier for pet hair. But, if it’s just allergies that concern you… get a good purifier sized for your room (or slightly larger). A purifier will help reduce the allergens in your home.
However, while a purifier will help… you need to understand that it is not a cure all. You’ll need to keep your hose clean and do a few other chores depending on how allergic you are to your cat.
We really hope this article was valuable to you, and thanks for taking time to read it. We get pretty passionate about site that try to take advantage of consumers, so when we see BS online we get pretty fired up and tend to climb on our purifier soap box. If you have seen some BS advice or want us to bust a myth from another site go ahead and ask us below.