Have you ever considered the possibility that your beloved cat could have a health problem that is allergy related? If so, then you may want to reconsider your previous assumptions. Recent studies indicate that hair from cats and other animals can produce antibodies in humans even if they are not allergic. This is one more example of how the environment we live in can affect our health.
Allergy is the result of a reaction by the body to allergens that are found in the air. Some people are highly allergic to a specific type of food, while others are not affected. One thing that is consistent between people and pets alike is that, at some point in their lives, they will all encounter an allergen in the form of hair or fur from a cat or other animal. When a person is exposed to this allergen, the body releases histamines which can result in narrowing of the blood vessels and increase the airway’s resistance to oxygen.
This increased resistance is what leads to hyper-compaction (an increase in the volume of the blood vessels leading to the lungs), emphysema and asthma to name a few. The primary reason that cats are such a significant source of these allergenic substances is that they are able to maintain their coats due to a protein called dander. Dander is a byproduct of the immune system which in many ways helps to regulate the allergen that causes allergic reactions.
If the body is able to maintain the allergen and if it is able to push the histamine down the respiratory tract, there is increased mucus production. The mucus further blocks the airways thus causing the hypersensitive reactions that cause a runny nose, sneezing and wheezing. The respiratory system works double time to remove these excess particles from the lungs. This results in an increase in the frequency of bronchial peristalsis (breathing difficulty).
So, what can cat hair do to cause breathing problems? When the coat is abnormally long, this will interfere with the cat’s ability to breathe through its mouth. As mentioned earlier, it has been found that cats that constantly have their coats cut are at a greater risk of being allergic. When the cat’s hair becomes so long that it hangs over the windpipe it can cause an obstruction in the airway. Since the respiratory system is working double time to remove the excess hair from the lungs, there is a greater chance of the airway becoming compromised.
What does this have to do with can cats cause breathing problems? It means that you may have to identify which specific allergen is triggering the allergic reaction. Keep in mind that this is not an allergy in the conventional sense. Allergic reactions are not based on any substance present in a cat’s diet or any other airborne allergen.
The allergen that you need to focus on is a protein called a sarcomere. This protein exists within the hair follicles and is responsible for producing collagen. Collagen is the main protein of connective tissue in animals. A cat’s hair grows from the base of the tail down to its neck. Because the protein keratin is responsible for making the hair strong and durable, when it becomes too long, it can constrict and create breathing difficulties for the cat.
So can cat hair cause breathing problems? If the allergen is sticking to the inside of the cat’s throat and clogging the airway, then it can. If the allergen is escaping out through the skin and into the air, then it can also do so. Since the cat’s immune system depends on the presence of an antigen to trigger its reaction, it is quite possible for an outside allergen to induce a severe allergic reaction which can cause breathing difficulties.