Article at a Glance…
- The best air purifiers for cat allergies I’ve found are the Germ Guardian (value option), the Holmes (small desktop) and the Honeywell (luxury option!!).
- Good air purifiers can remove cat allergens from saliva, urine and dander, relieving allergy symptoms. Air purifiers can also get rid of cat odor and litter dust as well as pollutants, bacteria and viruses.
- Always choose a HEPA filter (not HEPA-type) if possible, as these are held to higher standards than other air purifiers.
I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog now how my husband has a pretty nasty cat allergies. Why he chose to get a kitten is beyond me, but I’m sure glad he did! Luckily we’ve found lots of ways to minimize his symptoms. Now his symptoms only bother him a few days a year.
One of the things which made a big difference to both the odor in our house and the amount of fluff floating around (I do clean daily, I promise! But it still happens) was getting an air purifier for cat allergies. I’m not generally an allergic person but I go into a fit of sneezing whenever I’m around cat litter. It helped with that too 🙂
Overall, an air purifier was a pretty great investment. I feel like the air we’re breathing is a lot cleaner. I also don’t have to worry about any lingering kitty smells when we have guests over. However, when looking into buying an air purifier for cat allergies, the information can get quite technical. I’m going to share what I learned while researching this purchase. Hopefully it will help you decide if air cleaner for cat allergies can be of help in your household too.
Why do Cats Cause Allergies?
An allergy happens when your body’s immune system over-reacts to a harmless trigger – called an allergen. When your body senses an intruder like bacteria or a poison, the immune system tries to kick it out. It does this by causing teary eyes, coughing and sneezing (to flush out particles), rashes and itching.
Allergens trigger the same response, despite causing no threat to your health. Cats have three allergen sources:
- dander (dead skin cells)
Cat fur doesn’t cause allergic reactions on its own, but it’s usually coated with saliva so results are the same. Some other examples of allergens are pollen, dust mites and peanuts.
Around a third of the US population is allergic to cats and/or dogs, with cat allergies being twice as common (source). Asthma sufferers are also at risk. Cat allergens can trigger an attack causing wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing.
How do Air Purifiers Work?
The bad news is that once you have a cat in your home, there will be allergens everywhere. These things are really tiny. 2.5 to 10 micrometers to be precise (source)! Not only do they float in the air but they settle on your furniture, walls and carpets.
So, you need to tackle the problem in a few ways. Vacuuming with a vacuum cleaner designed for pet owners will help clear floors and furniture. An air purifier for cat allergies will filter the air in your home and trap airborne allergens.
Air purifiers work by using a fan to push air through a filter of some type. Some air purifiers use physical filters such as HEPA (it stands for “high efficiency particulate arrestance”) to block particles above a certain size passing through. Others use electrical, UV or chemical means to remove particles from the air (source).
The Benefits of an Air Cleaner for Cat Allergies
I was shocked to hear that indoor air can actually be a lot “dirtier” than outdoor air (source). But when you think about it, it makes sense. When you leave a window open, allergens and pollutants come in and settle on your furniture. Repeat everyday and you have a significant buildup.
The good news is that a good air purifiers doesn’t just remove dander and cat allergens. It will also remove pollutants like cigarette smoke, bacteria, mold and viruses.
Another benefit is that air purifiers remove a lot of the smells associated with owning pets. Often, the smell comes from your cat’s litter tray. The brand of litter we use releases a lot of dust into the air when I’m cleaning it. The unfortunate truth is that even if you clean it immediately, these tiny litter particles are coated in urine to some extent. Gross! You don’t want to be breathing in these particles or have them on your furniture. An air purifier will suck them up and get rid of them.
What to Look for in an Air Purifier for Cat Allergies
Regulation of air purifiers isn’t as stringent as you might expect. Although they can help with allergies, they’re not in the category of medical devices regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). This means that you should take extra care and really do your research when choosing the best air purifier for cat allergies.
Air purifiers with HEPA filters must meet certain criteria. The US Department of Energy requires that HEPA filters prevent 99.97% of particles larger than 0.3 micrometers from passing through (source). Since cat allergens are between 2.5 and 10 micrometers, this means that HEPA filters will stop the vast majority of these particles. Note, HEPA-type filters are not the same as true HEPA filters. The latter is the real deal whereas HEPA type don’t have as strict standards.
Two doctors – Dr. Altman and Dr. Matsui – quoted in a New York Times article recommend HEPA filter air purifiers for allergy sufferers (source). However, bear in mind that HEPA filters need replacing once or twice a year. They can be quite expensive depending on the brand so take this into account when choosing your air purifier.
Ionizing Air Purifiers
An alternative to a HEPA filter is an ionizing air purifier. In simple terms, it uses electricity to trap particles. However, this process produces the chemical ozone as a byproduct. According to WebMD, “ozone exposure can aggravate allergies and decrease lung function”. I wouldn’t feel happy to use one in my home personally. For this reason, I’m not going to recommend any ionizing air purifiers.
While the removal of small particles goes a long way to eliminate pet odor from your home, some air purifiers go one step further. Activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, is often used for this purpose. Carbon filters do need replacing so check the costs before purchasing one of these air purifiers.
Pre-Filter for Cat Hair
I don’t know about you, but cat hair is a big problem in our house. Despite daily brushing and regular shampooing, our two still shed hair like crazy. An air purifier with a pre-filter will screen large debris before sending the air through the smaller filter. This means your filter won’t get blocked up as quickly.
Air purifiers usually list the amount of air they can clean in square feet. 150 to 200 sq ft is around average for these products. You may also see the term CADR (clean air delivery rate) to describe capacity. This means the cubic feet of air cleaned per minute (source).
UV Light to Kill Germs
Many air purifiers include UV (ultraviolet) light to kill germs like bacteria and viruses. This isn’t something I consider necessary. It’s normal to inhale some microorganisms – our immune systems can handle it. However, if you have an asthma sufferer in your household or are simply sick of catching colds and flu, there’s no harm in choosing an air purifier with this feature.
The fans used to push air through the purifier makes some level of noise. Especially if you’re going to put the device in your bedroom, you’ll want to find the most quiet model. They often have different settings so you can run it at full power during the day but turn it to quiet mode at night.
Most air purifiers nowadays are pretty sleek and don’t require much floor space. However, it’s sensible to plan where you’re going to put it in advance and make sure there’s enough room for air to circulate around it. It won’t work as well if you have it stuffed in a corner.
Some of the Best Air Purifiers for Cat Allergies
Like I said, I think HEPA is the best air filter for cat allergies because it’s held to a measured standard (removing particles more than 0.3 micrometers) and is frequently recommended by healthcare professionals for allergy and asthma sufferers. It also doesn’t come with the disadvantage of releasing ozone like ionizing air purifiers. Let’s take a look at some of the best 🙂
The Ac4825 is a great choice of air purifiers for all types of allergies. It has a pre-filter, a true HEPA filter, charcoal odor remover and UV germ killer. Filters need to be replaced every 6-8 months.
It’s recommended for use in “medium sized rooms”. The CADR rating is 100+ and it’s also certified energy efficient. It has three speeds including an “ultra quiet” low speed. There’s a three year limited warranty too for peace of mind.
This is a very cheap air purifier but you will need to replace the included HEPA-type filter with a true HEPA filter if you have allergies. The company makes one of their own which is compatible and it’s not too expensive either. This filter will last up to 12 months. There’s also an optional ionizing feature if you want to increase efficiency.
Desktop air purifiers are great for smaller rooms as they don’t take up much space. This model from Holmes is suitable for for rooms up to 109 sq ft (10ft x 11ft). The CADR is 70 and it’s reported to be fairly quiet. Like the Germ Guardian air purifier, it comes with three power settings and a three year limited warranty. It also has an activated carbon filter. I think this is the best budget option for an air purifier for cat allergies
This Honeywell air purifier is a real powerhouse. With a CADR rating of 300, it has much larger coverage than the other two options we’ve looked at. It works for rooms up to 465 sq. ft. (21′ x 22′). It has a pre-filter, activated carbon filter and true HEPA filter.
It’s really high tech, with electronic timers, filter replacement reminders and a turbo cleaning mode in addition to the three basics. The price is higher in line with the advanced features but it comes with a five year limited warranty so you’ll get value from it for many years.
Unfortunately the best tip for those with pet allergies is to avoid having pets. However, as an animal lover, I understand how that can be an impossible option for some! Here are some other ideas which can help reduce allergy symptoms in homes with cats:
- Don’t let your cat into your bedroom. Train him from the start that this is a cat-free zone.
- Don’t let the cat too close to your face as it will irritate your eyes and nose.
- Wear a dust mask to clean the litter box.
- Use a bagged vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter for soft furnishings and carpets
- Keep antihistamines at hand
- Wash your cats with an anti dander shampoo and brush them daily.