The increasing frequency of pet ownership (especially cats) in many industrialized countries has raised the level of exposure to the allergens produced by these animals. Moreover, it is likely that modern energy-saving systems and the wide use of upholstered furniture has resulted in closer contact between cats (and their allergens) and humans. Many different methods have been developed to quantify the main cat allergen (Fel d 1) in settled dust and in ambient air. The threshold levels of cat allergen inducing sensitization or triggering respiratory symptoms in sensitized patients have been calculated in settled dust, but airborne amounts of Fel d 1 probably represent a more reliable index of allergen exposure. Noticeably, the amount of Fel d 1 may be relatively high also in confined environments where cats have never been kept. It has been demonstrated that clothes of cat owners are the main source for dispersal of allergens in cat-free environments. This fact may be of relevance, because recent studies have shown that allergic sensitization to cats is more likely to develop in children exposed to moderate levels of this allergen than in children exposed to high amounts of Fel d 1. The ubiquity of cat allergen may justify the common observation that allergen avoidance is often insufficient to reduce the risk of developing allergic sensitization and/or symptom exacerbation in highly susceptible patients. Further efforts are needed to improve the efficacy of Fel d 1 avoidance strategies to try to reduce the risk of allergic sensitization to this allergen.

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