Cat owners who sneeze at the sight of their pets may find help in the bathtub.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that a cat that is bathed once a month is less likely to provoke allergy attacks in humans, according to Better Homes and Gardens, a Meredith magazine.Dr. H. James Wedner, an allergist, and his co-workers started testing the ability of several drugs to reduce Fel D1 in cats. Fel D1 is the major cause of a person's allergic reactions to cats. Giving the cats the medications didn't work, but monthly 10-minute soaks of the cats in lukewarm distilled water did. It takes several washings for the effect to take hold, so relief isn't instantaneous, say the researchers.

Wedner recommends talking to a vet about washing procedures. Soap or shampoo isn't needed, he says. The researchers achieved results using just clean water. When deciding to use a shampoo, remember that cats are sensitive to many chemicals, so it's important to select a product that won't injure the animal. A vet can also explain ways to get the cat used to a dip in the tub, a difficult trick with older cats, but a fairly simple process with kittens.

Depending on the severity of the allergies, a monthly bath may be an effective and inexpensive way to reduce the need for medication.