Why would anyone who suffers from allergies want to live with a cat? Only because they are the fluffiest bestest coolest little vermin-killers in the world. Because every cute kitty is a lion at heart. Because you don’t need to get a “hybrid” — no cat is truly “tame.”

There are more pragmatic reasons. You got a cat for your kid and then you developed an allergy. You don’t want your kid to hate you forever. He or she definitely will, but it probably has nothing to do with the cat. Maybe you’ve met your soulmate, only she’s known the cat longer than she’s known you. Don’t make her choose. Perhaps a bundle of yapping cuteness followed you home and even though he makes you sneeze, you are in love. Some are born with both the cat-loving gene and the cat-allergy gene.

I am one of them. That’s me. I live with both cats and allergies. I am not recruiting for this lifestyle. I am not advising anybody with allergy symptoms to try this at home. If you are an allergic person and you live with a cat and you die of asthma – which can really happen, don’t blame me. I am not a medical professional. I am not telling you what you should do. I am telling you what I do. These are also useful tips if you are nonallergic cat person who might have allergic friends visiting.

Here are some basics. Products I use are mentioned. These are not “paid” endorsements.

  1. I have an allergist – This isn’t a DIY project. You need a doctor if you choose to do this. If you don’t have decent insurance, forget it. If you have an HMO or a lousy plan whichdoesn’t cover shots, you might need to find a new job with a better plan. If you can’t afford your copay, don’t get a cat. Allergists, like most doctors, used to tell you to give away your cats. This is because your allergies, even if minor, might get worse over time. Then they realized no one would bother with immunotherapy (injections) if they didn’t love their pets, so now they will only tell you not to get more pets, and to keep coming back for treatment. Shots are a big commitment because they won’t even start working for several months, and first you’ll have to come every week. Then it’s every two weeks, and then every month. After a few years, you can stop. But then you might have to come back. (I recently came back.) An allergist can also work with you on finding medications – both OTC and prescription that can control your symptoms. I take a generic form of Singular which just about eliminates my main, and most dangerous symptom – wheezing. I have an “emergency” inhaler. I take OTC antihistimines on occasion. There are lots of “non-drowsy” choices.
  2. I’m careful about “alternative” treatments. I have used accupuncture and Chinese herbs in the past. These seemed helpful at the time, and are harmless in any case. But some of what is labelled alternative is just plain dangerous. Ephedra, for example, is touted as a “natural” asthma treatment, but it can have dangerous side effects and using it without treating the underlying cause of the asthma – your cat allergies – won’t “cure” you and is not a long-term solution. While Western medicine may not have all the answers, in this case, at this time, the treatments are pretty good and pretty safe.
  3. The bedroom – Allergists will tell you to keep the cat(s) out of the room where you sleep. That’s good advice, but it sort of defeats the point of having a cat and it might not work if , like me, you live in small space. I make sure to change the sheets at least once a week, and follow other housekeeping rules (See below.)
  4. Housekeeping – Cats lick themselves. The saliva has the protein to which you are allergic. It gets in the air and crystalizes. Therefore – linens should be changed at least once a week. I have a Miele vacuum (that has a micro-filter and doesn’t blowback the air. Rugs and carpets? I got rid of them! They are dander traps! Just the worst. I clean my floors (vinegar and water combo works great on almost everything) at least once a week. There are also products one can find (google) that may be helpful. And those sticky rolly things to clean lint from your clothes? Very useful to have around.
  5. Air purifiers and filters – In theory these are helpful. I like mine, but I rarely use it. The problem is it doesn’t work so well if windows or doors open, so they are mostly useful in a closed room with closed windows. We have room (not central) air conditioning and it’s important to change the filters at the start of every air-conditioning season. The AC filter helps enormously especially as I also have hayfever. What doesn’t help? Anything that claims to “clean” the air by charging ions alone and doesn’t have a filter. Do not waste your money. They are debunked.
  6. Cat litter – It must be lovely if you can get a loved one to deal with that! It’s also smart to go with something relatively low-tracking and dust free. I’ve recently switched to paper pellets, which serves the purpose.
  7. Cat Baths – Allergists recommend bathing your cat twice a week. Cat baths, how to, are a whole other post that I haven’t yet written. I can tell you from experience that two out of three cats won’t believe you are trying to murder them, but none of them will enjoy the experience. You will be forgiven quickly however, especially if treats follow. Do not immerse your cat in water. Better to pour water on them, but they still won’t like it. Make sure the shampoos is safe for kitties and doesn’t contain chemicals. The problem with bathing the cats, is that they groom themselves a lot after, getting the saliva back on them which kind of defeats the purpose.
  8. Cat Wipes If bathing the cat seems daunting and/or there’s simply no way you are doing it as frequently as recommended, cat wipes can work. Look for ones that don’t seem too toxic and look for bargains. (I just got a year’s supply to save on shipping). Cats tolerate it more easily than bathing. At this point, I rarely bath them, but do the wipes at least twice a week.
  9. Brushy – My oldest cat loves “brushy.” The others, not so much. Brushing or combing before the wipe down to catch loose hair helps the allergic and helps prevent hairballs.

Yes, this does sound like a lot of work. The reality is it’s mostly basic stuff we should all do allergies or not. The shots are a pain, but after a while, it’s only once a month. It’s not that much work and the result is I get to have cats.

Again, I am not recommended anyone do anything. Also this was written for consenting adults with allergies. Not kids. If your kid is allergic, I got nothing. I know parting a child from his pets – even for his own safety – will break his heart, and parting a child from his pets because of the allergies of another child in the household may cause lifelong resentment, but kids die from asthma and may keep symptoms a secret, so if your kid is the one with the allergies, it might be better to re-home the pet. Lifelong resentment is better than no life at all. Talk to a doctor.

(My fiction has nothing to do with my cats, but if you found this post helpful, please check out my books.)

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2 Comments on I Can Haz Kittehs? — How I Live with My Cats and My Allergies

  1. Better Half says:

    Might I mention for the next generation to let your kids play in the mud, get dirty (within reason), keep their hands unwashed, and not be so freaked by germs. It gives their little snot nosed immune systems a workout and because we are so clean it might be why we have so many allergies plus auto immune disorders nowadays.

    • Marion says:

      Here’s the thing though I think (though I may be wrong) that cat allergies are simply genetic and I’m not sure that your solution (in this particular case) has been proven effective for this particular allergy. My dad had a dog when he was a kid. He did ok with dogs most of his life, but became over time super allergic to cats, and then after that very sensitive to dogs as well — and he was raised the old fashioned way — around the germs. Sometimes are immune systems just go crazy. Your advice is probably good generally, but I’m not sure it would prevent cat allergies. (I am sensitive to this because I’ve seen people dismiss cat allergies as being “psychological” — I wish!)

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