Having Cats When You Have Allergies

Ever since I was a kid I've loved animals, especially cats and dogs.  Sadly, I found out early on that I'm allergic to cats, but it didn't stopped me from having them!  

When I was growing up in New York, my 3 Uncle's had a deli in the city.  They often had kittens in the back of the store.  Spaying and neutering wasn't a big thing back then and the Uncles didn't mind taking in stray cats.  My Uncles would give the cats scraps of deli meat, a saucer of milk, and one of their many food delivery boxes with a blanket to sleep in.  

Needless to say, this made for excellent lodgings for a kitty that found herself Pregnant In The City!  I'm pretty sure there was a secret network for wayward cats who were in the family way that led them straight to my Uncle's store!

If you're Allergic to Cats, here are some ways to reduce allergic symptoms
Pregnant Cats In The City somehow managed to make their way to the NY City deli owned by my Uncles!


CAT ALLERGIES BE DARNED


When we visited my grandmother's house, I couldn't wait to stop by the deli, which was around the corner.  Not because I wanted the candy or chips they sold there, or because I wanted a bologna sandwich, but because I was always hopeful there would be kittens in the back! 

After hugging the Uncles the first words out of my mouth were always "Are there any kittens today?"  Many times I was not disappointed.  I would run to the back of the store to find the latest litter of kitties and plop myself down to play with them.  They were largely stray kittens but I was always able pick them up and play with them.  Invariably, I'd leave the deli with bright red, watery itchy eyes.  I didn't care, I was going to play with the kittens anyway and there was nothing anyone could do to stop me!

Back home on Long Island, stray cats often made their way into our yard.  When they did, we set out the welcome mat.  They had food, water, and blankets in a cardboard box to sleep in.  My cat allergies were always present, but again I didn't care.  I wanted to handle the cats and play with them.  I loved them all!


How to reduce Cat allergies.   Pet allergies.
Adorable stray kitten from a litter of cats that ended up at my sister's house.

When I was finally old enough to get a place of my own, one of the first things I did was look for a kitten to adopt!  I unexpectedly ended up with two cats in a one bedroom apartment, wreaking havoc on my allergies.  You can read about my Accidental Pet Adoption here.  It got so bad that I had trouble breathing and ended up with asthma.

I finally had to see a doctor, and in questioning me he realized the cause of my asthma was living in a small apartment with 2 cats.  He strongly urged me to give my cats away.  No Way!!  I told him I already loved both cats to pieces and there was no way in hell I was giving up my feline furbabies.  He shook his head and told me I could end up with asthma for the rest of my life.  "So be it!" I said.  I just had to keep my cats,  Mousey and Maggie, so I  began to research ways to help diminish my pet allergy symptoms.  


HOW I REDUCED MY CAT ALLERGY SYMPTOMS 


Here are the things I did to reduce my allergic symptoms:

🐈 The cats could no longer sleep in my bedroom, it was my "cat free zone"

🐈  I wiped the cats down with wet paper towels daily; sometimes twice a day

🐈  I vacuumed every single day and followed up with a wet mop to keep the dander down. Thankfully I had hardwood floors and not carpeting which helps a lot.

🐈  I dusted every few days using wet cleaning cloths instead of a dry cloth to keep dander and fur down.

🐈 I washed my cats' bedding frequently and kept the litter box super clean.

Following the above steps helped a lot but it wasn't quite enough.  I still suffered with frequent asthmatic symptoms due to pet allergies for several years, but I didn't care, as long as I had my cats.  When Maggie was the only cat left in the considerably larger house I lived in by then, my symptoms lessened a lot.  It was still difficult but quite manageable.  


MORE WAYS TO REDUCE PET ALLERGY SYMPTOMS: 


If I had known about it, there were other things I could have done to help reduce my allergy symptoms to cats as well:

🐈  I should have gotten a clean air machine with a HEPA filter! They weren't as common back then and I didn't know much about them.

🐈  I could have gotten a removable couch cover which can be removed and washed.  If I had drapes I would have washed them regularly. 

🐈  A few companies make pet allergy sprays that act as allergen blockers, although I'm not sure how well they work.  Have you used pet allergen blockers?  If so, did it help?

🐈  Allergy shots and prescription oral allergy medications.  I didn't want to consider allergy shots, I hate needles! But that probably could have helped a lot as well.



What to do if you're allergic to cats but you want one!  Pet allergies, Cat allergies
I was allergic to my cats Maggie and Mousey, but I didn't care!

After all that, was having cats worth going through asthma symptoms and constant daily cleaning?  YOU BET IT WAS!!  The love of a cat is not to be underestimated and I would do it all over again.  I have two dogs now but I look forward to getting another cat in the near future.  Thankfully, I'm not allergic to dogs, just cats!

NOTE:  I'm not a doctor or Veterinarian, I'm just sharing how I handled my allergy to cats. If you're allergic to cats but you really want a cat, you may want to check with your doctor first.

You may also enjoy this post: Stray Cats In The Hood?  TNR 'em!

Do you have pet allergies? If so, how have you handled them?  Please leave a comment and tell us about it.  We love when you howl back at us!!





34 comments:

  1. Your love and compassion for cats certainly shows through in your words...not to mention what you went through! When I was volunteering at a shelter, I couldn't count the number of times people would use allergies as an excuse. I'm sure many times it was the truth, and I imagine keeping the cat could have had serious health consequences for the humans, but how many times was it just an easy answer. I doubt any of them even tried some of the options you recommend. How much richer their lives would have been if they got to share it with a cat.

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    1. Aww thanks Hindy! I do love cats just as much as I love dogs. I hate that I have allergies or I'd definitely have cats again! I will someday have another cat for sure. I know what you mean about owner surrenders who claim to have allergies - some do I'm sure but I wish they'd have figured that out before bringing one home! Fostering is always a great first step in pet ownership when you're not sure.

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  2. I am chuckling here as I am allergic to cats and had 3 in Israel as I so wanted a pet and in those days it was hard to have dogs in apartments. I suffered but I always say it was worth the suffering as I loved them. Great points on how to keep the allergies away as much as possible

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    1. LOL! I am not surprised that you had cats despite you allergies Ruth! You and I are on the same page, I think it was so worth it too. I didn't care about my allergies. I'm glad you like my tips on helping to keep allergies at bay.

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  3. Those are wonderful tips. I would hate to be allergic to dogs or cats. I'd definitely still have them. Your uncles sound like terrific guys!

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    1. Thanks Melissa! My Uncles were the Best, I adored them all! They were so kind to the kittens and to everyone else as well. I hate having allergies but it won't stop me from getting another cat in the near future!

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  4. I have allergies but not to cats and I have four at home and my sheltie dog. They all shed like crazy so I vacuum everyday. I understand you very well we sacrifice all for our pets so it is worth the trouble .

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    1. Yes, we are happy to sacrifice for our pets, aren't we!? We have lots of shedding here too with our Husky Icy in the house - Yikes! Some days it feels like it's snowing in the house LOL!

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  5. Don't they have some kind of an immmunotherapy injection(s) for this type of allergy these days? I think I read about it some place.

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    1. I think so, but I have an extreme aversion to needles! I'd rather have watery eyes then have to have shots LOL!

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  6. I love your pisitivity and determination! A real pet owner tries really hard to make sure they can cope even if it means work, rather than whinge and say I can't.

    Well done you, I hope lots of so called 'Allergic' people real your post.

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    1. Thanks Marjorie, I knew you of all people would approve! There are solutions if you're willing to do the work and have some inconvenience. It's not right for everyone to deal with the effects of allergies but I didn't mind that much.

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  7. I don't have allergies but a family member does to dogs. His are pretty mild though and I make sure Mr. N is bathed before we visit and it doesn't seem to bother him very much.

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    1. That's so great Mr. N can visit your family member even though he has allergies! It's really sweet of you to be sure he is bathed before visiting, I'm sure that helps a lot.

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  8. My husband and I are terribly allergic to cats, however before I met him, I did live with one. Picking him up and stroking him used to cause me to have red itchy streaming eyes and sneezing, but even though I knew the outcome, I couldn't help it, I loved to stroke him and he would come running to me (just like a dog) when I came home from work!

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    1. Oh bummer, you're both allergic! I was the same way, even though I had all those symptoms - AND then got asthma - I couldn't help it, I loved my kitties.

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  9. How wonderful you didn't give away the cats when you found out you were allergic! I held my breath last year when the ENT tested me for allergies because I was afraid I'd developed an allergy to my girls. I told him if I was allergic, he'd better get the shots ready because they weren't going anywhere.

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    1. I would never, ever give my pets away. I'd sooner die! OMG, I cannot even imagine you developing an allergy to Truffle & Brulee, that would be a Catastrophe! It would be worth the hateful needles if that were the case.

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  10. Even without allergies I strongly recommend the air cleaner. We got the Dyson. It's awesome! It took my hubby 2 years to got over the fog allergy. But now? he has NO allergies anymore - to dogs or cats! Was worth it.

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    1. Oh definitely, an air cleaner is always a great idea with or without pets. Wow, he actually got rid of his allergies?? That's astounding!

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  11. I love how you didn't let those allergies stop you from enjoying animals that you love! I imagine there's a lot more help out there these days than there was when you were younger. Hopefully you can have future cats while hardly feeling the effects at all!
    Your childhood story of your uncles and their store was wonderful.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. I wouldn't let it stop me from having cats, and I loved my cats to much I could never give them up! I do think there are more ways to get pet allergy relief, I'll need to look into that. I'm glad you enjoyed the story of my Uncles, they were so great I just loved seeing them and visiting the store.

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  12. Awww I love your 110% dedication, compassion and love for your fur babies at the expense of your own health. First I'm glad you were able to not kill yourself but also sharing these helpful tips. I remember reading your "accidental adoption" post ! So sweet. My cat Dusty that passed away had lots of hair! That trick with the paper towel works! Yes, getting the allergy shots and HEPA probably would have been way better, but like you said, you wouldn't have it any other way.

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    1. Thanks Kamira! I was going to do whatever I could to keep my furbabies, I loved them so much.

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  13. Great tips! I couldn't imagine if I became allergic to dogs! My stepson has allergies and I think he gets shots. I like wiping down the pet with damp paper towels daily, that may help with shedding when Buffy's hair is short for the summer. Hepa filters seem like a lifesaver!

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    1. I'm glad you like the tips Sandy! Damp paper towels definitely help but I needed a lot of house cleaning too. If I became allergic to dogs too I think I'd just die.

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  14. Those are some great tips! Even though it sounds like a lot of work, I'm sure it was worth it to you!

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    1. Thanks Beth, I'm glad you think so. It is a lot of work, but totally worth it all because I got to keep my cats!

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  15. I loved this post Cathy! I laughed when you said that there was a network of cats who knew that your Uncle's store was a safe spot. Brian has often said that about me. LOL. I also have allergies, but I'm allergic to many things so not sure cats make a difference. I do vacuum a lot and have hepa filters. I haven't used the paper towel trick but will give it a try!

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    1. Thanks Kristin, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! LOL, I know, isn't is so funny that pregnant kitties always made their way to my Uncles! The damp paper towels are really great, they help a lot.

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  16. I would cry if I had an allergy to an animal! My mom was allergic to cats, just dogs growing up. I know my mom would take some allergy medication right after she came into contact with a cat!

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    1. It is kind of a heartbreak to be allergic to pets that you love, but I had them anyway! I couldn't be without pets in my life, they mean so much to me. Thanks for visiting us on the blog, Joelle!

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  17. My kid was allergic to cats at one time. This wasn't a good thing when I was the adoption coordinator for our local humane society and she was the JR. coordinator. We had to expose her to the cats in small increments. Started out with 2 minutes, 3 times a day, when she stopped breaking out in hives we increased the exposure a couple minutes longer each trip.

    It wasn't easy and we always had Benadryl handy but due to her not being around cats her whole life, we had to build up her tolerance.

    As you know now, we have 2 cats in our home and she hasn't had any problems since allowing her body to get used to the cats hair.

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    1. Oh NO! That must have been a bit awkward LOL! I'm amazed that you were able to build up her tolerance, I didn't think you could do that. That is so wonderful!

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