Stray Magnet Blog

Cat Allergies-Really?

I spent four hours being tested for allergies and was excited to find out exactly what I was allergic to. I also was looking forward to asking an expert if a lot of people are really allergic to cats or is it just an easy excuse for not wanting to have one. Not only did I not get to ask statistically how many people in the US are allergic to cats but I found out that I was allergic to cats and every tree, grass and weed in Tennessee. When the nurse read my results she said “oh no I have to have the cat conversation,” knowing that I had one. Followed up by “I really don’t have it in me today.”

Well she proceeded to describe cat allergens being light, fluffy and sticking to everything. I felt like I was in a CSI show because she described using an infrared light in our house and finding cat particles everywhere-on every cabinet, table, floor etc. It didn’t paint a pretty sight for the average germaphobe but I kept telling myself as I listened I am not going to get rid of the cat and what I can’t see won’t hurt me. Although I did make an internal note to clean as often as possible especially eating surfaces.

Cat Allergies 2I received about a twenty minute lecture on how I needed to get rid of my cat. Noticing she was headed the wrong direction she shifted gears and spent another 10 minutes trying to convince me to make her an outdoor cat. In response I told her I was an animal lover and rescuer who had recently lost a cat of 10 years. I was not in a position where I would consider getting rid of our cat or making her an outdoor cat because of the reduced life expectancy.

Not only was I in shock that I was diagnosed with a cat allergy but I kept telling myself it couldn’t be that bad as I have lived with them my whole life. I also pointed out that on my arm it was the least red and swollen of the test sites. She said it didn’t matter it was severe because it showed up with a simple skin prick. I appreciated the doctor coming in and saying he had absolutely zero success with convincing his patients to get rid of their animals and instead talked about how we could reduce/minimize my exposure. THANK YOU! That’s what I wanted to hear.

Here are some tips on how to reduce/minimize your exposure to cats:
Keep your cats in an area you can isolate preferably with hard wood floors. At least keep your bedroom off limits and the door shut at all times. Wash your hands after touching. Have someone else handle the cleaning of the liter. If you can bath your cat or have them bathed regularly it’s helpful (not happening over here). You could even just wipe them down with a wet cloth. Change your air filters monthly. Buy a HEPA Air filter.

Treatment for you:
Whatever the doctor’s prescribe for you! For me it was a saline rinse twice a day (similar to a neti pot), an-antihistamine and a nose spray. The alternative medical approach would be getting shots. It sounds like quite a time commitment in the early weeks and takes up to five years to build up an immunity to your allergies but then you should be done.

I am very thankful that while my allergies are prevalent they are not detrimental to daily life with a cat in our home. If I had allergy induced asthma, like my sister, then I would have to take more drastic measures to minimize the contact. I am so thankful that I can still have a cat. She is a wonderful addition to our family.

PS- The nurse also told me to get the dog off of the bed, not because I was allergic to him but because of what he brings in from outside (pollen, dirt, etc.).

(Originally Written Oct 2010)