Q: I am allergic to cats. Can I coexist with my wonderful kitties?
A: I hope so! Many people do, including several of my clients who have multiple cats in their households. The important thing is that you want to try. I am always saddened when clients tell me they are suddenly allergic to their cats and want to give them up without any attempt to work it out.
On the other hand, I do know that people can really suffer from these allergies. When I had my cat lover’s gift shop in Manhattan many years ago, a regular customer once brought a friend in who said she loved cats but was allergic. My cats always had the run of the shop and the woman thought if she just observed them and didn’t touch anything, she would be OK. Well, she soon had swollen, red eyes and decided to flee for her life out the door.
According to a veterinary journal I read recently, this allergy is not usually caused by cat hair but a protein in cats’ saliva. It seems when they groom themselves (and we all know how often that is) this microscopic protein is transferred to their coat or dander (dead skin) and can become airborne.
Symptoms vary, but the most common ones are coughing, sneezing, runny nose and sometimes an itchy, red rash. If you experience any of these symptoms after contact with your cat, get tested so you know for sure.
I do have some helpful suggestions, though. Keep your home well-ventilated. The fewer rugs and carpets you have, the better. Use an air purifier equipped with a Hepa filter, and restrict access to certain rooms such as your bedroom. Ask your allergist for a good antihistamine or inhaler to help you feel better around your kitty, and always wash your hands thoroughly after petting your cat and before you touch your face.
Jeanne’s Tip of the Week: A good spring cleaning of carpets and rugs will help keep allergens (including kitty dander) in check.