Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Solutions for Pet Lovers with Allergies

By Langley Cornwell

My dad has extreme cat allergies, so we were never able to have a cat when I was growing up. As a young adult, one of my best friends had a cat. When I was at her house for more than an hour, my eyes would get red, swollen and itchy. Then my throat would start to feel scratchy. After one or two times, I came to the conclusion that I had cat allergies like my dad. From then on, if I was going to hang with anybody that had a cat, it had to be somewhere other than their house.

Fast forward to the time my husband and I decided to extend our family by taking in a dog that was in dire circumstances. Probably because of my limited exposure to cats, I’ve always been what’s known as a dog person. On the other hand, my husband has always been a cat person; in fact, Julia included him in this article: Real Men Do Love Cats! 7 ‘Cat Guys’ Tell All. Being a dog person, it was fixed in my mind that we were just going to rescue this one specific dog. At the time, my husband was in complete agreement.

At the shelter, we met the sad pup and were preparing to bring her home when one of the shelter workers ran up to us and shoved a ball of fur into my husband’s hands. Obviously this was a wily woman who was great at her job because she pegged us as suckers almost immediately. My husband looked up at me (don’t tell him I’m sharing this part) with tears in his eyes and said “He looks like Rudy.” He loved all the cats in his life but as a young boy he had a particularly strong bond with a cat named Rudy. What was I going to do?

You know the rest of the story. That little ball of fur came home with us too, and now I’m completely under his command. He gets the best of everything including FELIDAE cat food.

At first, however, I was concerned about my allergies. According to Unleashed Magazine, approximately 15% of the population is estimated to be allergic to cats and/or dogs. The statistics go on to reveal that about one third of the people who are allergic to cats are currently living with at least one cat in their household. I love it; only one in five people avoid cats because of allergies. What they do instead is try to minimize the symptoms.    

If you fall into this category, here are some simple solutions:

• Establish a room in your home that is off limits to the four-legged variety. Be strict about this rule; the room should be a place where you can go to get away from all of the fur and dander.

• Eliminate carpeting if possible, and don’t use throw rugs. Consider furniture that traps less dander such as alternative non-leather materials for couches and stuffed chairs. Additionally, consider removing curtains and replace them with blinds or wooden plantation shutters.

• Purchase the best vacuum cleaner you can afford. Some types are specifically designed to eliminate allergens. Several reputable manufacturers make vacuums with excellent filtration systems that are designed to suck up cat and dog hair.

• Bathe your pet as often as possible. Experts recommend twice weekly because that regularity can reduce allergen levels on the fur by over 80%.

• If your allergies are really bad, use a high-efficiency HEPA air cleaner, but make sure the one you purchase is large enough to handle the square footage of the room for it to be effective. Even though they are expensive, these really can work to clean the air of many allergens.

• As a last resort, consider medications; either allergy shots or over the counter antihistamines may work. If you have to take this step, go see an allergy specialist who understands that you plan on continuing to live with your pet.

Sometimes when our cat is lying on my chest or snuggled up against my face, my husband will quip, “Be careful of those cat allergies.” I’m lucky, though; as an adult I no longer suffer from cat allergies. Either I outgrew them, or our cat is magical!

Photo by Chris Lexow

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell


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