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Combatting Cat Allergies

Posted May 04 2013 6:00am

By Lynn Thompson

catstretching From itchy eyes to severe asthma attacks, is having a cat worth the hassles?

Soft, beautiful, and easier-care than dogs, cats are also better for smaller homes. But if they send you into sneezing fits or a life-threatening asthma attack, can you ever live with them?

From my experience, yes. Asthma almost killed me in childhood. Even as an adult, just entering a home with a cat caused an attack. But now I’ve lived with cats for more than 20 years. With precautions, you may also enjoy a feline companion.

Different people, different allergy triggers. But female cats emit less dander than males, adult cats less than kittens. Among purebreds, Siberians produce less allergy-inducing protein in their saliva. For allergies triggered by hair, the Rex breeds shed less. Sphinx cats, with no coat, need frequent bathing that also removes allergens.

There are much better antihistamines now than in my childhood. Allegra, Zyrtec, and Claritin are even available over the counter. Switch them from time to time, as you build up a tolerance to one. If they make you drowsy, try taking them just before bed. Allergy shots help some people, but they can take a couple of years to become effective.

On the prescription side, Singulair is a godsend for asthmatics. A steroid inhaler twice daily helps keep emphysema from progressing.

But you can’t just drug yourself to live with cats. Your entire house has to be addressed.

But you can’t just drug yourself to live with cats. Your entire house has to be addressed. Keep your cats indoors. Outside, they pick up pollen on their fur. Cat dander’s bad enough, you don’t need an additional allergen making things worse!

Frequent vacuuming with a HEPA-filter vacuum is essential. Dyson, Bissell, Eureka, Orek, and Shark make units specifically to address pet hair. Vacuum at least weekly. Daily: even better. Not just the floors, but all the places your cats like to lounge. Added bonus: this helps with flea control!

As much as you love sleeping with them, you should ban the cats from your bedroom. Can’t do this? Launder bed linens in hot water at least weekly. If your machine has a sanitizing or allergen-fighting steam cycle on it, use that.

Air cleaners work wonders in the cat’s rooms of your house. The filter-type ones like Honeywell, Blueair, or Hamilton Beach work great and can cost less up front, but require frequent filter replacements. The filterless CritterZone cleans air on the molecular level and needs no replacement filters.

familyvector Salt lamps help by emitting ions that bind with dust in the air, making it settle. You’ll have to dust frequently, but you’re doing that anyway when you vacuum, right?

There are also products on the market to put on your cat’s fur or add to their food that reduce dander. They come in shampoos, sprays, serums, and wipes.

While any of these approaches alone lessens cat dander, a multi-pronged approach using all of them provides the best environment for living with a cat. It’s certainly worked for me!

- Lynn Maria Thompson is a professional writer, editor, speaker, and online retailer. She also sells products for cats and cat lovers at OldMaidCatLady.com .

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