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Allergic to Cats? How to Keep Your Cat and Your Health

About 15 percent of people in the US are allergic to cats. If you find yourself involved in a relationship with one of these people, or if one of your children is allergic, you may find you have to make some very difficult choices. But rest assured, you don't necessarily have to give up your cat even if someone in your home is allergic.

Here are some things you can do instead:

  • Eliminate other allergens in the home. A bunch of minor allergens can add up to serious symptoms. Remove chemical air fresheners, wash your laundry with unscented products, avoid smoking in the house, and deal with any mold, dust, and mildew problems.

  • Wash your hands and face after you have contact with a cat.

  • Use a spray that destroys cat dander. These products can help to reduce the dander and saliva that cause allergic reactions.

  • Rinse your cat twice a week in plain water and bathe her every two weeks. Use lukewarm water and a mild cat shampoo.

  • Keep your cat out of the bedroom and don't let her sleep on your bed.

  • Reduce the amount of carpet in your house, as carpets trap allergens of all kinds. Also, eliminate draperies and curtains.

  • Choose the most dust-free litter you can find.

  • Use in-room or central air purifiers with HEPA filtration.

  • Vacuum as often as possible with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter. Follow with wet-mopping.

  • Replace upholstered furniture with slipcovered pieces. It helps to be able to remove and wash furniture coverings. To destroy Fel d 1, the primary cat allergen, you need to wash your slipcovers in hot water (130 degrees F).

Advice from Other Cat Owners 

Before You Adopt That Kitten

Before you bring that cute kitten home, please take a good look at your life and ask yourself some questions, particularly if you are young (the highest demographic for pet surrenderers is females, age 18-25).

Remember, cats live for 15-20 years and will need regular vet care for their whole life. Ask yourself, what will I do when I move? Am I willing to go the extra mile to find pet-friendly housing and take the cats along? (Even if your job sends you across the country or into another).

What will I do when I get married? What if my spouse is allergic to the cats, has big unfriendly dogs, or just doesn't like cats? How will I deal with that? What happens when I start having children? Will I be willing to help the cats make that transition during that busy and exciting time in my life? Will I be willing to keep them seperate if my baby is allergic? What happens if I get divorced? (Statistics say that you will). Will I fight to keep my pets during this personal crisis?

These questions may sound ridiculous, but I assure you they are not. The answers to these questions mean the difference between life and death every day- to the tune of 20 million 'No' answers a year (the number of animals surrendered to shelters across the U.S. in a year). It is a big commitment folks, think about it!

~Alex K., owner of Breed Unknown

Introducing Your New Kitten to Your Older Cat

Kittens will most likely get along great because they are so young, although it may take a day or two. My two cats were about 10 months when I brought home two kittens and it didn't go smoothly at all. The young kittens were excited to meet the older cats but the older cats were petrified of them.

What I learned is that cats react to smell and it's best to introduce them that way first. The advice from a cat expert was: keep them separate and give them each something that smells of the other one (towel/blanket etc). Once that goes well, then introduce them physically. It was fascinating because when I presented my cats with the towel smelling like the new kittens, the cats hissed and swatted at it, then ran in fear. Eventually they started to investigate it. You may not need this step but I wanted to share it just in case.

~Cindy W., owner of Breed Unknown

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