Monday, May 14, 2012

Confession: I'm Allergic to Cats

I do not manage pain well. As K. and I joke, I'm the opposite of Zoe. (She is the most stoic creature I've ever met). While I like to think I possess a degree of intellectual endurance, I can't say the same about my physical abilities. I was the kid in gym class who used to duck when someone threw a ball at me, and would let the other team score (floor) hockey goals because I simply couldn't understand why I should risk injury to block a silly puck. If something hurts, I complain. And if it really hurts, I faint. (All this does not bode well for K.'s plan for our future football star children). I recognize these limitations. For better or worse, they are part of who I am. That's why it's so funny that I live with two cats, despite the fact that I am allergic to them.

Photo Credit: A. of Two Pitties

It's true. When I was a kid, I used to have reactions with varying degrees of severity:  hives, swollen eyes, and even difficulty breathing. I'd only lived with dogs, and had no desire to own cats. So, I assumed that my life would be feline-free.

That is until my mom married someone who owned one. 

Ellie the cat, and Hugo the dog.

I wasn't sure what to make of this furry creature who suddenly inhabited my home. But I was only living there intermittently, and I just tried to avoid the cat when I was around. But here's the problem: she was cute. Before I knew it, my natural predilection for all things fluffy reasserted itself, and I was spending more and more time with Ellie. Sure, I'd get hives and itchy eyes, but they were a small price to pay for a new friend. Soon, an amazing thing happened -- my formerly acute allergies slowly lessened over time. 

When I graduated college, I decided that I was going to "overcome" my cat allergy for good. How does one do that? Well you can't. But systematic desensitization helps.

Photo Credit: A. of Two Pitties

This is certainly not something I am recommending for everyone. But for me, it worked. I was encouraged enough by my progress with Ellie that I felt I could live with a cat (or two) of my own. 

So, I began spending time at the local animal shelter to hang out with cats. (Yes, my friends thought I was nuts). But I ignored them, and when I felt I was ready, I adopted Stella. After a few uncomfortable weeks (Stella had a wicked case of ringworm, so both of us were itchy!), my allergies virtually disappeared. 

Photo Credit: A. of Two Pitties

And when Freddie came on the scene, I had no reaction to him at all. 

Photo Credit: A. of Two Pitties

This isn't to say that this was a magic cure. When I went to Berlin for six weeks, I came home allergic to my cats again. But within a week or two, I was back to normal. Some cats bother me more than others, and I always wash my hands after petting them -- even my own. I also try to Furminate Freddie and Stella as often as possible, and vacuum multiple times a week. 

Photo Credit: A. of Two Pitties.

Call me crazy, but for me, it's worth it.


  1. same here. I used to have to drug up to go over to M's apartment when we first met (he had 2 cats). Over time I've gotten less sensitive. But I notice my symptoms are worse around new cats - I'm fine with mine, but react more to others.

  2. I'm allergic to dogs and yet I live with three! Sometimes if I cuddle up with a blanket they've also been laying on that hasn't been washed in a week I will instantly regret it because an allergy attack kicks in. However, for me just living with dogs has helped me as well. Sometimes I still need allergy meds, but even that doesn't have to be day to day. I wouldn't encourage people to do the same either because then if it didn't work you'd have a dog/cat who needed a new home which isn't good, but I am a firm believer it could work for lots of people.

  3. I'm allergic to cats too, although usually ok as long as I don't touch them. For years H. was more of a cat person and kept bugging me about adopting one and saying that I would become desensitized, but I never believed him! Now he's been thoroughly converted to a dog person and considering that Nabi views cats as lunch, I think the cat window has closed. :)

  4. Now I found someone who vacuums more often than my Mom, haha!! ;) Granted, she has only stuffed animals...

  5. I'm allergic to cats and live with four little ones. I actually didn't find out I was allergic till after I had the cats. I'd grown up with a cat and had no reaction. Now that I live in the allergy capitol of the country, Kentucky, I have had some problems, so I was tested. Oh well, they're family and they're worth it. :-)

  6. Im also allergic to cats so whenever we go home to AK we stay at my inlaws and they feed me allergy meds since they have 3 :)

    Stop on by for a visit

  7. Me, too! Me, too! We got a cat when I was 6 and I was fine but cat#2 7 yrs later made me sneeze 24/7 etc. I learned to wash my hands and arms after each pet session to live in harmony w my kittahs. After college when I was ready for a kitty of my own (parents weren't giving up kitty 1 or 2), I started taking an OTC allergy pill and now I can even breath in their kitty hair w/o issue-yay for modern day meds!

    Side note, we had long hair/non-shedding dogs until I was 14. We moved to the country and I got a horse and rottweiller and learned I'm allergic to anything that sheds, including their spit. So my dog sadly has been taught 'no kisses'. Even w my allergy pill their (horse and dog) spit makes me break out.

    I love seeing further proof that I'm not nuts, living w the very things I'm allergic to :)


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