Although some people avoid cats because they fear or dislike them, there is some hope for those who avoid cats because of fear of allergic reactions. A lot will depend on the nature of your allergies. If yours are of the sneezing, watery eyes and running nose variety, you may be able to build up your tolerance to cats.
However, before getting a cat, you should undergo allergy testing first, particularly if you suffer from asthma. About 30 to 40 percent of children and young adults with asthma are allergic to animal dander (primarily cats).
Here is a step-by-step process for helping to control your allergy symptoms while enjoying the lifelong companionship of a cat.
Yes, there is hope that you can adopt a cat, despite your allergies. Rather than immediately immersing yourself into cats, this process will be slow and gradual, more like dipping your toe into the water first. You can liken it to the same procedure we use for introducing new cats to a family of existing cats. It is no longer considered "cool" to just toss them in and let the dust settle. For entirely different reasons involving your health, you must take on this challenge slowly.
First, Rid Your Home of Other Allergens
You want to give your potential cat an even playing field, don't you? That is best done by first, ridding your home of as many other allergens as possible, such as mites, dust, and mold. Most airborne allergens (including cat dander) cling to soft material, such as curtains, drapes, fabric-covered furniture, rugs, and carpeting.
- Substitute blinds for window coverings. If you rent, and can't get permission to switch them, keep the curtains washed and use a hand vacuum on the drapes.
- If you can afford it, replaced overstuffed furniture with leather or Naugahyde sofas and chairs.
- Consider replacing wall-to-wall carpeting with wood or tile floors. Otherwise, thoroughly vacuum your carpet on a regular basis.
Get rid of decorative scented candles, potpourri, and plug-in air fresheners. All of these are notorious for exacerbating allergy symptoms.
Medication is often the first thing people consider when dealing with a cat allergy. Over-the-counter or prescription medication, natural remedies like BioAllers, or a series of allergy shots (immunotherapy) are all worth investigating. Keep in mind you should always check with your own personal physician or allergist before embarking on a new treatment.
Visit Friends With Cats
I know you've been looking forward to this step for awhile now and you're eager to finally get your hands on a cat. You're probably talked to your friends and co-workers about their cats by now, so be a little selective in choosing where to start. For your purpose, it would probably be better to choose a friend who only has one or two cats, and at least one of them should be outgoing.
The purpose here is to get "up close and personal" with a cat but on a limited basis. Ask your host or hostess to choose a time when the cat has been fed and is comfortable or relaxed. If they are really good friends, you can ask them to use an allergy relief spray or wipes on their cat, which you will provide ahead of time.
Use your allergy medication half an hour before the arranged time. When you arrive, let the cat set the pace. He may immediately greet you to sniff at your feet and legs at first. You can dangle your hand to see if he rubs up against it, an indication that he'd enjoy being petted. Go ahead and pet him. If your allergies are still under control, you might allow him to jump onto your lap. Limit this first visit to 10 or 15 minutes at the most, judging by your level of comfort.
In another week or two, you can try it again with the same cat, and stay up to half an hour. Again, judging by the results, you can branch out to visiting other friends with cats.
Go to a Major Cat Show
So far, your progress with meeting cats on an individual basis has been encouraging. Now is the time to tiptoe a little further into the water by attending a cat show. Most cat breed clubs hold shows highlighting individual breeds.
What's even more interesting is that a few breeds of cats are said to be hypoallergenic. These include Sphynx cats who have very fine, sparse hair, and the Rex breeds, who have fine, wavy hair, which does not trap dander the way thicker-coated cats do. Another breed, the Siberian, also is rumored to be hypoallergenic because it supposedly lacks the Feld1 protein in cats' saliva which becomes dander after a cat grooms its coat.
Although all these claims are anecdotal, it would be well worth your time to find special shows for these breeds. If all goes well, later on, you might want to visit larger all-breed shows, to compare other breeds of cats. Again, use your usual medications prior to your visit, and if you feel allergy symptoms coming on, leave the building at once.
Visit Your Local Animal Shelter
Assuming that all has gone well with the previous steps and that you have built up your resistance through gradual exposure, along with prescription medications or natural remedies, this will probably be your final step before actually adopting a cat.
Dress comfortably, and be sure to take your medications first. Spend an hour or so at the shelter. Take a few cats, one at a time, into a private room, if available, and spend some time with each one. It's often been said that cats usually chose their humans, rather than vice-versa, so let the cats' actions guide you in your choice.
You may need to visit the shelter several times before you find the cat that fits your lifestyle, and make sure your home is completely prepared. Once you have made your choice, talk to the personnel, tell them about your allergies, and ask if the cat may be returned, as a last resort, if your allergies are aggravated once you have him or her home.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.