By Janet McAfee

You’re a single girl who owns cats, and you start dating a wonderful guy who is allergic to your fur babies! He can’t come to your apartment without having a wheezing attack. You have a child who suddenly develops an allergy to the cat whose been your “fuzzy faced child” for the past 10 years, and you can’t imagine giving him away (the cat, that is!). Years ago when I lived in Northern California and had 2 cats, my brother would start sneezing and his eyes would turn red after about an hour when he came to visit. On one trip, he suddenly realized he’d been at my house for hours without any symptoms, and asked, “What did you do, get rid of your cats?” I just did two simple things I read about in a book, I bathed the cats in Castille soap and installed a couple of air purifiers.

Most people with allergies who have patience and commitment can overcome their condition and become happy cat owners. Most allergic reactions to cats can be well controlled by following the steps outlined below. These same techniques are also effective if you are allergic to dogs.

1. Use HEPA Air Filters – Cat allergies are primarily based by the protein Fel d 1 found in the saliva and dander. These air purifiers remove the dander out of the air, and may even help your allergies to pollens and other substances as well. Depending on your home size, you may need to purchase several of these filters. A highly recommended product is the Blue Rabbit air purifier made by Mitsubishi.

2. Keep the cats out of the bedroom – The little furballs may love to sleep on your pillow, but keep them away from your bedroom until you get your allergies under control. Keep the bedroom door closed during the day.

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3. Wash bedding in hot water – This is a good idea even when the cats are kept off the bed. Washing everything in 140 degree hot water at least twice monthly gets ride of both dust mite and cat allergens.

4. Use a high grade HEPA vacuum cleaner – Cat allergens are small and invasive, so you need to vacuum walls, carpet, flooring, and furniture, making use of the hand tools. Twice a week vacuuming is recommended.

5. Wash your hands after petting your cat – A strong anti-bacterial soap works best. Rubbing your eyes without washing hands can make your eyes itch.

6. Bathe the cat – If this sounds like a formidable task, a spray nozzle and hose attached to your sink can make it easier. Castille soap, available at Trader Joe’s, worked well for my cats. If bathing causes too much of a “cat fight”, you can put Allerpet “C” for Cats on a wet rag and wipe down the cat’s coat to get rid of the dander.

7. Confine your cats to one area of the house – This allows you to focus your attempts to control cat allergens to one area of the home.

8. Cover bedroom vents with cheesecloth – This allows the air to flow through, but catches the allergy causing irritants.

9. Feed your cat a high quality diet – This may also include some raw food. A quality diet keeps the cat’s coat and skin healthy and minimizes dander and shedding. The book “The New Natural Cat” by Anitra Frazier, available from Amazon, has good information about improving your feline’s diet. The internet has lots of resources about controlling pet allergies.

Improving your own diet may reduce your allergic reaction to animals. By making some simple changes in your home and your lifestyle, you can experience the joys of pet ownership. If you have a severe allergy, you should consult with your doctor and maybe show them a copy of this article.

This is the “purrfect” time to add a playful feline friend to your household. Our county shelter, the Coachella Valley Animal Campus, has many beautiful cats and kittens (and dogs!). They’re located at 72-050 Pet Land Place, Thousand Palms. Call (760) 343-3644 for more information or go online at www.rcdas.org to view their wonderful animals.

jmcafee7@verizon.net