The Cat or You? Coping with Pet Allergies


PetMD Editorial

Published May 7, 2009

Allergic to Cats: One Woman’s Story


"When my doctor told me my itchy, swollen eyes and stuffy nose were an allergic reaction to my new cat, Munchkin, I was shocked. And then he told me it was either my health or the cat!"

Jenny, a 31-year-old receptionist, is not alone in her tale. With approximately one-third of all people allergic to pets, this problem is more common than you might think. While it’s rare to be told, "You need to find your pet a new home," it can happen.

Jenny, however, refused to take it lying down. "I’m asthmatic and this wasn’t a good situation, but I’ve always wanted a cat. So when I found the small, bedraggled kitten on the street one night, I fell instantly in love," she said. "To me, Munchkin isn’t a pet, she’s my family."

"I can’t give away a member of my family. After all, you’re not going to give away your child. Are you?" With her allergic reactions so severe, Jenny set out find a situation she could live with … with her cat.

"I tried all kinds of drugs on the market. And while nasal sprays and antihistamines helped, they weren’t doing enough." Jenny's doctor then directed her to a specialist and they explored the option of weekly shots. "I decided to go for it," Jenny said emphatically. "A shot a week for six months; then they were supposed to decrease as my tolerance built up. Of course, I still had my sprays and other meds, but I felt, as great as all these were, I didn’t want to only rely on drugs. I wanted to stop the shots as soon as I could."

For Jenny, the medications were definitely alleviating the pesky allergic reactions, but she wanted to be more proactive. "I found out I could help my situation further by keeping a very clean house," Jenny said. "Luckily, I don’t have carpet, but I do need to sweep daily and mop twice a week. I also give Munchkin a weekly bath, which she isn’t too fond of, but it helps reduce the allergens."

Grooming the cat has also helped. Jenny wipes her cat down on a daily basis with a damp cloth and brushes her, too. "Not only does this help with my allergies, but it keeps her well-groomed and I no longer have to deal with those nasty fur-ball throw ups."

"I had to work hard, but it was more than worth it. I no longer need the shots, and in a much shorter period than was originally predicted. I still have my sprays, antihistamines and my other medications that keep things in check. I haven’t had an asthma attack brought on by my the cat since I started this routine, and now, with keeping the place clean, changing the sheets twice a week, and grooming the cat, the allergens have been reduced by almost 80 percent!"

With a little determination, some help from the pharmaceutical world and ingenuity on her part, Jenny has not only been able to keep her furry family member, but she’s been able to create a living situation that’s functional and comfortable. Sometimes, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

So if you’re an allergy sufferer, we certainly hope Jenny’s story has given you some worthy pointers for improving your situation. After all, as Jenny said: they’re more than pets, they’re family.

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