Kid vs Cats
June 25, 2014 2:45 PM   Subscribe

We have two adorable cats and an even more adorable 4-year-old son who we've just confirmed is allergic to cats. What now?

My son has pretty severe seasonal allergies, but after our visit with an allergist, we've also confirmed he's allergic to cats. I suspected as much since he has a near constant stuffy nose. The allergist recommended we get rid of the cats (or make them outdoor cats but: nope).

Our cats are 7 and 9 years old, both adopted as babies from the SPCA. We don't want to find them new homes, but I also don't want my son to be miserable forever. I don't know anyone personally who would be able to take them (although I haven't really tried looking yet) and I'm afraid they wouldn't get adopted at a shelter because they're older.

My son loves the cats too and would be heartbroken if we didn't have them. He's been on Flonase for the past month and it's helped a lot...we've considered keeping him on that all the time (instead of just during allergy season), but I don't now how I feel about making him take daily medication just so we can keep our precious kitties.

We also have two 9-month-old babies who may or may not be allergic to cats as one (one of them seems to have the same sensitives our older son had as a baby).

We're not really sure what to do here. I would appreciate any advice from anyone who's been in a similar situation.
posted by logic vs love to Pets & Animals (51 answers total)
Get rid of the cats.
posted by axismundi at 2:49 PM on June 25, 2014 [12 favorites]

What is the setup of your house? Can you separate kid spaces from cat spaces, so that for example his bedroom is a cat-free zone?
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:50 PM on June 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

My son loves the cats too and would be heartbroken if we didn't have them

just so we can keep our precious kitties

It's not just for y'all, it's for him, too. As someone who's taken daily allergy meds ever since I can remember, they're not really a big deal for me in the big scheme of things. Your kid, your choice, of course, but allergy meds seem pretty benign when the choice might be surrendering your sweet kitties.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:50 PM on June 25, 2014 [44 favorites]

I've heard washing cats cuts down on a lot of the once a week? Also keep them out of his bedroom, and try an air purifier.

Personally I'd try everything too before rehoming the cats too - like fiercecupcake says, allergy meds aren't the worst thing ever, and also you can't keep cats out of a person's life forever. But if you end up rehoming them I don't think 7 and 9 will be too prohibitive ages as long as they're generally healthy.
posted by sweetkid at 2:53 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get rid of the cats. I have been allergic to cats since before your son's age, and my mom insisted on keeping her cat. My allergies got worse over time, and I was always sick. I am an animals-are-family person, but it felt pretty crummy to be prioritized under a cat. (Granted, this was in a hierarchy of my mother's under-prioritizations, but...) Just my two cents.
posted by stillmoving at 2:53 PM on June 25, 2014 [10 favorites]

Also, you can do a lot to reduce his exposure in the rest of the house - remove carpets and other textiles that grab fur, set up a regular floor cleaning routine (damp mop, swiffer, that sort of thing; vacuums can blow allergens around so they are not as good). When he pets them, be sure that he knows to wash his hands after, and especially not to touch his face when he has cat stuff on his hands.

(I'm a moderately cat-allergic person who loved her cats as a kid and would have been sad to be without them, and these things have worked pretty well for me. But by no means am I saying you need to keep the cats. It is 100% fine to decide to find another place for the cats to live. My suggestions only apply if you decide you want to explore options for keeping them.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:58 PM on June 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

My daughter and husband are both allergic to cats. It started as watery eyes etc. My in-laws bought a cat after they were diagnosed and insisted they visit the kitties over my objections. After a near-fatal anaphylactic reaction that resulted in a hospital stay and now we have to always carry an epi pen, I take allergies much more seriously. Apparently, a sudden escalation in symptoms is normal with prolonged exposure.

He is four, he will not be scarred for life in having them leave. They were going to leave him (die) at some point, sorry to be blunt. If you get rid of them after he or the babies have a severe reaction he may blame himself or the baby.
posted by saucysault at 3:00 PM on June 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

I used to be fairly allergic to cats when I was a kid, but through desensitizer shots and time, I am no longer allergic to cats. So there's another avenue to consider.

Flonase is well tolerated generally- very few side effects. Many doctors and pharmacists believe it's safe enough to be OTC. I took daily medication for my myriad seasonal and environmental allergies growing up and I believe I turned out fine.

It comes down to how bad the allergies are, how effective the medication is, and how attached you and your children are to the cats. And of course you'll have to revisit this if your twins start showing symptoms; if they are more allergic or don't respond to medications well, or if your oldest starts showing other worsening symptoms.

On preview, I see you're getting a few "choose your child over your pets", which reads to me as patronizing. Obviously if your child's health and safety are endangered, get rid of the pets. I would assume any reasonable person would choose their child over their pet in that situation. This doesn't seem like that. Would you also get rid of a dog if it sometimes scratches your kids when it gets overexcited? Yes, of course the allergist suggests getting rid of them- there is no upside in his professional opinion to having cats. Which is true, but is true of a lot of things in life.

Anyway, this is all a long way to say that it's up to you to decide how bad the allergies are. And there are mitigation strategies, as LobsterMitten suggests.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 3:10 PM on June 25, 2014 [11 favorites]

What about doing a "kitty mitigation project" as a trial for 3 months? Do everything you can to minimize the allergies - better cleaning, apply this amazing cat dander serum to your cats, get rid of as many rugs as you can, keep the cat out of his bedroom and put on a mattress allergy case, run a HEPA filter in his bedroom and your main hangout space.

If you're wondering if you CAN make it work, a 2-3 month trial of this regimen will let you know whether it's feasible or not. In the meantime, talk to as many folks as you can about the possibility of rehoming them together. If you find a suitable home it might make you feel better than the great unknown of giving them away to a shelter.
posted by barnone at 3:17 PM on June 25, 2014 [13 favorites]

Forgive me if I sounded patronizing. As someone who was raised by parents who put their children's needs very low in terms of how they made decisions about our lives, I tend to side with the showing as much care for the health of children.
posted by miles1972 at 3:21 PM on June 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Get rid of the cats.

Even if his allergy doesn't become severe, the possibility of which should be enough to make the decision, it can still significantly impact his health and happiness. I had allergies or non-allergic rhinitis (I don't really know which, lack of clear triggers and adult testing imply the later) as a kid and while I rarely complained (I just accepted it as normal), it sucked. Many many nights with constant post nasal drip keeping me awake or waking me up, giving me sore throats that then sometimes turned into horrible horrible every swallow made me want to cry pain, or left me vulnerable to whatever bug happened to be going around. It sucked. And as an adult I tried flonase, I also thought it sucked, it left a horrible taste in my mouth and I just couldn't make myself take it regularly. And as with all medications, we don't really know all the ways they work and all the (side) effects they can have. It seems not worth the risk for a child. When he's an adult he can decide if he wants a cat and wants to take daily medication.
posted by pennypiper at 3:50 PM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

We found out my son was allergic after we had a cat. We removed all rugs, curtains, upholstered furniture. We made his room super allergy friendly. Covered the bed and pillows with those allergy covers. No rug in the room and added a super duper air cleaner and cat wasn't allowed in the bedroom.

It worked out great but we did make her an outdoor cat.
posted by beccaj at 3:53 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to add, my lengthy personal anecdote wasn't trying to make you feel bad, it was to try and communicate that it might be affecting him in ways that you aren't aware of. So don't necessarily assume that because he's not telling you about symptoms they aren't happening. I don't think I even knew what "post nasal drip" was til I was in my 20's and I know I never said to my folks "my head and throat feel funny at night and it makes me miserable", because I was so used to it that I just assumed everyone dealt with that.
posted by pennypiper at 3:54 PM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have allergies, and grew up with allergies. I was allergic to cats and dogs, but we had a dog anyway (before we realised I was allergic to dogs). As an adult I now have cats, and happily take medication once a day to keep things in check, just as I did in childhood.

My answer is it depends how bad your son's allergies are, how difficult the medication is to take daily, how much it helps the situation, if there are side effects, how attached your son is to the cat and so on. The medications I took as a child were non-traumatic to me, and I am happy that I was able to enjoy having a pet. If the overall experience for your son with medication is not enjoyable, then sure, you shouldn't feel guilty about finding another loving home for the cats. But if medication keeps things under control, and he is not miserable about taking it, then why break up the family.
posted by Joh at 3:56 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I will say that my husband and I own two beloved cats and also have a very beloved daughter, and we would not blame you for trying any feasible option before getting rid of the cats. They may not outrank your children but they are family members too. If your son loves them as well and is fine with taking the meds, it's not as if he'll be taking them for life… these are middle aged cats and won't be with you that much longer in the scheme of things. Worst case scenario I hope you can find a friend who will give them a very good home so that you can still visit them. Good luck!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:59 PM on June 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have a three year old + 2 cats 10 & 6 years old...

Your son is four years old and you are considering putting him on daily non-necessary meds? His body is still developing.

Hellz NO.

Rehome the cats. What you propose is irresponsible.

Your plan could have unintentional reprecussions for your son, who could live well into his nineties!!

Having been a lifelong cat owner, I know reasonably that your cats have between 5 to 10 years to live. They'll be fine rehomed, on top of all that.

Priorities, mate. Priorities.
posted by jbenben at 4:04 PM on June 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

Banish the cats from the bedrooms and the kids' primary play area and run very good air filters in those rooms. If feasible, replace all of your carpeting with wood floors. Even if you ultimately have to rehome the cats, these changes will still help with your children's other allergies.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:05 PM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

i grew up with pets and horrible allergies (that no one knew were allergies - so completely unmedicated) and it was awful. as an adult, we have an awesome cat and i take allergy medicine every day (with or without the cat i'd have to take the meds - your son might end up being the same way). i vote for keeping the cat, making the changes described up thread (remove rugs, keep everything clean, no cats in bedrooms, etc), and see if it helps.
posted by nadawi at 4:34 PM on June 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

I would try hard to find the cats another happy living situation.

My perspective: I love my pet, have a 3 year old son, and am allergic to cats. The meds took the edge off, but never stopped the symptoms completely. And the allergy has gotten worse and worse over time. Now I just won't go to houses that have cats. It's just not worth how bad it makes me feel for days afterwards. I would feel *awful* if my own home were not safe for me.

Obviously, your 4 year old's experience with the efficacy of the medicine might be different than mine. But can you be sure he could recognize and communicate his residual discomfort with you? Might he just learn that feeling 80% is normal, as a previous poster said?

It will take time to find a new, good home for your cats. I would start now, because if the allergy gets worse (as mine did), you may have to rush it later.

Sorry you have to make this decision.
posted by pizzazz at 4:37 PM on June 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Great point that your four year old can't accurately report if allergy meds have side effects, make him feel funky or drowsy all the time, etc..
posted by jbenben at 4:58 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am allergic to most animals and have been so my entire life. I started taking allergy meds after I started school and started shots shortly after. I grew up around animals but none in the house. I could say to family members and other adults by age 3, "Wash me, I 'llergic." As an adult, I've have at least on indoor cat since I moved out of my parents' house and at one point had two cats and two dogs indoors.

Being on allergy medication my whole like has given me a bit of a tolerance. Back before the wonder that is Zyrtec and Nasonex, I used to have to switch meds every year or so due to tolerance issues. If he's doing well on the Flonase, I'd say let it ride.

Keep the cats out of his bedroom, teach him to wash his hands frequently, remove any and all carpeting you can and when you do vacuum, let him play outside for a while during and after.

One of the things I regret most about my childhood was the mistaken belief that I couldn't have pets. My parents believed the common knowledge at the time that I would suffer unduly around critters. Finally at 8 they gave in and got me a dog, an outside dog, but a dog nonetheless. As I got older, my folks realized that I could manage my allergies pretty well and when I wanted, the sneezing was worth it. I showed horses, sheep, and rabbits. I was inseparable from my dog and later, my outdoor cat. If I had known that I could have had an indoor pet with some modifications, I know I would have welcomed it.

For most of us, our allegies won't kill us and the world won't remove the allegens from our paths. As an adult, my life is a lot easier because I know how to manage my allergies. I know when it's getting bad, how to bring it back down from critical snot to manageable sniffle and above all, I have learned to fulfill my overwhelming love of animals without dying. I'll never let the dog in the bed or go longer than a few minutes without washing after the cat cleans my ears, but my life is far richer having my pets in it and there's no snot in the world that can change that.
posted by teleri025 at 5:00 PM on June 25, 2014 [23 favorites]

Get rid of the cats.
posted by umberto at 5:12 PM on June 25, 2014

I'd suggest going looking for a rescue organization that will help you rehome the cats right away, and explain the situation. Finding a home for the cats is far from an overnight process, so you need to start working on it immediately, even if you plan to try mitigation. Assuming that you are still in San Francisco, you may well be able to find a rescue organization of some sort that will he work with you.
posted by wotsac at 5:17 PM on June 25, 2014

This is what my parents did.

Faced with this very dilemma, they acknowledged that they couldn't isolate me from going to see family and friends who had animals simply because of my allergies and chose to keep our animals and start monthly shots when I was five. The shots desensitized me for years and I learned to wash my hands and face after playing with animals. There were rough patches (because kids) and I remember how itchy I would be if I played with my cousin's sheltie and then didn't wash up (mostly from my eyes threatening to swell shut), but it stuck with me (30+ years after the fact) and helped me create a good habit at a young age.

Upon reading, I wondered if your allergist recommended shots at all, or just instructed you to lose the cats.

In the end, the human kids are the priority, but that doesn't make us care any less about the choices we make for our feline kids. Good luck with this obviously tough situation.

(For context's sake: my cat allergy was triggered by direct contact immediately and by dander if exposed over time. My dog allergy seemed to be triggered within, like, 80 yards of a canine.)
posted by ovenmitt at 5:27 PM on June 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

If your son's seasonal allergies are really severe, did the allergist discuss shots at all? Because based on how reactive I was/am to dust mites, my allergist insisted on shots (later changed to sub-lingual drops - so much better!) and we decided together to add the cat serum (pretty bad reaction there, too, and I had 4 cats at the time and rehoming them was simply not an option for me), too. The thought was, well, if we're doing desensitization anyway, what's to lose by adding another serum?

Worked like a charm.
posted by cooker girl at 5:53 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

My relatives with the same problem made the cat an outdoor cat, then eventually rehoused the cat with another family member. The problem was that the kid LOVED the cat and played with it even though she had a reaction, and they couldn't for some medical reason do the shots.

Rehoming is sad, but so is being pariahs suddenly in the home where you were loved because you make a family member sick.

Can you put together a cute little website with photographs of the cats and a short account like this and basically pitch the cats for rehoming? Really good photographs make a huge difference in getting pets adopted, and two sweet family cats who are child-friendly with a good story are not the same pitch as an older cat hiding behind kittens at a shelter.

I would try the allergy suggestions in this thread and simulatneously look for a good rehoming situation in your area.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:37 PM on June 25, 2014

Have you had a long conversation with the allergist and your son's pediatrician about what might happen if you keep the cats and have him on daily allergy medication? Exactly why does the allergist recommend rehoming the cats? What does the pediatrician think?

My experience with cat allergies is that they can become quite severe--dangerously so. I get that the whole family loves the cats, but it may be seriously harmful for your son to continue living and playing with them (and he won't be able to understand that). I think at the very least you need to get more medical advice here, as well as to consider how you want to handle your son's relationship with the cats (which is going to be easier: "The kitties are going to live with the XYZ family" or "You can't play with the kitties anymore because they make you sick"?).

I also, to be honest, have a gut reaction of: it's your kid's health. Of course you rehome the cats. Your kid's health and ability to keep breathing trumps everyone's love for the cats.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:48 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are there known long term Ill effects from Flonase? If not, I would make environmental changes as suggested above and keep the cats for now. Especially since he would likely need to be on it for seasonal allergies half the year anyway. There's no reason to feel guilty about using a medication if it does not have significant side effects. (I say as someone who has seasonal and dust mite allergies and uses fluticosone daily.)

If it does have side effects in the dosage he's taking, and/or if he has symptoms it does not relieve, then you have more variables to weigh.

I'm sorry you have to make these choices. :(
posted by metasarah at 6:48 PM on June 25, 2014

Anecdata: Mr. Carmicha still grieves for the dog his mother "sent to the farm" because he was deemed allergic at about the same age, and it's been over 60 years. Your son will remember. If you choose to rehome them, make sure he knows in a rock solid way that they are happy and healthy and beloved.
posted by carmicha at 7:11 PM on June 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

You're probably going to need to make a very careful assessment of how strong his allergy is. I'm extremely allergic to cats, well past the itchy-stuffy-red eyed level, and far into the airways-closing-off territory. Antihistamines have never really helped me, and they make me kinda stupid. The best I can do is limit my exposure to cats, which would be very hard for your son if he has to live with one. There have been a few times that my breathing was so impeded I worried that it was going to kill me. If his allergies are a strong as mine, it would be a lot safer to re-home the cats. sorry you have to deal with this, it sucks.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:32 PM on June 25, 2014

I grew up with a cat, while allergic to them. I took daily hayfever medication, and it really wasn't a big deal. I think my nose was always a bit stuffier and eyes a bit itchier than most kids, but for me it was my normal, and it was okay. My parents did replace my bedroom carpet with hard flooring and made an effort to keep it super clean, and I never had to be on vacuuming duty (because that just stirred up the dander), which was nice. I think it also would have been good if my room had been a no-cat zone, but for some reason no one thought of that.

If the kid has asthma or something, of course, that's a bigger deal and you will probably need to rehome. (The kid, or the cats :) )
posted by lollusc at 8:33 PM on June 25, 2014

Oh, and I always went out for an hour or so when the house was vacuumed. It takes a while for the dander and dust to settle again. Maybe you can get a better, more industrial vacuum than we had, though.
posted by lollusc at 8:34 PM on June 25, 2014

I agree with everyone who thinks it's ok to keep the cats if the allergies are not severe. Also, if your son is 4, won't he be starting pre-school and then kindergarden, and thus be spending more time out of the house and away from the cats?

I grew up having cats even though it turned out I was allergic to them. I didn't get allergy testing until high school, and we didn't really consider getting rid of our cats. (My dad's response to my coming home with the 'allergic to dogs, cats, dust & mold' test result was "Well…you go first". I think my mom might have asked if I thought we needed to talk about it, but I said I agreed with Dad.) I got allergy shots for a few years, and between the shots and the constant exposure, the symptoms went away. And I've had 3 cats of my own so far.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:39 PM on June 25, 2014


I missed that one of your new infants is displaying the same allergy symptoms as your son.

can the cats stay with a friend or sitter for two weeks?

Get the cats out of the house. Have the whole show deep cleaned.

If your children's symptoms improve, you know what to do.
posted by jbenben at 9:21 PM on June 25, 2014

My boyfriend discovered he was allergic to cats when I first got my cats. He has since become desensitized to them (only a few particular cats, mind you, not all cats), as well as his own cat which he ended up getting as a result of me. However, when he was suffering what helped was keeping the cats out of the bedroom and thoroughly vacuuming and sweeping before he came.

I know your son is only four--but perhaps you could broach the idea to him? If he loves the cats then you might seriously break his heart if you get rid of them, and find out later he'd happily continue Flonase for a chance to keep his beloved kitties.

Rather than Cats or No Cats, why not do a trial period:

- Teach son importance of thoroughly washing hands after touching kitties
- Continue to monitor daily usage of Flonase
- Ban cats from bedrooms and playrooms
- Remove what carpeting can be removed
- Be judicious in vacuuming and sweeping floors and furniture and brushing cats (easier said than done with two babies and a toddler, I know!)

Give it a few months and see how things go. It would probably take that long to find a good home for two older cats anyway.

If nothing else--not to be morbid, but the kitties will be gone within a decade at the very most. Your son and babies will hopefully be around much, much longer than that. At that point they'll all be able to voice whether they'd want replacements or not.
posted by Anonymous at 9:41 PM on June 25, 2014

One small point: it is *extremely* rare for pet allergies to escalate to the point of anaphylactic shock; it is possible, but really rare. No one would advise you to get rid of all your child's bedding because of the very small (but nonetheless real) risk that his dust mite allergy may lead to anaphylactic shock. There are certain sorts of risks that we simply accept because they are so rare and the costs of eliminating the risks are high. I think that considering such rare (but extremely frightening!) possibilities may make it harder to deliberate rationally about your particular situation.
posted by girl flaneur at 10:00 PM on June 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

(I think it's really amusing that someone handled "schroedinger" weighed in here. Heh.)

For the OP - y'know, as a cat lover, I have zero empathy for adults with allergies to my cats. I mean, if I'm being honest. I can name friends and house helpers (plural!) that I feel I had no responsibility to accommodate in my home according to their allergies to my cats. They're adults - be in my home or don't come over.


When I was pregnant, I was worried about my cats' future compatibility with my child, especially the one really aggressive cat.

I decided I would re-home one or both cats at the whiff of trouble. The aggressive cat is my pride and joy - but that's where she consciously placed for me in the hierarchy of importance.

Cats trump shitty family members. Cats trump boyfriends or girlfriends, regular friends, acquaintances, and anyone you hire to come into your home. Period.

Cats do not trump offspring. They do not trump a spouse you chose over all other romantic partners.However, they might trump your ability to make an income, or follow your dreams. Mostly though, they do not come before the sacred vows you make with other humans to honor your relationship with them. This is why spouses and children come before cats.

It took me a few tries in this thread to hit the right tone to convey my whole position. I hope you were not offended by earlier answers. I was getting at a point.

I KNEW going into parenthood that my pets might not mesh with my child, for whatever reason. I thought that through as part of my planning.

You've been blndsided. It's true. I'm sorry!

OP, the truth is that as a responsible parent, if this had crossed your radar without the urgency - you would have prepared emotionally for the possibility of re- homing your cats.

I'm not saying you would callously emotionally detach! No!

Just saying the prospect of the possibility, and especially the practicality behind such a decision, would have been settled.

In the end, there are a lot of mitigating factors (allergy may not be the cats, isolating them might help, etc.,) but you should decide clearly that your children are always the right answer.
posted by jbenben at 12:45 AM on June 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Get rid of the cats. Here's my story:

When Kinetic Jr was a baby, I had Dink the Black cat. My kid was in for a physical and her pediatrician noticed the shiners under her eyes and immediately asked if we had a cat.

Assuming she noticed some stray black hair or something on my kid, I told her that I did.

"Those circles under Kinetic Jr.'s eyes? She's allergic to it."

So, we began the process of "de-catting" the house. We pulled out carpets and installed floors, got Hefa air purifiers, I started doing daily linen washing and clothes washing and floor cleaning. Spent maybe $4000.

I had a special play mat for my kid that was bleached of all cat fur daily.

Months later, she still had shiners under her eyes.

I was exhausted from the increased amount of daily cleaning and taking care of my kid.

So I got rid of Dink.

21 years later, Kinetic Jr. is studying to be a veterinarian. She outgrew the allergy.

You can try de-dandering the house. I can tell you that I gave it two months and it cost a fortune and it didn't do enough.

And in a million years, I wouldn't put any of my kids on daily allergy meds of any type if I could instead get rid of the allergen.

I understand it's a difficult decision. Welcome to parenting.
posted by kinetic at 3:04 AM on June 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry but you NEED to value your kid's comfort and health over the pet. The cats can have a loving happy home somewhere else. You'll miss them, but it has to happen. You just have to. You can do all the cleaning and whatnot but you're going to be chasing a moving target you'll never catch. It will be in the air, on every surface, on you, on your husband, on guests who pet the kitty, etc. You can try to limit the areas that the kitties can be in to limit contact with your kid, but it is STILL in the air etc. And then you're also creating a life for your cats that is less than it should be. There isn't a solution to this that doesn't involve your cats living in a different home. If they stay your kid will never feel 100%, they will probably get sick more often, they won't sleep as well, etc. Do it now. I'm so so sorry but you have to. And I am saying this as someone who has been there. I love kitties. I had a wonderful kitty named Rhubarb. My boyfriend was severely allergic to kitties. When I moved in we were going to try to keep Rhubarb but in the end I had to realize that my partner's health had to be more important. I rehomed my lovely Rhubarb. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and I cried every day for weeks. My boyfriend (now husband) felt incredibly guilty and terrible over it, and years later it is still something we just don't (can't) talk about.

But it was the right choice.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 3:40 AM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was severely allergic to cats, and then I built up some tolerance to my fiance's cats when we moved in together. I take zyrtec every day and only sneeze several times a day now. HOWEVER, I developed mild asthma because of the cats, and now I can't exercise without needing an inhaler (I never had asthma before). This sucks, because once in a while I like to train for half marathons. It kinda took me by surprise, because as I said, I thought I built up a lot of tolerance and I barely show any typical symptoms of allergies - sneezing, itchy eyes, etc. But asthma wheezing and choking from not being able to breathe isn't fun. I also don't love having to take medication every day. Allergy meds aren't that bad, but still, extra chemicals.

So just think about the long term effect this might have on your kid. I'm not sure if there's any way to detect asthma and prevent it if it starts happening. But don't assume that a few sneezes are not a big deal. They aren't, until something worse happens.
posted by at 4:47 AM on June 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would be more concerned about the 9 month old who could possibly have a more severe reaction due to age and tiny airway passages.....

.....I grew up with dogs and have a rabbit and a cat now. Rabbits come with hay, which gets everywhere no matter how careful we are. If my kids were allergic, I would look to rehome. And I would be devastated. But it's what would have to happen because my children deserve to have a home where they feel loved, safe, happy, and healthy.
posted by zizzle at 4:54 AM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You should consider getting rid of the cat. Having allergies is basically having a hyper immune response. Being washed with chronic inflammatory cytokines is associated with all kinds of havoc, from autoimmune disorders to heart disease. Not saying it's a sure thing by any stretch, that is how epidemiology works, but it's not something to take lightly. My childhood allergy to cats developed into asthma and a severe allergy to pollen. I had a chronic stuffed up nose even when I wasn't around cats. When I finally was cat free during college, these problems disappeared, it was huge relief. I didn't think I could live without my kitties but now I see the insanity of putting a pet over my own health.
posted by waving at 6:19 AM on June 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have had pretty severe asthma and allergies to a bunch of things my entire life. I am allergic to both cats and dogs, and growing up we had both. I spent literally all my time with our dog and I would have been very seriously traumatized had my parents listened to the doctors and rehomed our pets. As an adult I have both cats and dogs, and I feel that daily medication and occasional discomfort is a small price to pay for their companionship. Other people clearly have other opinions, but as an allergic adult who was an allergic kid, I would advise you to first try a combo of cleaning with dander in mind, keeping the cats out of the kid's bedroom, and allergy meds and see how that goes.
posted by crankylex at 9:05 AM on June 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

If his allergies aren't severe, I would say do everything you can to keep the cats. Does he mind taking Flonase daily?

There are also ways to reduce the allergen density in your house. Giving the cats regular baths helps a lot, as does regularly ventilating the house (on low-pollen days, in the case of your son since he also has seasonal allergies). Are there any carpets you can remove/replace that are currently trapping allergens? You may want to restrict the cats to certain parts of the house so that your son can get away if he's feeling extra stuffy and/or didn't feel like taking his medication that day. His room is a good start. Air purifiers are also a great investment.
posted by Urban Winter at 10:29 AM on June 26, 2014

happily take medication once a day to keep things in check

What sort of medication?
posted by Billiken at 12:00 PM on June 26, 2014

Per the OP, Flonase (a nasal steroid spray).
posted by kathrynm at 12:05 PM on June 26, 2014

This thread keeps preying on my mind, I guess because I can't wrap my head around how many people think it's preferable to subject a child (and potentially a baby) to a home environment that makes him sick (a DAILY immune assault) and to taking non-medically necessary prescription medication (a corticosteroid too) on a constant basis to make it manageable, to finding new homes for two cats.

I'm a strong believer in the commitment that adopting a pet entails. I currently have a 14 year old cat and dog (plus the spring chicken 5 year old cat), and have had (till they passed) a diabetic cat who I had to give twice daily insulin injections to and keep on a special diet, and a paraplegic, incontinent dog who had to be "expressed" twice daily amongst other unpleasant daily upkeep and cleaning tasks. I didn't, and don't, say to get rid of them lightly.

I know finding a new home (and this is possible, it might not be easy but it's possible) for your cats is a hard choice, and one that might not be hugely popular with your little boy right now. But it's a parent's job to make the hard choices that are needed to protect their children. It's our job to sometimes be the bad guy when it means keeping our kids healthier and safer. It sucks, but that's just part of the package. Kids that age don't get to choose on big issues related to their health, I mean we don't just give them free reign to the cookie jar because they'll be upset if they don't get a cookie, or let them stay up to all hours because they don't want to go to bed. And this seems so much bigger. So so much more important.

You have to at least try. Email everyone you know, put pictures on facebook, PLAY up the sadness you feel in loosing these wonderful critters AND the misery it causes your wonderful son. Ask all of these people to forward the message on to anyone they know. Contact your vet and rescue organizations. Offer vet bill supplements, or to fly them to a family member or friend in another city/state. If all of that doesn't work, come back here and ask for more ideas, who knows maybe someone here will happen to be looking for new additions to their home around the same time and contact you.

Remember, just because they are older does not mean they aren't adoptable. When our dog passes, we PLAN on finding an old mellow dog. Kittens and puppies are adorable, but damn they are a lot of work. There are others out there who will feel the same way.

I'm sorry you're having to make this choice, I know how sad I would be to not have my pets, but I also know that watching my child have difficulty breathing every day would break my heart even more. You have the power to help him, which is a great gift. Try focusing on that.
posted by pennypiper at 12:20 PM on June 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

This thread keeps preying on my mind, I guess because I can't wrap my head around how many people think it's preferable to subject a child (and potentially a baby) to a home environment that makes him sick (a DAILY immune assault) and to taking non-medically necessary prescription medication (a corticosteroid too) on a constant basis to make it manageable, to finding new homes for two cats.

My thoughts exactly. I know you're in a tough spot, OP, but I would urge you to look to rehome your cats. I have a beloved 17yr old cat and know it will be hard, but for the reasons pennypiper lists above, I think it's the best decision.
posted by JenMarie at 12:54 PM on June 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you decide to rehome the cats, remember older cats are going to take ages to find a good new home for, people want kittens not cats approaching their senior years. I'd recommend starting with any older folks you know that like cat. In the mean time I'd look at trying all the recommendations others have put forward to minimize the allergens etc. If it works you can stop looking and it can only help in the mean time.

Also if you are hesitant to make the cats outside cats, depending on your climate have you considered an outside run for them. Even if it was only for during the day it would help keep dander etc levels lower.
posted by wwax at 12:58 PM on June 26, 2014

Mod note: Folks, comments here need to remain answers to the specific question, not general thoughts on the subject or disagreements with other commenters. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:10 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

OP, you have gotten some good advice about allergy mitigation, and first hand accounts from people who grew up with pets despite their allergies. I don't think this is a simple matter of weighing your son's health against your affection for your cats. You can love your children, put them first, be a great mother, yet try to mitigate your son's allergy symptoms before resorting to rehoming the cats. Obviously, you will need to monitor your children's heath carefully, and rehoming the cats may end up being necessary, but I don't think you should frame this decision as "kid vs. cats."

Parents put their children's well being at risk with every decision they make. Think about how often you get into a car with your child even though automobile accidents are the leading cause of death of children. For some reason people seem to simply ignore those kinds of risks yet focus intensely on others which may be much less serious.

Kids often outgrow allergies, they will encounter allergens at school, and there is some evidence that children living with cats are less likely to be allergic to cats as adults.

I certainly don't mean to suggest that you would be wrong to rehome your cats, but I would encourage you not to think of this as a zero-sum, cats vs. children situation.
posted by girl flaneur at 3:36 PM on June 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

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