Will my girl's cat kill me?
April 24, 2006 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Allergy question. I'm getting married this summer and my fiance has a wonderful kitty that I love to pieces. But I'm allergic to cats. Is there any way for me and kitty to survive in one apartment without me choking to death or crying all the time?
posted by hughbot to Science & Nature (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Go see an allergist. Regular allergy shots and prescription antihistamines allowed me to live with three kitties for over 12 years. And if you start now, you'll build up your immunity by the summer.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:32 PM on April 24, 2006


How big of an apartment? I'd advise you to at least make the bedroom off-limits to the cat.
posted by moonshine at 12:33 PM on April 24, 2006


i can only speak from my own experience, but after I pet a cat, or if I'm in a place where there seems to be an excessive amount of cat dander, i do not touch my face without first washing my hands.

this keeps me free of sneezing/itchy/redeyes almost always

fwiw, i've been living with my wife's cat for many years
posted by poppo at 12:33 PM on April 24, 2006


Zyrtec is especially effective for pet dander allergies. Go see an allergist.
posted by elvissa at 12:34 PM on April 24, 2006


On the external side, frequent grooming of the cat (yes, including baths) and vacuuming of the apartment can go a long ways to reducing the amount of allergens you're being exposed to.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:34 PM on April 24, 2006


the above are all good ideas (well i dunno about the drugs) to which i add: buy the best air filters and vacuums you can afford.
posted by paradroid at 12:39 PM on April 24, 2006


Yes. Go to an allergist. I got rid of tons of nasty allergies after that. Also, he swears by the nose spray as opposed to oral medication. I have used it every day since the completion of the shots. This is supposed to keep me from getting new allergies, which, apparently, we continue to develop our entire lives.
posted by generic230 at 12:55 PM on April 24, 2006


Talk to the vet. I've seen products at my vet that you can put in the cat's food/water, which apparently reduces the chemical in their saliva that humans are allergic to.
posted by Gortuk at 12:55 PM on April 24, 2006


acupunture plus kinesiology equals http://www.naet.com/
it worked for my severly allergic father, now allergy free for 6 years (YMMV)
posted by Fupped Duck at 12:55 PM on April 24, 2006


I'm allergic to a bunch of commonplace culprits like cats, dust, grass, etc. I find that doing a combination of things helps a lot. I've had a series of shots -- inconvenient, but very helpful. I take Zyrtec (prescription) or Claritin (over-the-counter), and when things are really bad I take one in the morning and one at night (following advice of my MD). I also do what I can not to expose myself more than I have to. (Pet a kitty, wash hands; hear a lawnmower, close window...)

An allergist told me that some people are allergic to cat dander and some to cat saliva. Not sure if that helps at all, since cat saliva and dander are both all over their fur. But the allergist seemed to find it interesting.

A different allergist told me something else that helps me: if you're exposed to one allergen (say, dust) then your reaction to another allergen (like the cat) can be intensified. For me, sleeping on a dustmite-harboring pillow when I'm a houseguest makes my friend's cat very irritating the next day. So if you're allergic to more than one thing, do what you reasonably can to avoid the major ones to lessen the overall reaction.
posted by wryly at 12:58 PM on April 24, 2006


I had the same problem (and the same situation!), and took Quercetin. It worked wonders, and no longer need it.
posted by lowlife at 1:40 PM on April 24, 2006


Chalk me up as another vote for Zyrtec. I also found that my system adjusted to the cat after a month or two. Now I don't need to take anything for the cat, just usual seasonal stuff.
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:59 PM on April 24, 2006


I had a boyfriend who would (very kindly) take a Claritin everyday. It worked like a charm.
posted by unknowncommand at 2:00 PM on April 24, 2006


Thanks everybody. I think I'm going to see an allegist when I'm home from school. Does the Canadian government foot the bill for such things?
posted by hughbot at 2:03 PM on April 24, 2006


Plan to keep your place very, very clean. It's the dander that gets ya. I know someone who has two long-hair cats, and allergies, and survives easily by (a) using a hospital-grade air purifier in the main room of the house, and (b) having a cleaning person in once a week to keep the dander under control.
posted by davejay at 2:15 PM on April 24, 2006


Nobody mentioned this, but your body can become acclimated to allergens with regular exposure. I have a friend who's allergic to everyone else's cats, but not to hers.
posted by pmbuko at 2:19 PM on April 24, 2006


New improved vaccinations for persons with cat allergies: Four (4) shots instead of 25+
New Cat Allergy Vaccine A Success
NEW YORK (Reuters) -- A new cat allergy vaccine can effectively reduce allergic symptoms with far fewer injections than traditional allergy shots, a study shows.

Four weekly injections of the vaccine significantly reduced sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, running nose, shortness of breath, and wheezing of cat-allergic people exposed to two felines in the same room for one hour. The report of the study appears in the December issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"This new treatment, while not a cure, appears to improve allergic responses to cats," says Dr. Philip S. Norman, study lead-author and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University.

"Traditional allergy shots inject water and extracts from allergens like cat dander or pollen," he explains. "This vaccine only injects very specific parts of cat allergens selected for their ability to favorably stimulate the immune system."

To produce results, allergy shots typically call for an initial series of at least 25 injections over three months or more, followed by booster shots every two weeks, sometimes for years, Norman says.

He also points out that shots pose a small risk of a serious allergic reaction.

"In contrast, patients receiving the vaccine occasionally have mild symptoms on the injection day, but they require only simple treatment," Norman says.

posted by rmhsinc at 2:50 PM on April 24, 2006


In addition to allergy shots et al, there are topical treatments you can get which will reduce the dander and the chemicals in the saliva which most people are allergic to. I have only tried Allerpet, but it worked quite well.
posted by biscotti at 4:09 PM on April 24, 2006


I second pmbuko's comment - when my father met my mother, she had cats and he was very allergic. After living with her (and the cats) for a while, his symptoms vanished, and he's had no problems with any and all cats since.
posted by sluggo at 4:13 PM on April 24, 2006


This may be impractically expensive, but hardwood or tiled floors will make a big difference.
posted by atrazine at 4:22 PM on April 24, 2006


Thirding pmbuko's comment. Your body really can build up immunity with regular exposure to the same cat. I have so few problems with our set of longhair DanderGenerators that I tend to forget and pet other people's cats. Then everything immediately swells/runs/blotches/itches like hell, and voila I remember about being allergic to cats. Several allergic/asthmatic relatives have had the same experience with their cats. See an allergist for short-term relief and a plan for gradually increasing your exposure to kitty. Eventually you'll be able to snuggle your face right in the fur with no ill effects.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:19 PM on April 24, 2006


I second Allerpet.

I also suggest that your girlfriend brush the cat regularly. The cat's going to shed no matter what; better to get it contained, and it wouldn't be great for you to be the one doing the brushing.
I heartily recommend regular vacuuming of the apartment, especially the cat's favorite places, and you should absolutely not let the cat in the bedroom overnight until you've figured out how bad your allergies are.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 6:26 PM on April 24, 2006


Yes, Canadian health coverage will cover an allergist.

And another vote for Allerpet.
posted by winston at 7:52 PM on April 24, 2006


Oh, and I also second moonshine's recommendation of making the bedroom off-limits for the cat (and, if you're moving into a place where the cat has previously had access to the bedroom, giving the room a thorough cleaning before moving in, steam cleaners, at which point the ban begins)

Your question about whether an allergist is covered makes me think that you haven't considered allergies to be a serious medical concern before. I think you might be quite happily surprised at what can be done.
posted by winston at 7:57 PM on April 24, 2006


Also, someone recomended Zyrtec. This is called Reactine in Canada (wikipedia citation) and is available over the counter. (Haven't tried it myself)
posted by winston at 8:03 PM on April 24, 2006


A while back I had a girlfriend who was allergic to cats. She didn't react to her friend's two kitties, so I decided to follow her friend's lead and make my own cat food. I got the recommend book The New Natural Cat. The diet part made sense to me--fresh ingredients and natural vitamins and supplements meant no junk or filler for my cat to process, which was supposed to cut down on dander. (I did alter the recipe by cooking the meat, instead of serving it raw.) Having food out only during feeding time supposedly avoids triggering the saliva glands all day long (cat saliva is one of the allergens you want to avoid.)

It seemed to work. My cat had a luxurious coat, and my girlfriend didn't have any more reactions, even after she moved in. But it could just be because she got acclimated--she was fine even after I went back to dry food. (My cat started scarfing down her homemade meals too fast and then throwing it up soon afterwards.)

The Natural Cat also has good advice on grooming and litter boxes, but it's also heavy on the new-age nonsense, and there's a lot of bunk about homeopathic medicine. (Cat sick? Try sending it telepathic healing messages. You can do from your car!)
posted by hydrophonic at 9:01 PM on April 24, 2006


GM Cat?
posted by Akeem at 3:50 AM on April 25, 2006


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