How do I de-cat a room?
July 18, 2006 5:59 PM   Subscribe

My cat-allergic friend wants to stay with me for a couple of days. How can I make his stay more comfortable?

I have a friend staying with me for about 3-4 days in a few weeks. My roommate has a cat. My friend is allergic to cats and it triggers his asthma. He can't get a hotel room and he has no one else to stay with, so I offered him my couch.

How can I make his stay more comfortable by de-catting the room he'll be staying in?

We have hardwood floors and I can keep the cat to the back portion of the room so that my friend won't need to even look at the cat. I can vacuum the couch and put a sheet on it. What else would be a good idea?
posted by nakedsushi to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Dust thoroughly and brush any cat fur/dander off the couch. Vacuum the couch, clean the floors, and keep the cat out of the room. If he's not terribly allergic, that will work. If he is very allergic, then he'll need some sort of antihistimine and it might be an unpleasant trip.

If it triggers asthma, remind him to bring whatever supplies he might need.
posted by JMOZ at 6:07 PM on July 18, 2006

Might want to give the cat a bath and brush it real well in the next couple weeks. I've heard most people's cat allergies are due to dander/dead skin, so anything you could do to minimize it and its spread throughout the apartment/house leading up to the visit might help a little bit.
posted by Sloben at 6:08 PM on July 18, 2006

Stock up on Benadryl, Claritin or your friend's antihistamine of choice. That's about it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:16 PM on July 18, 2006

Zyrtec has been a miracle for me in this regard.
posted by rbs at 6:30 PM on July 18, 2006

Your friend should start taking a daily antihistamine like Claritin a few days before the visit.
Also have some antihistamines for acute allergy attacks.

I should warn you about cleaning up before the really kicks a lot of stuff up in the air, so do that kind on cleaning a few days in advance. I would hang out at my friends house the night after they cleaned during the day and would get asthma attacks (my big allergy is dustmites)

Also any thing you can launder with hot water and allergen killing detergent would help.
I think feebreeze makes a fabric spray that kills allergens.

I would also have a plan b.
good luck!
posted by NoMich at 6:36 PM on July 18, 2006

Also, don't vacuum *immediately* before your friend arrives. (It makes the dander and such go flying through the air, or so my very very very allergic best friend tells me). Don't forget to wipe the corners of the room with a damp cloth, that's where all the good (well, bad) dander-bunnies hide out at our house!
posted by at 6:38 PM on July 18, 2006

Aha! should've previewed -- what NoMich said re: kicking up in the air.
posted by at 6:38 PM on July 18, 2006

Wash the cat, and if the cat is a terror, you can give it a sort of not-bath with something like this.
My roommate's sister was allergic to our cat, and a bath was always just the thing to keep her allergies down.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:52 PM on July 18, 2006

I agree with all the vacuuming comments unless you have a filtered (HEPA) vacuum. I used to hate vacuuming before I got mine. I was allergic to and living with a cat.

I also (still) take a antihistamine/decongestant combo (usually the generic form of 24 hour Claritin-D) when around my allergy triggers and particularly when I'm visiting friends with cats. The decongestant takes care of whatever reaction the antihistamine doesn't.

Also, I once heard about some sort of animal product which would reduce the amount of dander that your cat released. I can't remember if it was something that one would add to a bath or something else. At least one allergic cat-lover friend of my swore by it.
posted by Mr Stickfigure at 6:56 PM on July 18, 2006

My mom has the same problem, and was able to stay with us for a week with very little irritation. To prepare, we vacuumed everything up and kept the kitties brushed and de-dandered (there are products out there - wipes and sprays - that will do this). She had her own room where the cats weren't allowed to go for a couple of weeks beforehand, and the house was constantly ventilated. I think that all of this would still not have been enough, though, had we not also bought a small HEPA filter for just over $100. It stayed in her room at night, and allowed her to sleep without any asthma attacks. Being in the main part of our condo during the day was bothering her, though, so we closed the windows and ran the filter in the main room during the day. It didn't completely solve the problem, but it was effective enough to keep her from using her inhaler more than a couple of times during her stay.

If you have central air, and temperature allows for running it, a cheaper, more viable - but probably less effective - alternative to the portable HEPA filter might be a high-efficiency filter installed in the central air system. 3M makes them (Filtrete); I'm sure there are other options out there.
posted by moira at 6:57 PM on July 18, 2006

Claritin and containment (having an animal-free zone) work pretty well for me. In addition to that, you could also try using a dander remover. Drs. Foster and Smith carries several, and they've also got a short article about allergy control that might be worth a look.

(On preview, pretty much everyone beat me to the punch on dander removers.)
posted by Vervain at 6:59 PM on July 18, 2006

Allerpet-C may also work. I got some from my vet but haven't had the opportunity to really use it yet so can't verify it's effectiveness. The comments in the link seem pretty positive though.
posted by aedra at 7:05 PM on July 18, 2006

I've had good experiences with Allerpet for cat-allergic friends.
posted by biscotti at 7:06 PM on July 18, 2006

Put the sheet on the couch now (if the cats jump on the couch), then right before your guest comes, replace it with mattress cover specifically for dust mite allergies and keep the cat off the couch for the duration of his stay.

Also, if your bedroom has a door, you might consider being a REALLY good friend and offering the use of your bedroom to your friend, rather than the couch. It might be eaasier to de-kittify one smaller room.

Good luck to you both (and to kitty).
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:45 PM on July 18, 2006

I'm allergic to cats and stayed with a friend for 5 days just last month. She also has 3 dogs and a bird, to which I am not allergic, but I can't imagine it helped my allergies any. FWIW I was miserable taking both Claritin once a day and Benadryl twice a day. Allegra works better for me and I had some samples left over that the doc had given me... that seemed to help some.

I always make sure that if I pet a kitty, I wash my hands immediately afterwards and don't touch my face.

If there's time, your friend might check with his doc about the Kenalog allergy shot. I don't know if it works for acute pet allergies, but my nurse-practitioner swears by it for seasonal allergies.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:28 PM on July 18, 2006

He could use Benedryl and just nap through everything like me. (Or Allegra-D to actually function).

Open windows have always helped me, as well. Maybe the extra humidity makes breathing a little easier. And the dander won't stay aloft as much.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:27 PM on July 18, 2006

Here are suggestions for the super-thorough host. They may seem extreme, but I wanted to be complete since I don't know how allergic your friend is.

Dusting - Use a damp cloth, not a feather duster. Dust everything. Windows, walls, over doors.

Wipe all upholstered furniture with an Allerpet-dampened cloth (or a water-dampened cloth if no Allerpet is available).

Of course change all sheets. Wash curtains. Wash or have cleaned any bed coverlets, duvets, etc. Clean any rugs. In short, clean, wipe, or Allerpet every single surface in the room. Also be fairly diligent about cleaning the rest of the house, since cat dander is very fine and will travel in the air and on clothing. If someone sits on the cat-loved sofa, then goes in and sits on the bed, you'll want to minimize the transfer of dander into the bedcover.

You might consider putting a fresh top cover on your guest's bed each night just before bed time (making sure not to rub the bedcover on your clothes, accidentally, as you're putting it on the bed). An attractive cotton flat sheet can be useful for this, since they can be easily laundered.

A HEPA room air filter will help a _whole lot_, and they can be nice to have around. If you don't really want to buy one (and that would be extreme for just one visit), you might ask you friend if he has one he can bring. Or maybe other friends of yours can loan you one.

Make sure it's not too dry in his room. If you've got a lot of air conditioning going on, leading to dry air, you might consider either a) damp wiping surfaces in his room right before bed time, or b) putting some source of humidity in the room. Well-watered house plants can help here (they need to be dusted or rinsed for best effect), or hang a damp towel in there.

If you have carpets, use a carpet shampooer for best results. While you're shampooing the carpet, take the cat (if he won't be too traumatized) to a pet groomer for a professional shampoo -- ask for fragrance-free shampoo and no flea dip to be kinder to the cat. Then you'll bring home a nice clean kitty to a nice clean house and they won't cross pollinate as much. Of course, the cat will probably start licking himself immediately, but if you can keep him out of the way that will help. And you can wipe him with allerpet before your guest comes.
posted by amtho at 6:20 AM on July 19, 2006

Most has been said, but to reiterate the most important points.

Clean and cover the couch as much as possible now. Change the cover to 2-3 layers when your friend gets there, and make sure what you are using to cover it hasn't been exposed when in the laundry basket or stored to the cat. Have your friend bring their own pillowcase or even a pillow if possible.

Damp cloth clean and vacuum as suggested a few days before, damp cloth clean right before as well.

Do what you can to clean up the dander off your cat, and keep them away from the area as much as possible, even to the point of keeping them contained in a closed room starting after you first clean.

Sleeping in a house with a cat when it triggers asthma is obviously the last option, and your friend is going to have some problems even with your efforts. My cat allergy doesn't trigger asthma attacks, and I still wouldn't chance it these days. If your friend's attacks are to the point they sometimes cause ER visits, I STRONGLY SUGGEST they talk to their Dr about getting put on medication for their visit to prevent a serious attack.

Yes, we allergic people are pains in the butt! Best of luck to you, your friend, and your cat!
posted by mattfn at 7:21 AM on July 19, 2006

First of all, you're a good friend to be investigating this.

Secondly, the cleaning advice above sounds good to me.

Thirdly, I also have asthma triggered by cats, and it's serious. I wanted to explain a few things that will help you clean and plan. Cat dander and cat saliva are what people are allergic to. Skin flakes off and finds its way into everything. As for saliva, the cat licks its fur, the saliva on the fur dries and flakes off, and also finds its way into and onto everything. It actually sticks to walls and other surfaces and is difficult to remove.

Cat allergens can hang around causing problems for months. If you took your cat out of the house today and kept it away until after your friend was gone, he would still react to what's in your house. Any furniture that is upholstered, any bedding, and any clothes exposed to the cat will keep the allergens in the environment. Washing in hot water can help, but cat allergens can survive multiple washings.

Your profile doesn't say where you are located. If you are in California, email me about HEPA filters -- I have a couple of extra ones I would be happy to loan you or sell you for cheap.

Your main problem areas will be a) upholstered furniture, b) bedding, and c) carpet.

Suggestions: Febreeze is nasty, and can trigger asthma itself. Don't use it. There is fabric spray for allergens, but it is expensive and is not safe for all fabric. For carpets, there are three products -- one you spray on and leave on, one you clean the carpet with, and a powder you shake into the carpet and vacuum up. They all "denature" the allergens. For bedding, there is special detergent which I use. All these, and many other products, are available at Allergy Control Products, online.

Ask your friend what he needs. He may suggest something none of us has thought of, or may have his own coping strategies. (For instance, if my friends have carpet and cats, I will sleep in the laundry room or kitchen, because it's easy to wipe the allergens off a hard floor. If it's summer, I will sleep outside in a tent, which I love. Once I slept in my car!)

I hope your friend's visit goes smoothly.
posted by shifafa at 9:16 AM on July 19, 2006

Go out and get very drunk, then spend the night in a ditch. Its one of those things your supposed to do once in your life anyway (right?)
posted by uni verse at 1:14 PM on July 19, 2006

For the time & cost of most of this, you might just as well rent the friend a room.

Bathing the cat will be fun if it's never been bathed before. It might be easier to shave the cat than bathe it. Seriously, though - you don't say if it's a short hair or a long hair. Short hairs are notoriously worse for dander. The damping down things to dust/mop/vacuum is a great idea.

Good luck. :)
posted by Meep! Eek! at 2:01 PM on July 19, 2006

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