Caretaker Health Tips: Dealing with Allergies

The indulged furries' dad is allergic to cats, and somewhat allergic to dogs. We use the following techniques to help reduce his allergy reactions.

Common Sense

A little common sense goes a long way. The pets get lots of love, petting, and attention, but the cats are not allowed to smother dad's face! That's a tough one for Ed, who loves to sit up on your chest. After petting someone, dad pays particular attention to not touching his eyes or nose before he washes his hands.

Mom has all the routine pet care duties - scooping the litter boxes, brushing, bathing, nail trimming, etc.  Partly this is because of experience and being "mom", but partly it's to help dad's allergies. Cat litter boxes can be dusty and the urine has proteins that can cause allergic reactions. If mom is away for a couple days, dad will clean the litter boxes.

A Pet Free Zone

The master bedroom is strictly off-limits to the pets. They've ventured through from time to time, but just for a quick look at what's behind the closed door! You probably spend 6-8 hours a day in your bedroom sleeping, and keeping the pets out will provide a huge amount of allergy relief. When we had 2 cats, this was a hard and fast rule. But when Felix was our only kitty, the rules were relaxed and he was allowed in the bedroom. But he was very good at sleeping all night at the foot of the bed, and didn't wander up by dad's head.

It's been many years that dad has lived with cats, and the Pet Free Zone has disappeared. His allergies are not as severe as they were, and our second generation cats (Sammi and Raven) are good about sleeping at the foot of the bed. We cover the bed with a sheet that gets replaced every few days so the hair and dander doesn't build up.

Clothes & Laundry

Our work clothes are kept in separate laundry baskets and washed separately from the casual clothes we wear around the house. This helps keep the pet hair and dander off the work clothes. Bedding and towels from the master bedroom are also laundered separately from the bedding and towels used in the mom/pet bathroom and mom/pet bedroom. We also use laundry detergent that is free of dyes and perfumes.

Pet Grooming

Regular grooming helps reduce shedding & dander, and if you can brush the dog outside or the cats & dog in the bathroom away from the rest of the house, that's best. Bathing is helpful too, but that can only be done occasionally, especially with the cats. Simply wiping the cats with a damp washcloth will help reduce the allergens on their fur, and it won't upset them.

Fur & Dander Control

Vacuum regularly and use lots of pet hair pick-up rollers and lint brushes. It's recommended that the non-allergic person do the vacuuming because of the dust that's stirred up. See the Product Recommendations page for more info on cleaning supplies.

HEPA Air Filters

We have two HEPA air filters that are designed for reducing allergens in a room-sized area (living room, bedroom). There are always new models, so do a little research on the web and find one that's right for you. If you have a central forced-air heating / air conditioning system, you may be able to install air filters that trap a lot of the allergens. We use Filtrete Microallergan air filters (the red one).

Allergy-Friendly Home

We have reduced or eliminated as many upholstered and fabric surfaces as possible. Less than 1/2 our house has carpet, which is a resevoir for allergans. The bedrooms, kitchen, and bathrooms all have solid-surface flooring (wood, linoleum).

If you have upholstered furniture, cover it with a slip cover (or a nice bed sheet) that can be removed and laundered. Remove it carefully (roll it up as you take it off the couch) so you don't shake the hair & dander into the room.

We've reduced the number of fabric curtains and have vertical blinds on some windows.

Allergy Shots / Prescription medications

Allergy shots and anti-allergy medications have been very helpful. They're not for everyone, but if you're committed to living with pets and you're allergic to them, sometimes this is part of the solution. If your allergies are mild, over the counter anti-allergy medications might work for you. Consult your human doctor on this issue. It's easy for your doctor to say "get rid of the pets" or "put them outside". So make it clear that you ARE living with pets, they are in your home, and putting them out or finding them a new home is your last resort. I have to give "Dad" credit for living with "Mom's" cats, dog, and hamsters when he's allergic. I guess that entitles him to no poop-scooping duties!

There are situations when allergies are so severe that pets can not be kept in the house. If that's your situation, finding your pet a suitable new home is certainly reasonable. Maybe you can even find a home where you have "visitation" rights!

More resources about cat allergies (since "dad" is much more allergic to cats than dogs)