I'm sitting in for Ms. Kitty, who will return in two weeks.
The question for this column comes from a recent call to the shelter. Mrs. Miller shared that her son, Jared, has had his cat Rusty since he was a toddler but that he had developed allergies to his cat. She said that Rusty is an important part of their family and asked if there was anything they could do.
The answer is that many people have seasonal allergies this time of year, including a heightened allergic response to cats. In addition to making sure your kitties are brushed thoroughly, vacuuming the house regularly and not touching your eyes or nose after petting your cat, here are tips for coping with these often temporary allergies and keeping your health in check:
- Allergies are cumulative. Research shows that people suffering from allergies, including allergies to cats, have other triggers such as pollen and some foods. If you can monitor what's causing your allergy and find a way to avoid the other allergens, you might be able to lower your response to your cat.
- Reduce your intake of food allergens. Food sensitivities are common to people with allergies and usual ones include dairy, wheat, corn, eggs, soy and citrus. A simple elimination diet can help identify which foods are the culprits. Try altering your diet a little during high-pollen season so your body doesn't have to work so hard at processing all the allergens at once.
- Limit environmental toxins. Dr. Andrew Weil says that exposure to toxins in the environment can trigger sensitivities to food, which can in turn increase an allergic response to your cat. According to the Environmental Working Group, common products with hidden toxins (such as formaldehyde, chloroform and acetaldehyde) are scented candles, air fresheners and some cleaning and laundry products.
- Check your cat's litter. Many litters have the same added toxins listed above and can cause highly allergic responses. Combine these toxins with the clay dust and you have a recipe for allergies. Non-clay litters might produce fewer allergic responses. Be sure to transition your cat slowly from one litter to the next to avoid litter box issues.
- Try an air purifier. These can be purchased for less than $50, even HEPA ones. The small ones are most effective in single rooms. Simply running a filter while you sleep when the pollen count is up can lessen your allergic response to everything, including your cat.
- Consider nutritional supplements. Over-the-counter antihistamines might treat the symptoms, but don't do anything to help alter the allergic response itself. Many common supplements have been shown to help calm allergy symptoms. Try adding omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D and/or probiotics. You also could make an appointment to see a nutritionist or naturopath to help identify which supplements might be most useful.
- Ask your vet. Some veterinarians have had success prescribing Acepromazine in very small doses to cats to help their guardians with their allergies. The theory is that it alters the chemical makeup of the cats' saliva to be more tolerable.
This drug is a sedative and not something to be taken lightly, but if you and your cat are in a desperate situation, you might check into it.
Ferguson is president and founding team member of the Happy Cats Haven Board. Email questions to AskingMsKitty@gmail.com.