Living with a cat in the face of allergies: Our plan of Attack!

This photo is of our potential cat's father.

We have been searching high and low for information on how to live with a cat when a family member has allergies. You can see more about our journey to adopt a hypoallergenic cat here. After clicking over there and seeing my son's allergic reaction, any reasonable person would think we were crazy to even entertain the idea of having a cat in our house.

I had given up all hope and resolved to live cat-free, but my husband has been adamant that we need a cat, and he thinks we can do it. Why is he so sure we need a cat?  In case I haven't mentioned before, my kids fight. I mean they FIGHT. Why am I telling you this? Because my husband thinks having an animal will make our children get along better. To me it sounds a lot like people in a troubled marriage thinking, "Let's have a baby!" Somehow, the real problem never gets solved.

But I still think having a pet would be a wonderful thing. Who doesn't want something to care for and love? After coming up with an action plan for living with a pet (see below), I've come to think that perhaps my husband's fervent insistance that we "can do it" has more to do with his desire for me to become the house cleaner of his dreams.

Here is our Cat Plan of Attack:
1. Vacuum the house daily. So far I have this down to 1 1/2 hours a day. Like most moms, all of my activities are done with constant "help" and interruptions, so I'm currently working on a beating that time.
2. Wash the cat weekly. This will be no fun, but will hopefully keep allergen levels down.
3. Brush the cat daily and wipe him down with either allergen wipes or warm washcloths.
4. Wash all hard floor surfaces at least every other day (perhaps daily.)
5. Amp up our consumption of flaxseed, wild salmon & tuna, and citrus fruits. I'm also in the process of figuring out how to easily convert our family to grass fed and pasture raised beef, dairy, eggs, pork and chicken. All of these changes should lower our overall inflammation levels and make my son's airways less reactive.
6. Dust the house at least twice a week - I'm talking baseboards, fans, vents, furniture, everything.
7. Wash all bedding and blankets weekly. Wash cat items more often.
8. Wash all toilets weekly, and check/spot-clean the cat's preferred toilet frequently.
9. Empty the cat's litter box after each use and start toilet training within 2 weeks of the cat coming home.
10. Re-train the boys to put the toilet seats DOWN after every use and to keep the lids up.
11. Weekly nail clipping for the cat. The cat and I are going to share many unpleasant experiences, but it's either this or declawing which I am against.
12. Cat will not be allowed outside.
13. The furnace and air exchange filters will be changed and cleaned regularly and inspected monthly.
14. All bedroom doors will remained closed during the day and night.
15. Possible vacuum upgrade! Wahoo!
16. Looking into UV allergen buster for furnace.
17. Wash my son's pillow and mattress protectors on a weekly basis.
18. Feed the cat a natural diet and attempt to minimize his stress, so he sheds less and produces fewer allergens. It will also help him live a longer, healthier, happier life. :)
19. Wash hands and face after snuggling with cat.
20. Visiting homes with cats to assess real world reaction in a one cat home. We have friends with cats and I've been setting up playdates so my son can play in homes where cats live with the hope that he can play in a home where cats live and do so without reactions or medicine. *Fingers Crossed*

Phew! I'm exhausted just thinking about it. Actually, I've already been living it (minus any cat specific activities.) If I can keep it up, this is most likely our best bet at having a low allergy cat experience. My goal is to limit discomfort for my son, husband, and cat. And to limit any medical intervention (allergy meds) and not to trigger any asthmatic episodes. I'm excited and scared.....


Mami2jcn said...

You're braver than I am to attempt this. I'm severely allergic and cats are out of the question. My son really wants a cat, but I cannot expose myself to living in that kind of misery. We will be getting a standard poodle, once the kids are a little older and can help walk the dog.

I wish you a lot of luck with this. But from my experience, it's really difficult to completely eliminate cat allergies.

Margaret said...

That will be alot of work but totally worth it if you can figure out how to make it work. I am allergic to cats and I have two so it is totally do able if you work hard at it.

Michelle said...

I have 2 babies, 3 cats, a dog, and have killed two fish this year. (In addition, had two other dogs that just didn't work out.) I have to say...

THAT(your list) IS FREAKIN' CRAZY!!! That's the sweetest way I could say it. :)

Thankfully Thrifty said...

You can do it! I am so impressed at your motivation! Having a pet is so worth the effort - though I know it has to be exhausting.
I have to say that your post has brought me hope! We don't have kids yet, but we do have a dog that we love. All of my friends with babies have their dogs secluded to one room of the house because they don't want to vacuum. I always say that I won't do that because I will just vacuum daily. After all the dog/pet is part of the family too, right? I like your approach! Good luck!

Susan said...

I am not sure if this is where I would put this post, I am kind of new at this. But I have some coupons that I either don't need or that are ready to expire. I hate to see them go to waste, when someone might be able to get some good use out of them. There is no contest or whatever, just looking for a home for some poor unwanted coupons before they expire. I will mail them to anyone that would like them.
They are listed on my blog at:
Thank you for letting me post this here, and hopefully the coupons will find a home.

Sunnie said...

You are a crazzzzzzy woman!!!
Best of luck though!!!

Just Playin' said...

Better you than me! I know I couldn't vacuum every day for and hour and a half. I hope it works for you though. Family is family including the pets.

Anonymous said...

Please, do not bathe the cat once a week. This is bad for kitty and actually will cause the animal create more dander. Check with your vet about a grooming schedule.

Stockpiling Mom said...

Following you from MBC!

Stop by when you get a chance!


Carolyn @ My Backyard Eden said...

Good luck to you. Just reading how much work you're planning to do makes me exhausted. I have severe cat allergies and even with all of that cleaning, I don't think I could tolerate living with a cat. Definitely keep your bedroom doors closed, and consider sleeping with a hepa filter on.

Have you considered dogs instead? There are several breeds out there that are well tolerated by people with cat allergies.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi Angela,

I have heard that what may help is if the person with allergies supplements with Vitamin E (atleast 400 mg/day).

Supplement the cat's feed with the Vitamin E as well. Do this for atleast 4 weeks. The Vitamin E helps to neutralize the effect of allergic reactions to the enzymes in cat saliva.

Happy New Year! :D

Sue said...

I too am severly allergic to cats, and one product I haven't heard you mention is something like Febreeze's allergen reducer spray. I mention Febreeze just because I can get it in the supermarket, versus mail order, etc. My friend has multiple cats and I was actually able to sit on her couch without reacting when she sprayed the couch down before I got there.

The biggest sources of dander are carpets and upholstery. So furniture cleaning needs to be done regularly as well.

Personally, I think you're crazy too (there's gotta be another pet out there???) but it's your house, not mine :-)

Angela said...

LOL - This does seem crazy and extreme! We just really want to have a cat. So far we are sticking to the plan pretty well, although dragging the vacuum up the stairs is starting to really aggravate me. :)

My son has been to a few neighbors homes with cats (about one to two hours each time) and hasn't had any reactions. My friends tend to keep cleaner houses than me (lol) but each have one regular cat. One of the friends washes her cat weekly and the other never does. One vacuums daily, the other every other week or so. I can tell a difference in cat smell at their homes, but at each of them my son was reaction free. Plus, our cat is going to take a stab at toilet training so hopefully that eliminates all litter box odors. :)

Amy said...

Everyone we know has a cat now and my son can't avoid them, so we're going to be getting him the shots to build his immunity. Weekly shots for 2 years. It's gonna suck.

Becca said...

That sounds like a lot of work for one cat...good luck!!!

Jennifer said...

Does your son have asthma? That is very risky to get a cat to stop your kids from fighting, when it could literally kill your child. I hope that doesn't sound mean, but I wouldn't do it. why not get a different pet? WE had a much loved hamster that was wonderful. Gerbils are nice too, so are dogs, but frequently create the same allergy problems. I would rethink the cat thing.

Angela said...

Yep, he has asthma. I think it's crazy to think a cat will stop my kids from fighting too. :)

My husband still fights with his siblings, so I think it's genetic, lol. We want a cat for a lot of reasons, but the allergies/asthma are a major concern.

My son is actually more allergic to dogs (believe it or not), but we are still in deciding mode.

Thanks too all your honest feedback. ;)

Anna said...

Have you thought of using Soft Paws instead of the weekly nail trim? I have no experience with them, but have heard positive feedback from other people.

Angela said...

I've seen the soft paws and wondered about them. I'm checking into how long they last. Thanks for the tip!

I'm also looking into appropriate kitty shampoos. My neighbor uses people shampoo, but that's prob not the way to go. Still checking...

Anonymous said...

My husband has cat allergies too. His eyes get red, his nose gets stuffy and he itches really bad on his hands after touching cats. Is your hubbies allergies similar? We would really like a cat but want to make sure this isn't just too severe to try. Let me know.

Angela said...

My husband's allergies are very similar and things were great for the first 2 years. Now my husband says he is allergic to her.

He can be in the house and live with her without much trouble, but sometimes he does wake up with red eyes, swollen nose/throat. And if he "loves her up" he gets itchy and sneezy and red.

I have to keep up with the vacuuming, dusting, bed washing to almost an insane level to make him happy with the allergen levels (and because he's crazy about keeping things perfectly clean). Some of it may be in his head, but he does legitimately get red eyes. Really red eyes.

My son, on the other hand, has no allergies to her what so ever. He did in the beginning but he got better and she sleeps on his head almost every night. No allergies. No asthma. Nothing.

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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate all your tips, advice, and well wishes!


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