Happy Cats recently received this phone question:
My son has had his cat Rusty since he was a toddler. Suddenly, my son has developed severe allergies to his cat. Rusty is an important part of our family. Is there anything we can do to help our son and keep Rusty too?
Many of the volunteers at Happy Cats Haven have seasonal allergies, including allergies to cats. Along with the usual advice about brushing your cat, making sure to vacuum and dust a lot, avoiding your eyes or nose and possibly keeping your cat out of the bedroom, we have developed 9 other strategies for coping with allergies, even cat ones.
• Allergies are cumulative. Research has shown that many who suffer from allergies, including allergies to cats, are also allergic to other things like pollen and some foods. If you can monitor what’s triggering your allergy and find a way to avoid the other allergens, you may be able to lower your response to your cat.
• Reduce your intake of food allergens. Food sensitivities are common to people with allergies. Dr. Mark Hyman says that usual ones include dairy, wheat, corn, eggs, soy and citrus. A simple elimination diet can help identify which foods are the culprits. Many of us alter our diets a little during high-pollen seasons so our bodies don’t have to work so hard at processing all the allergens at once. Once spring turns to summer or fall to winter and the pollen goes away, you may be able to reintroduce these foods.
• 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 (like formaldehyde, chloroform and acetaldehyde) are scented candles, air fresheners, cleaning products, laundry products and older furniture with PBDE flame retardants.
• Check your cat’s litter. Many litters have the same added toxins as above and can cause highly allergic reactions, in both humans and animals. Combine these toxins with clay dust and you have a recipe for allergies that is not your cat’s fault! Some find that non-clay litters produce fewer allergic reactions. Just 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 under $50, even HEPA ones. The small ones are most effective in single rooms, like a bedroom. Simply running a filter while you sleep during spring or fall when the pollen count is up can lessen your allergic response to everything else, including your cat.
• Consider nutritional supplements. Over-the-counter antihistamines may treat the symptom but don’t do anything to help alter the allergic response itself and can have unwanted side effects. Many common supplements have been shown to help calm allergy symptoms. Dr. Joseph Mercola recommends adding omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, probiotics and quercitin, among others. There are several qualified nutritionists and naturopaths in the Pikes Peak region who can help you identify which supplements might be most useful.
• Reduce your stress levels. Dr. Weil says that he’s seen people overcome severe allergies when they took steps to lower major stress in their lives.
• Stay hydrated. Making sure you drink enough water is very important in arid Colorado and will help your body to rid itself of the histamines produced by the allergic response.
• Ask your vet. Some veterinarians have had success prescribing Acepromazine in very small doses to cats to help their people with their allergies. The theory is that this drug alters the chemical makeup of the cats’ saliva to be more tolerable. Acepromazine is a sedative and not something to be taken lightly, but if you and your cat are in a desperate situation, it might be worth checking into.
Many of us in the Happy Cats family have used these techniques to control our allergies, keeping ourselves and our cat friends healthy and happy. As Abraham Lincoln most famously said (perhaps not of seasonal allergies!), “This too shall pass!”