What If My Boyfriend/Girlfriend Is Allergic to My Cat?
10% of the population has pet allergies and cat allergies are the most common type of pet allergies. So what do you do if your significant other (boyfriend or girlfriend) is allergic to your cat? Learn about the causes of cat allergies and how to make your relationship work.
What Causes Allergies to Cats?
It’s not the fur or hair of the cat that causes allergies, it’s the actual protein in the cat’s saliva, urine, and dander that triggers the reaction. Allergies are your body’s first line of defense when it identifies a foreign substance. Sometimes, something harmless like pet dander can trigger a reaction and activate your body’s defense, causing typical symptoms of allergies.
- Itchy, red eyes
- Eye discharge
- Watery eyes
- Runny, watery nose
- Mucus in the nose and stuffy nose
- Dry cough or scratchy throat
- Itchy skin (where the cat has licked you)
If your boyfriend or girlfriend is experiencing these symptoms around your cat, you might be wondering if the relationship will be able to last. How can you keep your cat and your significant other both in your life?
First things first, your partner will want to visit the doctor and determine if the symptoms are severe or life-threatening. If this is the case, more aggressive action must be taken.
Though rare, some individuals can experience life-threatening symptoms and might require immediate emergency attention (e.g., call 911 in the event that they cannot breathe). For less serious cases, a test can be performed by a doctor to determine if the allergies are to cats or if the symptoms are being caused by something else.
Establish a Cat-Free Space or Cat-Friendly Space
One easy solution is to establish a cat-free space or a cat-friendly space, depending on what you have to work with. If your cat is roaming around the kitchen, for example, and doesn’t jump up on the counters and you keep the space fairly clean, this might be considered a neutral space in which both you and your boyfriend/girlfriend can hang out with your cat without issue so long as there isn’t any contact. However, you can also pick a room or space that is strictly for your cat or strictly for your significant other to spend time in so their paths don’t cross.
Vacuum, Use a Couch or Futon Cover, and Wear Clean Clothes
For example, when your boyfriend or girlfriend is over, you might want to set your kitty up with their favorite treats, water, a litterbox, a big window with plenty of birds to look at, toys, cat tv, etc., in a private room while you and your partner enjoy the living room and TV together.
Before landing in this cat-free space, vacuum and maybe put a couch cover or bed sheet over the couch to protect your partner from the allergy triggers. You can run an air filter and also leave the windows open. If you have the space to work with, consider this option.
Alternatively, you can spend most of your time at your significant other’s place. Luckily, mature cats are pretty self-reliant (unlike dogs). They will be fine if left alone for 12 hours with food and water and a clean litterbox (close all windows), they just might get a little lonely, so consider leaving the radio on.
Consider a Temporary Cat Atrium or Large Cage
You might also look into the fun idea of a giant cat cage or cat atrium (if you make it interesting enough, cats can really enjoy these spaces for a short period of time). Just don’t leave your cat outside in the sun or cold, and never keep them in there if they are unhappy or distressed. You can find a good cage that is both collapsible, tall, and rolls.
Ways to Reduce Cat Allergies in the House
Before we jump to allergy medications and the like, let’s talk about the ways you can control your environment and reduce cat dander altogether. Some of the ideas mentioned below can be really effective.
- Dander-reducing spray: You might want to consider a dander-reducing spray (veterinary-approved) to use on your cat. Burt’s Bees sells a great product that reduces dander on cats and also moistens the cat’s coat. You can also try pet-safe air sprays that reduce dander from the immediate environment.
- Bathe your cat: You can get your cat in the habit of taking a bath (good luck!). Some cats do like water and some cats can be trained to take baths from an early age as a kitten.
- Keep your house clean: You will want to clean your house more often than usual to reduce allergy triggering dander. Wipe down the surfaces in your home often, wash the linens, vacuum the couch and floors. You will even want to keep your cat’s cat tree and bed clean as well. You might want to purchase a really good vacuum that is specifically designed for managing pet fur.
- Get a good air filter: You can shop around for a good air filter. You might want to find one specifically that works to filter out cat allergens and dander. There are several good ones online.
- Get a good couch cover: A good couch cover can help a lot when your boyfriend or girlfriend is over. You might also keep your pillows in a trunk or storage and then pull them out while your cat is away. This way, you keep them free of dander.
Common Treatment Options for Cat Allergies
One obvious option is for your boyfriend or girlfriend to take allergy medication (if approved by their doctor) as you first start dating. The following list includes common recommendations for cat allergies, some of which I have taken (Claratin) and had good luck with:
- Antihistamines: You might want to try out different allergy meds to see which one is the best for you. Common ones include Benadryl (try non-drowsy for daytime use as it can make you tired), Claratin (non-drowsy) which is good for indoor and outdoor allergies, and Allegra (non-drowsy), which helps with pet allergies.
- Decongestants: Claritin D includes an anti-allergy medicine combination/decongestant, Sudafed is a decongestant without the allergy meds (this one requires an over-the-counter purchase because the other ones sold in medicine stores don’t carry the active ingredient that will help, the decongestant), and Benadryl, again, which also helps to dry up mucus and aids in decongestion.
- Inhaler: If the allergies are really bad and triggering asthma, a prescription inhaler might be necessary; this requires a visit to the doctor. Your partner should definitely see a doctor if they are having trouble breathing.
- Allergy shots: Allergy shots can be performed at the doctor’s office and will help to reduce allergies without the need to take medicines short-term or long-term.
Can You Live With Someone Who Is Allergic to Cats?
The thought of having to rehome your cat is traumatic and should only be considered as a last resort. Your cat is your family and best friend, and the right person for you will likely try everything to make it work to keep your cat and co-exist. Don’t make the decision to rehome your cat and later regret it because you break up with your current partner. Not worth it!
Try the suggested items above. Where there is a will, there is a way. As always, look for someone who loves animals, too! In the very worst of situations, you might need to re-home your cat. Make sure you find someone who will love your cat and give them a forever home. This is not something to consider lightly and is certainly heartbreaking. There are many options to consider here and hopefully, a few of them work.