I know what you’re thinking. Owning/Living with a cat when you have a cat allergy seems like a stupid idea. But it’s definitely doable.
Let’s set the scene, I grew up with cats. Two cats. Frisky and Popsey. I also grew up with a habit of sneezing, a lot! My mum had it down as hay fever. We lost both cats whilst I was in primary school, and it wasn’t until I was in my mid-teens that I realised I was allergic to cats. I’ve carried around anti-histamines in my bag ever since.
But my love for cats continued. I researched non-allergic cats like Norwegian Forest Cats, with the hope that one day, I could own a cat and stay allergy free.
Sparkle came into our lives when we bought the house she lived in. A week after we had the offer accepted on a house, the estate agent called me to say the owners wanted to know if we wanted to adopt their cat.
We laughed at this odd request but I told the agent we’d think about it. Had it been my decision only, I would have said yes. The agent said if we didn’t want to take the cat on, they’d try to find another home, which broke my cat-loving heart. ND – my then-boyfriend-now-husband thought I was mad to consider it. ‘You’re allergic to cats, darling’ he laughed, but eventually left it to me to make the decision. Yes.
I spent the next four months researching cat allergies and ways to alleviate symptoms. The general consensus was that the first month was uncomfortable but that you’d eventually build up immunity. Armed with a six-month supply of anti-histamines and all my worldly possessions in boxes, we moved in.
Love of cat vs. Symptoms
Despite a regular course of anti-histamines, the usual allergy symptoms started the day after we moved in. Itchy red eyes, streaming nose, and of course it would get worse at night. Yes, I made the mistake of letting the cat sleep in our bed. The first night we moved in, she was so nervous she wouldn’t come anywhere near us. Until we went to bed. Clever move on her part, not so good on mine.
A week into cat ownership, the symptoms were getting worse. Going to work and being out of the house offered some relief. I stopped wearing contact lenses to give my itchy eyes some relief. What I hadn’t counted on was the rash over my face. As a life-long eczema sufferer, I’m used to dealing with skin flare-ups. But with it being all over my face, it made me very self-conscious. My usual moisturiser didn’t work, and emollient creams didn’t touch the sides. The rash wasn’t itchy, just raised and red and after the first week, it started to flake. I switched my normal St Ives facial exfolitor for Cliniques 7-day scrub cream as it’s much lighter. I was also suffering with dark circles under my eyes due to the allergy symptoms. I’d read on a blog that Manuka Honey Rescue Cream from Holland and Barrett could help to hydrate the skin around the eyes. I tried the cream on the rest of my face as well as my eyes. I couldn’t believe the difference. The rash on my face and my dark circles cleared up a week after applying the cream.
I’d say it took 3-4 weeks for my immunity to build up. Weeks 1 & 2 were the worst, but by the end of week 4, I had stopped taking anti-histamines daily. The rash on my face cleared up, and I was able to enjoy our new home, and lap time with Sparkle!
We’re 14 months into cat ownership now and I can safely say I have no allergy symptoms around her now. My allergy still exists around other cats, although I have noticed that the time it takes for me to react to other cats has decreased.
I imagine most of you reading this will think I was ridiculous for putting myself through this all for a cat. And you’re probably right.
You can follow the exploits of Sparkle Dempsey over on her Instagram account @SparkleDempsey