by Barbara George, Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
When your friends have cats but you are allergic to cats, it can be difficult to socialise at home. With some preparation, and depending on the severity of your allergic reaction to their cat, it is possible to visit them.
Planning is essential, both from your side and theirs. As soon as you have the invitation, or arrange the visit, advise your friends that you are allergic to cats. If you are taking allergy remedies, start taking them a few days before the visit; this should build up some immunity to see you through the visit.
Decide what clothes you will wear. Fluffy or static fabrics are more likely to attract loose dander that will go home with you.
Ask your friends to prepare the room in which you will meet. A humidifier will help to reduce the likelihood of dander attaching itself to clothing and other soft surfaces. It should be thoroughly vacuumed, and all surfaces wiped down with a damp cloth to remove as much loose dander as possible. Floors can be cleaned with a damp mop.
If this is not practical or possible, then arrange to meet outdoors where there is more airflow; enjoy an afternoon in the garden or an evening braai.
Before you arrive, the cat/s should be removed, and kept away, from the area in which you will meet, preferably with a treat or other peace-offering.
When you arrive, any coats, hats, jerseys, bags, etc must be hung up in a place where they will not come into contact with any dander, cats, or tother items that may contain dander. The shower-rail in the bathroom is usually a good option.
Choose a hard chair to sit on as there is less likelihood of dander than on a soft chair, or request a clean throw be placed over the chair in which you will be sitting.
If the cat does come into the room, or meets you outside, it is important not to encourage or touch the cat, which can be difficult! It is known that cats tend to gravitate to those who are allergic or afraid of them. The reason is that these people do not pay attention to the cat, and therefore are seen as less threatening. Try looking at the cat, studying it in a purposeful manner, and hope that he finds someone else to talk to.
Another option would be to arrange in advance for your friends to have some cat treats handy. Other people can offer these to the cat whenever it approaches you, to distract it with a reward for not coming near you.
Wash your hands often, definitely before touching your face or eyes to avoid transferring any allergens.
Our attitude plays an important role in all cat behaviour. Appearing anxious or nervous can affect the behaviour of the cat. While it can be difficult to remain calm and focus on the cat, this is the best strategy.
When you cat-owning friend visits you, bringing the allergens into your home, some of the above options will apply.
Start taking anti-allergy medication in the anticipation of being in contact with dander from the friend’s cloths and shoes. Hang outer garments in a separate room, no your bedroom, until he leaves. Place a throw over the furniture, wash this in hot water afterwards to remove any dander. Wash your hand after touching either your friends or their clothes.
These may sound quite dramatic lengths to go to in order to spend time with friends, but at least some of these measures will make that visit possible. Either way, enjoy time spent with your cat-owning friends!