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How can I help my visitors who are allergic to cats?

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Lovable, but Loaded With Allergens

Jaspurr my Big Red Cat is a Dander Magnet

Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
Question: How can I help my visitors who are allergic to cats?
I'm not allergic to cats but my sister is. How do I prepare my house so she won't be a sneezing mess five minutes into our visit? I love my sister, but my cats are family too. Are we destined to only get together away from my house?
Answer:

You have touched on a sensitive problem to many cat lovers. It would be a great world if everyone could share equally in our love for our cats, but the reality is that cats carry a common allergen for many people. Here are a number of suggestions for readying your home for your allergic sister's visits. In fact, you should incorporate them into your normal routine if at all possible. You never know when your allergic pastor may come to visit.

  • Move all Cats First
    It would be impractical to try to get rid of cat allergens with a group of cats following you around freely dispensing more allergens. Lock them in a bedroom for the duration. Make sure their litter box, food, water, and scratching post are all in there too. They'll be more comfortable out of your way.
  • Vacuum Thoroughly
    Remember that cat allergens are from the Feld1 in their saliva, which transfers into microscopic flakes in their fur when they groom. These flakes (called dander)seem to have a magnetic attraction to soft surfaces, and cats leave dander around wherever they nest. The good news is that dander, along with loose hairs can readily be cleaned up by vacuuming. Vacuum carpeting and throw rugs. Use a hand-held vacuum cleaner to clean fabric furniture, curtains, and drapes.
  • Move Coats, Sweaters Elsewhere
    If you utilize a hall tree, temporarily move your coats, jackets, and sweaters to another room.
  • Dust Wood Furniture
    Use a magnetic cloth duster rather than a feather duster, which might just disperse the dander into the air.
  • Damp Mop Floors
    If your linoleum or tile floors are clean, a last-minute damp mop can pick up that invisible dander. Although I sometimes use a string mop for heavy-duty cleaning, I find the Swiffer or equivalent useful for touch-up mopping.
  • Wipe Down Solid Surfaces
    Although dander doesn't stick to hard surfaces as much as it embeds into softer ones, a certain amount will land on kitchen counters, tables, etc. A quick wipe down in the kitchen with a damp sponge along with a spray and wipe for wood surfaces will not only make your home more dander-free, but it will smell good too.
  • Turn on Air Filters
    One or more Hepa air filters will help remove dander floating in the air. Portable air filters can be strategically placed where your allergic visitors will sit. For a more permanent solution, you can install a whole-house Hepa air filter. Another, less expensive project is to replace your furnace/AC filter with specially designed ones which remove dander, smoke, and other impurities from the air.
  • Have Your Heater/AC Ducts Professionally Cleaned
    This is a relatively expensive project, but done annually, will help keep your home free of not only dander, but dust, dirt, and mold, which can be very dangerous when inhaled. Considering the overall benefits, you might seriously consider it, even if your allergic visitors don't come around all that often.

Allergy-Relief Products Mentioned Here

  • Dyson Animal Vacuum Cleaner (Compare Prices)
    Dyson Animal comes in several iterations now. I reviewed the Dyson DC 14 Animal Vacuum Cleaner, and the DC17 is even more powerful now, plus it has a Hepa filter.
  • Swiffer Starter Kit (Compare Prices
    The Swiffer Mop/Broom kit comes with a handle and both disposable wet and dry cleaning cloths. In case you've heard those old rumors about Swiffer being unsafe for pets, please read this article.
  • Hepa Air Filters (Compare Prices )
    These come in all manners of shapes and sizes, in a wide range of prices. Depending on the size of the room you want to protect, you'll find the right product here.

Pat yourself on the back when you finish these tasks. Then take a shower, wrap yourself up in a comfortable robe and spend some quality time with your cats before your sister's visit.

This piece has been reviewed by the About.com Medical Review Board.

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