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Ask Nancy: Are You Really Allergic to that New Kitten?

August 11, 2010

Kitten season coincides with allergy season it seems. When kittens are most abundant, pollens and molds are everywhere in the air, so it’s naturally a time when many people are feeling their allergies the worst. You see it time and again kittens in the 10-12 week old age or a little older being offered again for a new home due to ‘allergies’ in the home that first adopted them. But is it the kitten itself that is causing the problem?

After 20 years we lost our old cat, though we still had our ‘young’ cat, the 13 year old, when we brought home our new kitten. Suddenly allergies were a serious issue. Was it just the timing as July and August are often peak allergy times for us, or was it the new kitten?

There seemed to be an awful coincidence that every time the kitten was on my chest (he likes to snuggle near your face) that my eyes were watering, my head was clogged, and I was sneezing! The reaction lingered on just like the fur from his kitten coat stuck to my shirt. How could this be? I’ve even been tested for allergies and I’m not allergic to cats (just everything else) according to those tests done some years back anyway! I take allergy pills on a daily basis as it is, so what more could I do?

Then a discussion with my husband brought a new fact to light. He had not been able to get our regular cat litter. He had purchased a different brand because kittens use a lot of litter and he didn’t want to run out. As the litter boxes were in the cellar workshop, and as he is the one who cleans them, I had no idea that he had purchased scented cat litter! My horrible allergic reaction might be from the litter not the cat!

Kittens use a cat box far more than an adult cat does and some, like mine, play or lie in the box playing stalking games. My adult cat uses the box a couple times a day and a couple times overnight normally, and is in the box far less often than the new kitten is. The kitten was pretty thoroughly soaked in the cheap perfume scent from the new cat litter. Perfume is something I know I’m allergic to!

A change in litter to unscented again, a good wash of the cat boxes (which still have a hint of that pervasive perfume anyway) before putting the new litter in them and suddenly I’m not so allergic to the kitten anymore. Now that I’m not quite so stuffed up I can smell the odor of the perfume faintly still on my kitten’s coat and can only hope that the scent wears off the boxes and him soon.

So if you are having an allergic reaction to a new cat, and have had cats with no problem before, you might consider checking out what you are using for a cat litter and see if it is the litter that is bothering you and not the new kitten! It might be that it is the perfume in the litter, or a high dust level from the brand you chose, that is aggravating your or a child’s allergic reaction!

As the cat litter goes away when the kitten leaves it would thus appear that you were allergic to the kitten but maybe it really was the cat litter! It’s worth checking that possibility out before you have to give up your new pet!

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