Visiting A Home With A Cat

January 5, 2010

In the United States about 93 million cats reside in one-third of all households.  It is not unusual for a person with cat allergy to be a guest in a home with cats.  How that should be handled is something I am regularly asked by my cat-allergic patients.

First off, I think it is important to tell your friend or host that you are allergic to cats and to ask if the cat can be kept in a bedroom or other room away from the common areas.  It does make a difference to have the cat physically in another room during the visit.   If you are visiting a good friend, asking them to do a little extra cleaning and vacuuming in the room you will be in can be helpful.  Try to find out where the cat usually hangs out in the home and stay away from that area.  For instance, if the cat usually likes to rest on a particular sofa or chair, that would not be a great place for you to sit during the visit.   Try to place your coat somewhere the cat does not have access to, and stay away from any linen or towels the cat might have come in contact with.  It all seems like common sense, but you need to think about these things and ask the questions.

On top of that, you need to take the appropriate medications to prevent symptoms.  Do not wait for symptoms to take medications, but take the medications prophylactically, at least 1-2 hours prior to the visit.  Generally speaking if your symptoms are localized to the nose, a nasal steroid in conjunction with a non-sedating antihistamine will suffice.  If you have ocular (eye) symptoms as well, then adding an allergy eye drop prior to the visit would be an important addition.  If you have allergic asthma from cat allergy, then it will be important to also take either Singulair or an inhaled steroid prior to the visit.   Cat allergy manifests differently in each person, so the prophylactic medication regimen should be individualized with your allergist’s help.  Most of my patients, even those with relatively severe cat allergy, can get through a dinner without significant symptoms if they follow these suggestions.

When you get home, take off the clothes you were wearing at the home with the cat and throw them in the clothes hamper to be washed.  It is a good idea to take a quick shower prior to going to bed as well.  You want to do whatever you can to prevent bringing the cat allergen into your home and especially into your bed.

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