I am one of those idiotic people who grew up allergic to cats, yet as an adult adopted a cat. In my defense, Damien was so low dander that he didn’t seem to cause me any issues, and my cat allergy in general is very mild (according to the doctor’s office test I had years later, which pinpointed that I was more allergic to dusts, molds, and pollens, and highly allergic to cottonwood). Since I had no problems living with Damien, we eventually adopted Willis.
You know how skunks spray their funk as a defensive maneuver? I swear that cat can shoot out hair and dander like some sort of feline biological weapon in times of stress. Like Damien, Willis was already an adult when we adopted him from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. I don’t know if he was always a scaredy cat, or if something in his previous years had made him that way, but that boy does not like strangers. When I say “strangers,” it’s important to note that it took Willis six months to get used to our housemate. You know, someone he was LIVING WITH FULL TIME. Routine vet visits were a pain because they freak Willis out so much that my face was leaking and breaking out by the time we were done.
When guests came over, Willis hid. I did a lot of work trying to gently socialize him over the years, so eventually people would actually get to see that cat, and a few of our more calm/sedate friends even got to meet him up close and personal. Aside from his skittish nature, Willis is a very loving, snuggly cat. He’s pretty much slept on my head and neck every night for years.
Then there was this trouble maker, Creamsicle. Lots of toes, lots of spunk, lots of talking, and lots of fur. In this photo, he’s inside Pixie’s playpen. Because of course that’s where the cat should be. He’s a cat, after all, except he didn’t sit himself down in the direct center.
Did I mention lots of fur? His shedding was worse than even Matti, who need only look at an object to get hair on it. Though, it does make him the softest cat I have ever petted.
Like Willis, Creamsicle is a sweetheart. He’s far more social, though not as completely enamored of every human he sees as Damien was (Damien never met a “stranger”).
Anyway, with all these kitties about (even after Damien’s passing), that’s a lot of hair and dander. In the fall we had some mold removed from our basement from someone prior’s broken home plumbing repair. In December, we had our air ducts cleaned and furnace tuned up. WOW. Getting the air ducts cleaned was the hugest air quality improvement! Within hours I started to notice an improvement in my breathing. By January though, even with the improvements and good general housecleaning, I started having some health issues.
Shortly after my 28 week prenatal appointment, the doc informed me that I was slightly iron deficient anemic, which was an excellent explanation (to me) for why I was so exhausted (yes, my thyroid function has been closely monitored as well), had shortness of breath, heart palpitations, etc.
Clearly, shortness of breath and heart palpitations in a person whose been living with environmental allergies and asthma for her entire life shouldn’t raise a red flag. Nope! I’mma just go on about my business! Well, while laying in bed. A lot. (I was also having lots of constant premature contractions at the time, too.) So I spent a lot of time laying in bed, miserable, with my two kitties, while the Hubbles, my mother, my sister (with her own little kids to care for at the same time!), friends, and even my brother a couple of times all came to help out. A lot of people have shown us a lot of love, is what I’m saying!
And then, a funny thing happened. I took my iron, I got rest, I tried to eat well and I kept taking my prenatal vitamins and doing all the things I ought. And my breathing kept getting worse. So I kept spending more time curled up with my cats.
There I was, at a prenatal appointment, and the doc tells me that Baby Boy’s heartbeat is great, labor check is great (as in, not in premature labor), yada yada, BUT. But… I seem to be breathing awfully hard and all I’ve done is lay down on the exam table, and then sit up. She starts listening to my lungs, checking my pulse, and making The Face. Uh oh. The Face is when your doctor or other medical professional is scrutinizing you with a very serious look as your trying to tell them BUT I’M FINE. I HAVE TROUBLE BREATHING ALL THE TIME. TOTES NORMAL. ISN’T THIS NORMAL? And then she tells you that no, it’s not normal, and your heart rate is up to 135 bpm, and since pregnant women are more prone to blood clots, she’s extremely concerned that maybe you have a pulmonary embollism.
And she sends you directly down to the ER, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and do not even think about blowing her off.
I’m not gonna lie. That was a bad, bad day for me. “Oh, hi! We think you might just drop dead shortly, so we’re gonna need to hook you up to lots of monitors and do some tests and scare the life out of you and your family.” Yeah. Awesome. Fortunately, a few hours later I’d had lots of tests, including a CT Scan, and it was determined that I did not have a blood clot sitting around in my lungs waiting to off me. SCORE.
What I did have was a huge baby reducing lung capacity in my already impaired asthmatic lungs. To clarify for those of you not familiar with it, allergies and asthma often go hand in hand, not just in the sense that they show up in the same patients but that they can exacerbate each other. If your asthma isn’t well-controlled, you need to worry about allergy triggers in your environment that could be making you worse.
Allergy triggers… like two cuddly sweetheart kitty cats.
We had put a lot of time, effort, and money into improving the air quality in our house, but there was one air issue that we still problems with. And we loved those little allergen factories, though we’d already had to consider multiple times if we were still the right home for them. Pixie, for example, seemed to be allergic to them too, and little ones like her can’t take allergy meds and just buck it up. Instead, you have to keep the cats out of her room and away from her clothes, bedding, etc. Cats that already lost their reign of half the house because they hate dogs (including the dog that barely acknowledges their existance). And with another baby on the way, that was one more room they couldn’t be in, and that much more time they weren’t getting any attention, especially if I was no longer allowed to be near them because it was killing me.
Sadly, we determined that even though I won’t be pregnant forever, my lungs will only worsen as I age, and the situation with the cats would only get worse over time, too. Yet again, though, we’re very blessed because we have two awesome friends that took both cats in, even though they already have their own little princess trouble maker (pictured here to the right).
Our friends took both boys for a trial run a day or so after my ER visit, and things went very well. My mother and the Hubbles cleaned like crazy to remove cat hair and dander, and my breathing began to improve as soon as I was away from the cats. It was a very noticeable change. The cats were with people they had lived with before, and already loved, and they adjusted very well. Willis has even lived in that specific house before, and the husband in that couple is pretty much his buddy. Miss fluffy princess may not be 100% thrilled with her new housemates, as I think she likes being Queen of the House, but she’s lived with these guys before and they all get along okay. I could not be happier with how this worked out. I miss those furballs, but I can’t imagine a better home for them, and that’s all I can ask!
Our friends are happy, the cats are happy, and my lungs are happy. Well, happier. There’s still a ginormous baby with his foot ocassionally lodged in my lungs.