My husband is allergic to cats and yet we have five cats and are quite successfully able to manage his allergies so I thought I’d do a post explaining the measures we take to make him as un-allergic as possible and of course comfortable in his own house.
I should note that it is pure lucky coincidence that the design choices we personally love (minimal decor, clean lines, no clutter) perfectly align with the most allergen-free type of household so we do not sacrifice these things for the allergy situation, but rather we don’t feel we’re missing them because even without allergies, we’d choose these same choices anyways.
Note: I’m no scientist or medical professional so everything here is purely my opinions, nothing more. Also it’s worth noting what type of allergies my husband has: he basically starts sneezing when around cats and gets the symptoms of a cold. He does not have asthma or trouble breathing and he doesn’t have a physical reaction either. So we were already starting with something manageable, it was just about going the extra mile to make his day-to-day “normal”.
- HEPA FILTER. This is the biggest thing we did. We have a whole-house HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter installed as part of our furnace set-up that filters all the air in our house and one of the things it traps is pet dander which is the cause of most allergies.
- HEPA FILTER VACUUMS. This cordless vacuum (Amazon | Walmart) is what I use every day in our home. It also has a HEPA filter in it which again, helps weed out allergens from our home.
- REGULAR GROOMING. I groom our cats every other day, with no exceptions. I use this tool and it takes very little time, probably about 3-5 minutes for all 3 cats total (our kittens don’t shed yet but when they start it might take 6-7 mins total which is still not too much) and the way I remember to groom them is that it’s the last thing I do before bed. I also groom them in their Cat Room so that I’m not releasing a bunch of fur fluff into the house air. This makes a HUGE impact — like seriously, if I miss a day, my husband will start sneezing the next day. If I stay on top of my every-other-day routing, no sneezing. Very important: do not hold your cat down to groom them and make sure they’re in a quiet state (after a play) and in a non-stressful, quiet, but smaller environment they’re comfortable in. Let them move around and just follow them. I usually just sit in their cat room and they alternately come up to me and I groom whoever is in front of me. Sometimes, one cat gets groomed a bit more than others in one session but over time it evens out so I don’t worry about it. But this regular grooming just gets the loose hairs off them and keeps them off your floors and furniture and out of your air.
- REGULAR VACUUMING. I have vacuuming routines in place that cover our whole house and help keep it free from hair and dander. I do our stairs every other day, I do a quick vacuum around our the main floor every day (they spend most time here) and I do the rest of the house (we have 4 floors) on rotation. Note: we do not have a cleaning service, I do everything myself and I don’t spend more than about 10-15 mins daily cleaning so as long as you’re efficient with routines, it doesn’t have to be a big deal.
- HARD SURFACES. We have almost no fabric material in our home. Luckily we love a minimal aesthetic so this styling falls directly in line with what we would choose even if hubby wasn’t allergic, but basically we have leather furniture, no curtains, no rugs, no carpeting, etc. Fabric, rugs, and carpets trap and hold allergens and eliminating these from the home make a space where allergens can’t just sink in and hang out. We do have fabric barstool seats and decorative pillows etc so it’s not like we’re insanely strict about this but the no rugs, no carpeting, and no curtains is a really big help. For our Living Room Sources, click here.
- MINIMALISM. We’re naturally very minimal by nature. We intensely dislike clutter and this luckily is perfect for keeping a house allergen free because it makes it very easy to clean the house. It’s so much easier to vacuum or dust if you’re not moving around a bajillion items. I naturally do decorate our home seasonally but I’m very intentional about the items I pick and I rotate them so that I never have too much “out” at once.
- HAND WASHING. My husband rarely touches our cats and never holds them. He doesn’t have a physical allergic reaction to them but if he touches them then touches his face, it’ll trigger sneezing so he’s careful to wash his hands anytime after he touches them and, because that can get annoying, he just doesn’t touch them much. This doesn’t stop him from interacting with them. He’ll play with them with toys and they can lie down beside him for side-by-side no-touching snuggles which honestly makes most cats pretty happy. One of our cats literally spends most of her day sitting under his desk and they’re both cool with that.
- BOUNDARIES. The one place in our house our cats are not allowed is sleeping bedrooms. It’s really important to keep where an allergic person sleeps as a safe haven. Plus in all honestly, I just don’t have the energy to keep on top of the level of cleaning I’d need to do if the cats were allowed in there. So we keep them out of these spaces and they really don’t mind at all. The guest bedroom is the exception to this rule in our house and see the next step for how I deal with that:
- BED COVERS. I use these light-weight quilts (Overstock) as bed covers that go over all the bedding. They’re pretty, minimal, and light and act as a protective shield keeping the cats and their dander away from the actual duvet etc. I do this because it’s so much easier to just toss this quiltlet in the wash than it is to do all the bedding every time a cat jumps/sleep on the bed. I use these in our sleeping bedrooms as well just as an extra protection. I mean, it can’t hurt, and they’re beautiful too. Win win!
- LAUNDRY. I’m careful never to wear any clothing I’ve touched the cats with to bed. I have a separate drawer for sleeping clothes and this prevents any transfer of allergens from clothing to sleeping area.
- NETI POT. Sorry if this might seem gross to some of you but it’s real life so I’m sharing. My husband does a nasal rinse twice a day. He finds it helps him a LOT and he just uses salt water. I think this is the neti pot he has: Amazon, but as you can see there are a ton of different options: Amazon.
- MEDICATION. Finally, my husband has allergy meds which he does NOT take regularly but he has it on hand so just incase he does start sneezing, he can take one and it’ll clear up his symptoms for 24 hours. It’s a last resort but I’d say he takes about 1 or 2 per month. It’s just good to have them on hand just in case, however, the measures we take listed above usually eliminate the need for any medication.
So these are basically how we deal with having a house full of cats and someone who is allergic to cats living in the same space. It’s taken a lot of trial and error but I’m happy to say that we’re finally at a place where we’ve created a home in which an allergic person can live with cats without issues!
NOTE: this is only what has worked for us. This is not a guarantee that these measures will work for a different person in a different situation. No two allergies are the same so no two solutions will be directly transferable. But these are definitely tips to consider or try!
Given everything you’ve read above, if you’re curious about the types of furniture we chose to use due, check out the following links:
- Whole house sources: click here
- Living room sources: click here
- Kitchen sources: click here
- Master bedroom sources: click here
- Guest bedroom sources: click here
More cat-related posts that might help: