Tuesday, March 1, 2011

William wants a cat.

My Asthma and Allergy Journey is a blog for parents of kids with asthma and allergies, created by Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) and written by Kathleen Elder, whose son was recently diagnosed with asthma. Follow along as Kathleen, her son William, their family and friends learn more about life with asthma. E-mail your questions, thoughts, stories and words of wisdom to editor@aanma.org to join the conversation.

William wants a cat.

So much, in fact, that he looked around his room the other day at the “favorite things” he spends his allowance on and said, “I have to stop buying so many things.” So now he’s saving his treasure for a cat.  
Not just any cat – Moses. A sweet, peaches-and-cream cat up for adoption at our local pet store. “All I want is Moses” is Will’s regular refrain. But is this a deep-felt desire to share his love and affection with a cat, or is it just something else he wants, like a new toy?  
Complicating things, of course, are his allergies and asthma. The allergy test came back positive: Will’s allergic to cats. How allergic is he – is it severe, something that could cause major asthma symptoms? We don’t know. Even if it’s not severe, could it be overwhelming combined with other allergens at home that are harder to control? (I fully admit I’m not on my hands and knees scrubbing our house on a daily basis, but we do live in a pretty clean house. I know we live with dust mites among the toys, books and furniture. And I could probably freeze the stuffed animals and wash his mattress cover more often...)
So far we’ve put off the final decision. Our agreement with Will: We’ll wait until we have another visit with the allergist (his first with the new allergist). But one day we have to decide – and I’m not sure which side I’m rooting for.
I have a long history with cats. Always loved them. In sixth grade I adopted my first cat, Gwenevere. Then there was Corky, Kingsley and finally – Jake. It’s Jake and the allergies that are vying for top spot on the “cons” list. Jake had a tough life. He was rescued from a fraternity house after he’d endured unknown horrors, and he instantly attached to me. He followed me everywhere, slept on my bed and woke me every morning, meowing and kneading my chest until I woke up. 
When I started dating my husband, Jake made it clear he wasn’t happy. Meowing loudly whenever he was around, Jake made it known – this new guy was not welcome. But one day we learned just how much Jake wasn’t pleased. “Something smells,” I said, sniffing around for the source.  Jake had sprayed my husband’s favorite coat – his favorite non-washable coat. He wasn’t fond of cats before. You can probably guess how he felt after that! 
And now we have a son who loves cats and desperately wants Moses. Our only hope for my husband is that the doctors say Will’s too allergic to have one. And Will’s only hope is that she says it’s okay. But do we really want to wish our son is too allergic to something? What do you do when you have a child whose heart is absolutely set on a pet he can’t have, and a husband who isn’t the biggest fan of the pet his son wants?

15 comments:

  1. My son is also allergic to all animals with fur. We had to give our dog away because she was making him flare up and he wound up in the ICU with an attack. I would definitly ask the allergist because if he is old enough he may be able to get the shots that would allow him to have a cat and not have a reaction.

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  2. i know this sounds crazy, but maybe steer him away from the cat and get him into reptiles...thats what my parents did. being a huge animal lover but growing up allergic to all things that barked, meowed ect it was very hard... but he can also learn to be immuned to them.. i am now 28, and am an sthamtic and a severe allergy person, yet i share my home with a dog, rabbit, and a tortiose...

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  3. You also have to think about the cat litter box. Our son is not allergic to anything, but had a big issue with cats when they were in our home. I think it was the litter box. We kept it clean. We have a husky & a rat terrier. He is fine with them. I hope all works out for your son.

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  4. Both my son and I have Asthma and allergies. Cats are a no no around our home too. My oldest daughter was begging for a pet. After some research, I found that poodles are considered to be 'hypoallergenic'. We rescued a Bichon Frise. Some say this is a 'hypoallergenic' dog but other articles disagree. As far as my family goes, we are not having any problems at all. Not only is that a bonus, but he is the sweetest dog I have ever owned and is awesome with my 3 children!!

    Good luck!!

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  5. I understand the desire to have a pet and yet, all things considered, I would try and reason with my child about the potential consequences of having a pet when allergies and asthma are part of the circumstances. Best case scenario, he doesn't react and is able to provide a loving home to Moses. Worst case scenario...he has a reaction that requires use of rescue inhalers and other meds to control the symptoms. After that you begin allergy shots. Continuing w/ the worst case scenario, he doesn't respond well to the shots and still reacts to Moses. Now, he and Moses have bonded but realistically it is impractical to keep Moses. Sadly, you have to find a new home for Moses and William suffers a mild heartbreak after weeks/months of suffering from symptoms. Sorry to be such a downer about this. I’m new to the asthma experience and the thought of an asthma attack frightens me to the core. I simply would not risk it.

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  6. I have asthma, and all 3 of my children have asthma as well. We have been dealing with it for the last 12 years. Asthma and allergies go hand in hand and allergies can often trigger an asthma attack. My middle son ended up having repeated asthma attacks in school because children with cats would come to school with cat dander on their clothes. He has completed 5 years worth of allergy shots and still has problems with allergies and asthma. He has been hospitalized 8 times with asthma and has almost died twice. I would NEVER bring something into my home that can set off an asthma attack. Allergies can leave the lungs swollen and injured, you get a cold or the flu on top of that, and it can quickly turn into pneumonia. If you have ever seen your child in the hospital, with a heart monitor strapped on (in case he "crashes") an oxygen mask on, an IV in his arm and looking close to death-you may change your mind. My kids want pets too, unfortunately, we won't ever have any. That's my life as an asthma mom.

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  11. What were the results? Was Will able to adopt Moses? I am also allergic to cat and dog's fur, but I own two cats and a dog. It was hard for me at first, but my body learned to cope with the animals. I'm really lucky for that. That's why I'm siding with Will here. I'm sure Jake can set aside his distaste for cats for his son – provided that Will's not allergic to them. :)


    Mei Deere

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  12. Thanks for this great post! I have a wife who is allergic to pets, dander, etc... and I've always wanted to get a pet. So I feel like the children you have who are asking for a pet when they know so firmly that they can't have one. My wife and I have come to a temporary stand-still as she considers checking out experts ofallergy and asthma in Minneapolis MN. Great post, thanks!

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