People in Glass Houses

Our Ally Cat

When I was younger and very active in companion animal rescue, I had a hair-trigger when it came to judging people.  I judged them for not being good enough to adopt a dog or cat, I judged the way they cared for their animals, I especially judged people who relinquished animals to the shelter.  Our companion animals are part of our family, and I would just as soon give up one of my children as one of my cats or dogs.

Or so I thought.

When we started down the rescue path, John had a cat allergy, but it was mild (and truth be told, I was a little selfish and self-righteous) so he tolerated the cats.  Plus, I rationalized, he has tons of other allergies – pollen, mold, dust, you name it – so it’s not like he would be itch- and sneeze-free if we didn’t have the cats.  Recently, his allergies seemed to be getting worse, and he constantly had red, burning eyes.  One morning he woke up and his eyes were oozing and he could barely open them; a trip to the doctor produced a diagnosis of conjunctivitis.  We went on vacation the next day, and his eyes cleared up almost immediately.  We returned home a week later, and the next morning he woke up with painful blisters on his eye.  (And I mean ON HIS EYE.  He actually had a blister on. his. cornea.)  Back to the doctor, home with a new antibiotic since obviously the nasty critters were resistant to the other one.  He went away for work, and again the eyes cleared almost immediately.  Then he came home, and – you guessed it – swollen, painful, blistered eyes again.

So, the new diagnosis is that he has become hyper-sensitive to some sort of allergen.  That allergen seems to be our cats.  Hence we find ourselves in quite a quandary.  He says he would rather go blind than deal with the guilt of re-homing our cats, and he’s only half kidding.  I have gone into overdrive, washing everything in sight constantly, confining the cats to one side of the house and John more or less to another, and reminding him to use his eye drops a dozen or so times a day.  My efforts have helped, but not enough.

On the one hand, the thought of losing my cats breaks my heart.  One of them I saved from gangrene and pneumonia in her kittenhood, and the other I’ve had since he was one day old.  I am definitely beating myself up on many levels – from I should have known better than to have them in the first place to how could I even dream of finding them a new home, and everything in between.  On the other hand, I don’t want John to be miserable and/or blind for the cats’ remaining days.  They aren’t young, 11 and 13, but they aren’t old either in cat terms.  We could have another seven or so years in front of us.

So, as I struggle with my dilemma, I also learn – there but for Grace go I.

  • Robin Simonds Fitch

    Oh, what a horrible dilemma. I had no idea pet allergies could get that bad. I wish there was something I could say that would help. I know what it’s like to have cats that are members of the family, but usually members of the family don’t cause such awful allergies in other members! I’ll keep a good thought that something will work to make things bearable for your husband, but if you do have to find them a new home, try to focus on all the good years that you had with them. Don’t beat yourself up. No one knows what the future holds, so we make the best decisions we can with the knowledge we have.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Robin. This has been very painful for me and (admittedly more so) for my husband, I’m hoping that the stars align and things all just work out.