I’m allergic to cats, and not just in the “sniffle-sniffle” way. On more than one occasion I have ended up in the emergency room with life-threatening asthma attacks after unexpected exposure to cats at close range. I had a cat when I growing up — a male tabby named Calico — and itched (when I wasn’t itching) to have a cat in my life. Not enough to kill myself, but an awful lot regardless.
A chance encounter with an episode of Martha Stewart’s show gave me a glimmer of hope. Siberian cats, her guest told her, were hypo-allergenic, meaning some proportion of people with allergies would be able to tolerate them well enough to live with them. I checked it out, and it was largely true: Some Siberian cats may be low enough in their allergen levels that people with mild to moderate allergies might be OK with them. (I put all those conditions in that sentence on purpose. Beware anyone who tells you anything more definitive.)
I found a nice, honest couple in Oregon who bred Siberians specifically for the low-allergen market (Lundberg Siberians), and finally for the first time in my life, I had cats. My first Siberian was Clara, whom I never found after she got outside one day. Ilario (a/k/a The Big Orange Kitteh, or T-BOK) and Mariposa (a/k/a Mari, and both pictured here) have been with me for a few years now. My allergies tolerate them for the most part (assuming I take all my meds), and I enjoy sharing my life and my home with them.
But they will be the last two cats I ever own. In part, that’s because the cost of kittens who test in the low or extra low allergen levels has increased many times since I bought Ilario, far above my means but the seemingly what the market will bear. But really, as much as I love my two cats, I hate litter boxes so much that I would not consider cats again after TBOK and Mari die.
I could tell you the partial truth, which is that even if I wear a mask I get a mild asthma attack every day when I scoop the boxes. Yes, it’s true: The cats don’t bother my allergies, but the dust from the litter and airborne particulate from their waste does. On that grounds alone, I know I’d be justified in calling the cat experiment over when these two are no longer around.
But the bigger truth is that I hate, hate, hate cleaning litter boxes. I would rather scrub the toilet, muck the stalls and pastures or pick up behind my dogs with a plastic bag over my hand than I would scoop the litter boxes. The only thing worse is cleaning out chicken coops, and I certainly don’t have to do that every day.
Yes, I know: There are automatic litter boxes. Won’t help me, because you still have to empty them, and cat waste makes me gag. (Might help with the breathing issues while scooping, though).
There are many things in this world that I’ve dealt with that would prompt gagging, vomiting or worse in many, many people — but haven’t bothered me all that much once I’d dealt with them enough to get more or less used to them.
Those litter boxes, though? I know many people scoop without problems, but I am not among them. Every day when I scoop it’s the same reaction, and that hasn’t changed over the years.
When these two are gone — and that’s many year away, I hope — the litter boxes will be gone forever. No more indoor cats for me, and given my very bad luck with barn cats (three gone in two year’s time), no more of those either.
I guess I’ll go back to being catless for the rest of my life.