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Will your family still breathe easily if you adopt a cat?

Your cat should bring a smile to your face, not a tickle to your throat. Every year, owners are forced to give up beloved pets because they or other family members suffer from pet-related allergies. So before you bring a cat home, make sure he won't spark any sneezing attacks.

How to Tell if You're Allergic

Even if you've owned other cats without trouble, don't assume you're allergy-free. Some people can tolerate living with one cat, but suffer with more than one cat in their home.

Keep in mind that some reactions are cumulative. It may take weeks for the allergen level to increase in your home enough to affect a susceptible family member. One test: Take your entire family to visit potential pets in their current homes, where there are plenty of allergens already hanging around.

Most people who suffer allergic reactions are allergic to cat saliva or dander. Itchy swollen eyes, congested sinuses, sneezing, wheezing and asthma are all signs of allergy.

Breeds for Allergic Owners

Just because your eyes itch when you're around the neighbor's cat doesn't mean you can't find a cat for yourself. Each cat's chemistry is as unique as his personality. Unfortunately, the only true test is trial and error. If you're dead set on a cat, you may need to endure a few uncomfortable symptoms before you find a kitty you can live with.

Some people who wheeze and sneeze around their aunt's Persian tolerate breeds with little hair, such as the Cornish and Devon rexes. The hairless Sphynx may also make a great, if unusual looking, pet for people who are allergic to cat hair.

If you're allergic to dander or saliva, however, you could have an allergic reaction to any breed. Discuss your options with your doctor and a veterinarian.

Living with Minor Misery

You can minimize allergens in your home by following these steps:

  • Wash your hands after playing with your kitty. And whatever you do, don't touch your face after touching your cat.

  • Close the door to your bedroom to keep your cat from napping on your pillow.

  • Use air purifiers like the HEPA filtration unit.

  • Have a non-allergic family member brush your kitty regularly and wipe loose fur and dander off of your cat once a week with a damp washcloth. Better yet, bathe him every week, if he'll allow it.

  • More cats mean more allergens, so stick with one family feline.