Adopting a Pet
ADOPTING A PET FOR THE FIRST TIME
There are many advantages to adopting a new pet. Pets provide companionship, love and joyful experiences. If you have younger children the task of caring for the pet can develop responsibility within the child. A pet can be a very good friend for your child. Studies show that a pet does not replace human companionship; on the average people who have pets are more socially active and have a higher self-esteem than non?pet owners.
A pet can also help keep one healthy. Your pet will literally relax you. Studies have shown that your blood pressure will be lowered when you are around your pet. A dog may stimulate you to go for a walk, as pets also need exercise. Studies have discovered that pet owners recuperate faster after an illness than non?pet owners. Pets relieve stress.
All of the above comments are good reasons to have a pet, whether it is a dog, horse, cat, hamster or a bird. But to benefit from a pet, IT MUST BE DESIRED TO HAVE A PET AND PROPERLY CARE FOR IT. Having a pet for a social status may psychologically benefit you somewhat with esthetics, but we do not advise this type of pet ownership. If no own wants to take care of a pet, then it is better that no pet is obtained. All animals need to have fresh water, feeding and proper care daily. To purchase a dog to leave in the backyard “because everyone else has one” is not a wise decision for you or the pet. Dogs literally live with the desire to please their owner.
If you have never had a pet, then starting with fish or a guinea pig may be best; unless you desire to have another type. Find out about the type of pet you are considering, before you commit yourself to obtaining a certain species. A dog can easily live for 15 years, and some birds and reptiles can live a lot longer. Some longhaired cats and dogs may require grooming appointments 4?6 times a year. A fence is required for dogs that you plan to allow outside unsupervised. We do not recommend ferrets for children under 8 years of age. If you rent, be sure the landlord allows the type of pet you are considering. Pets are not disposable items.
Some pets require annual vaccinations. Neutering is advisable to help prevent unwanted offspring, to prevent uterine infections and mammary cancer in females and to prevent prostate problems and some forms of cancers in males. Castration will also decrease aggressiveness in dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and other animals.
If you want a dog for protection, do not get an aggressive type of dog. Mean dogs are a liability, not a benefit. Most any dog will alert you to strangers and help prevent unwanted people from wandering into your house.
Ask a knowledgeable source about the animal you desire to obtain. Just because the picture of the desirable pet “looks good”, or because it is the #1 breed in the nation, doesn’t always mean that this choice is the best one for you. Not only should the cost of the pet be considered, but also the annual cost of correctly providing for the animal.
Owning a pet should not be a trend, but a desire to commit to help providing for a new companion.
ADOPTING A NEW DOG FOR THE FIRST TIME
When looking for a new dog, many factors need to be considered. Do you want a male or female dog? An older pet or a young puppy? Do you live in an apartment or on a farm? A big dog or a small dog? A long haired pet or a short hair? Do you have other pets that maybe need the attention that a new dog will demand? Do you have young children and desire a truly aggressive dog for protection; the two rarely mix. Can you afford the approximate $300+ a year in costs for dog food, grooming, veterinary care and other needs? Looking through a dog breed book can help, yet there are so many breeds it is difficult. We don’t normally recommend the AKC breed that is the most popular for that year. When a breed is in style many “poor choices are bred“. Many problems, including behavior, are hereditary. Don’t make rash or emotional decisions. The average dog will live 15 years. The companionship a dog can provide is immeasurable in dollar amounts.
What do you want the dog to be used for? If you are looking for a pet, most any breed will be fine. Hunting dogs are usually born with the instinct to be active, retrieve or hunt. A dog with many generations of showing, may not make a good pointer???as the inherited desire to point may be literally bred out of the dog. Do you want a dog for protection? If you desire an aggressive dog, beware that this type of dog is a liability problem; the owner is responsible for the actions of their animals. Most dogs will adequately protect the house from strangers, and these pets do not have to be mean or aggressive. Always try to observe the parent dogs if you desire a special purpose for your pet. It is important to realize that aggressiveness is hereditary to an extent, and if the parents are to be feared, you do not want their offspring. You cannot easily train an aggressive dog to become a nice pet. Each area of the country is different, and people that daily interact with different breeds of dogs can recommend which dogs are commonly seen as “biters”. With the popularity differences each year, these aggressive breeds may change. When observing all dogs for adoption we recommend that you stare them in the face; if they growl they are aggressive. Submissive dogs will look away. With adult dogs do this safely at a distance with them on a leash and/or a wire fence in between you and them. Try to roll all small puppies on their back (i.e. under 20#); pick them up supporting their chest, hold close to you like you would if you were carrying them and then gently roll them over as if you were looking at a baby. An aggressive puppy will growl, bite or nip. A submissive puppy may still struggle but most will be quiet. There is a problem called fear biting, where a scarred dog will bite when approached suddenly, or if rolled on their back. DO NOT try to roll over a mature dog or a dog over 30-40#, or a puppy that you are unsure of; this roll over is for puppies only. Hold the dog’s paw for 10 seconds and watch the reaction of the animal, while calmly talking to him. A fear biter will nip the person after a few seconds, while an aggressive dog will nip when you first approach the feet. We do not advise adopting any biting dog, whether fear, aggression or even if accidentally provoked and he bites. It should be noted that many puppies will gently mouth and play bite, which can be normal if very mild. After performing a paw holds and rollover procedures you will usually know which puppies not to consider, if there are any aggression or fear biters. With adult dogs it can be dangerous and/or difficult to force them to roll over. For an adult dog you can gently pet him and then hold his paw. A dog, which bites if the paw is held gently, indicates he may be a fear biter. We can help you determine possible aggressiveness with the first exam. The new puppy exams cannot definitely indicate 100% of the aggressive dogs. Unfortunately some aggression does not show up until the dog is 1-2 years old. There are 6+ breeds of dogs that 3+ homeowner’s insurance policies will not cover under their homeowner’s policies. Unfortunately Akitas, Chows, Dobermans, Pit Bulls, Presa Canarios, Rottweilers and wolf hybrids are just some of those among these breeds exclusions. Before adopting one of the above breeds we first recommend that you contact your rental or home insurance company to see if there are any breeds that they will not insure. As a general rule check on your policy if considering adopting any dog of any breed, and it may be a good time to shop for a new policy as some companies will not insure any dogs at all!
A few dogs are shy and scarred. Sometimes this can be a problem with inadequate socialization and/or fear aggression. If you approach the dog and it growls or cowls and then nips this can be a problem dog. If you clap your hand and the dog is extremely upset with the noise then this also may be a warning sign. A puppy should come to you when you squat down or tempt it with a treat.
If you have been fortunate enough to find a young puppy still with its mother, we recommend adopting the puppy between the age of 7?8 weeks, if possible. The USDA does not allow puppies and kittens to travel until they are 8 weeks old; our state also has such a law for facilities selling animals. An 8-12 week old animal customarily is “up for adoption”. Adopting younger than 6 weeks of age may result in a dog that does not socialized well with other dogs. Adoption of an older puppy, especially after 4?6 months of age, may result in a pet that does not socialize with people very well. This is not the gospel truth, as there are many influences that need to be considered. Some breeders spend 1+ hour a day with the puppy, and these can be excellent puppies even if adopted after 4 months of age; these puppies have been socialized. If the mother (dam) and the father (sire) are on the premises where the puppy is being adopted, try to visit the mother and the father; more than once and up to 3x if you are a serious shopper for a puppy. Offspring are like their parents and over half of the behavioral problems are inherited. A mother should allow you to gently approach her and her litter. Avoid aggressive parents, as well as parents of the puppy that are overly active if you want a calm dog. It should be noted that a show dog and a proven hunting dog of the same breed are “not the same”; if you want a hunting dog expect that it may be more active. Behavior should be one of the primary considerations in determining which dog to adopt.
There are many medical problems that can be associated with each breed. Large breeds are predisposed to hip and elbow dysplasia. Ask the breeder if the parents are OFA certified for hip or elbow dysplasia. Pennsylvania State also has a different hip dysplasia system available. Very small breeds of dogs can have loose kneecaps, medically called medial patella subluxation. Some breeds have eye problems or retinal atrophy as an inherited problem. The CERF is a certified eye exam of the parents or older puppies. Quality and references are important if buying from a breeder. We have a genetic defect book that lists the many diseases seen in each breed. Some defects are so uncommon we rarely see them, but you can stop by and examine the book if you desire once you have decided to purchase a specific breed. You can also go to www.upei.ca/cidd/intro.htm and search out some genetic predispositions of some breeds; ask the breeder about the diseases if you are concerned. We can then advise you about these listed defects if you have any concerns. We also recommend to go to www.offa.org/ and look at the available DNA tests which can be done by a simple saliva tests; a quality breeder has the results available of these tests. There is no single breed that has few to no defects, nor is there a perfect breed.
The mixed breed dogs can be excellent choices for a pet. The older dogs at a humane shelter may not be puppies, but you will know their temperament before adopting. With some puppies you do not know their temperament towards aggression until they grow up and/or have lived with you at lease a couple of weeks.
We recommend a collar and an identification tag for your new addition the first day you take them home. Puppies are like children, they can easily get lost and not know how to ask for directions back home.
If you have recently lost a dog, then we don’t recommend immediately finding a replacement for a couple of weeks. The grieving process is normal, and your new pet should be considered as a new individual, not just “dog #2 to be compared to old dog #1”.
Do you have time for a pet? Some pets, such as cats, fish, guinea pigs, birds, etc. take less time each day than a dog; yet a dog can “return more affection” than other pets. We recommend spending 15+ minutes a day with your dog, even if it is just going for a walk. Are there other pets at home that need your attention more? We are not trying to talk you out of having a dog as a pet, but having pets are like having children. Pets require a commitment of your time. Dogs provide unbiased companionship.
YOUR FIRST CAT
There are many places to look for a new kitten. It depends upon the type of kitten that you desire, but for the “average cat” the newspaper, humane society, pet store and next door neighbor can be a good source. No matter where you obtain your new kitten, a physical is recommended to insure that you don’t have a sick cat that can transmit a disease to any of your other cats. We do not usually recommend that you keep more than 4 cats in a household, as this may lead to psychological problems among the cats. It is best to spend more quality time with the cats you have.
What breed of cat to look for can vary with each person. There are many different breeds, and most cats that you see are the “domestic short hair” or the “domestic long hair”. The long hair cats are more attractive, but they will require your time to brush them 2?3 times a week. We do not recommend a long hair cat for an outside barn cat. The Siamese, Burmese, Abyssinian and other breeds can make good pets. Some breeds, such as the Siamese, can be more social: but if a vocal cat disturbs you we may not recommend the Siamese and other breeds for you. It is not the breed but the individual behavior you should look at, as discussed below.
The hairless cats can be compatible with people who have allergies towards cats. In all reality it is not the hair or dander which most people are allergic to, it is the cat’s saliva instead. Sometimes if you are allergic to a certain item, it is best to stay away from the allergic causing source. If you have allergies, we do not recommend purchasing one of the longer hair breeds, unless you can handle one of these cats and not break out. (Or to purchase one of the cats with a money back guarantee, in writing, should your allergies flare up). The Sphinx is a truly hairless cat; while the Cornish and Devon Rex have a very short, curly hair.
We recommend that a cat younger than 6 weeks of age not to be separated from its mother. Any older age cat can make a good pet, even 10 years of age or more. Kittens you may not know their adult personalities while the mature animals you do. Expect the average cat to live 15 years. The “feral” or wild type of cats usually are not very good choices for household pets. If humans raised a cat as an orphan, she may “think” she is human and not socialize with other cats. It is usually true that a kitten (or puppy) may be more tolerant of toddler handling than a mature cat will. Be aware that if you obtain a cat that is older than 6 months, they can readily go into heat and get pregnant. Usually cats “cycle”, or go into periodic heats, from March till November.
A cat that has had a litter does not make a better mouser, nor does the bobtail cat make the best cat. If you desire a good mouser, obtain a kitten that has been with its mother for 12 weeks????as she has probably taught this kitten to catch mice. Instinct and the mother teaching the kitten plays a part in determining which cats will make a better mouser. If a kitten is not taught to hunt mice and birds by its mother, it may not have this instinct even as an adult. Usually this time period is during the 2nd month of the kitten’s life. Cats from catteries are not good hunters (which can be positive if you feed birds). To test for this hunting instinct you may drag a toy mouse in front of the kitten and see if it will pounce on it.
If you desire to have the kitten as a lap cat, the kitten will need to be tamed. If a cat is not socialized to people within its first couple of months of life, she may always be a wild barn-type cat. Does she like to be petted? Does the kitten like to be picked up? Held in your lap? Calm when you hold it tight or does it fight to be held? One of the most important factors in choosing a pet, besides being healthy, is their temperament. If a kitten seems aggressive, hiss, nip for no reason or not want to be with you at all this is an indication to keep looking. A gentle kitten will allow you to roll her over, hold her like a baby and gently rub her belly. One of the best methods to see how well a cat will desire to be with humans is to lay down on the floor and see if she will come to you. If you are ever having trouble socializing a new pet, please contact us and/or ask for our feeding, socializing and other handouts. Food is the universal method to train animals and have them bone to you. If you already have a dog, take it along with you. Some cats are extremely afraid of dogs (or some dogs hate cats). The new cat should be in a carrier when first exposed to your dog.
Adopting, 2nd pet
ADDING A SECOND PET TO THE HOUSEHOLD
Animals are like people; they can become jealous of new additions that come into their home. When adding a new pet to your dog household, remember the established pet needs attention also. If your current pet shows signs of aggression towards others, it may be best not to obtain another dog or cat. You cannot assume that all dogs and cats will get along. You must monitor them at first, initially with a barrier between the two animals.
When you have a new pet we do not recommend that you pay a lot of attention to this new dog or cat in front of your old pet. Jealousy will still develop, but you do not need to contribute to the situation. Expect the animals to fight, and if no blood is drawn this mild fighting is part of a natural establishment of hierarchy. To interrupt this process will only cause more confusion and more fighting. As long as the two new animals are not drawing blood it is best to leave them alone. With two or more animals of the same species there always will be a dominant animal and a submissive animal. Helping the underdog may cause more of a problem. Alpha is a term used for dominant dog, beta for the 2nd most dominant and etc down the line of Latin words for numerals. If you do have an aggressive dog (or cat) that is attacking others, the use of a short 3-6′ leash (“tether”) helps one to catch or remove the aggressive pet; such leashes should be removed when you are not there to directly monitor the pet. It is very important to feed the animals separately and in different rooms. Competition for food will especially cause fighting to occur. Always obtain an I.D. tag and collar for any new pet coming into the household. Pets easily get out and lost the first few weeks after adoption.
If you are considering adding a new member of the same or different species to the household, we recommend you take your current pet to the local humane society when you are finalizing the search for a new addition. This may be stressful for some cats, which should always be in a cat carrier. Only after you are very serious about a specific animal do we recommend you allow your cat out of the carrier, which may be 2-3 trips later. Expect some adoption facilities to not allow the animals to be together, due to their liability requirement. If so then most will allow you to return the pet if things get out of line, which luckily is very rare. Some pets simply will not ever get along with others of the same species and/or different species. If a pet was weaned very early, they may not get along with other animals of their own species. Usually cats will tolerate dogs, as cats can escape. But there are some dogs that desire to harm cats. With care most all animals can get along with others, if you are considerate of their needs. In a general recommendation when getting the same species it is best to obtain the second pet of the opposite sex as your original, especially in dogs or ferrets. It is okay to get a younger pet for an older dog, and visa versa. We do not recommend getting 2 puppies from the same litter and/or of the same age unless you realize it will “take more than twice the work”.
If adding another dog to your dog household you first must have control over the original dog, in order to discipline them if they do not behave properly. If you have a problem dog already, adding a second dog will probably compound the ongoing bad habits. Go to obedience classes with the problem dog before considering adding another. It may be best to not allow the new dog to roam free immediately, even in the backyard by itself for the first day. Instead keep the new pet kenneled in a separate, closed area and allow only supervised play together for the first few days. Using a leash on both dogs is recommended. Non-neutered animals, especially of the same sex, should not normally be allowed together as pets. Their hormones and cycles may not be compatible with others of the same sex. Accidental breeding may occur if they are the opposite sex and both intact. We recommend castrating and spaying all pets. Usually a puppy is a safe addition to an older dog, as the older dog will already be the dominant dog. Should the older dog be a giant breed, especially showing any aggression signs towards other dogs, the new one should not be a toy breed (and maybe you should not get a 2nd dog at all). A big dog/little dogfight can be dangerous if the larger dog bites down on the smaller ones back. See our handout for interdog aggression and talk to the veterinarian if you are having problems.
If adding a cat to your dog household it is best to keep the cat locked in a room by themselves for a few days. You can later provide an area or room where the cat can go hide from the dog. An area under the bed for large dogs, or a simple cat door to a closet may be needed if the cat is always trying to escape and hide. The dog should not have access to the cat’s food. You may have to feed the cat twice a day, what they can eat in 20-30 minutes in a separate room.
If adding a dog to your cat household ensure there is an area the cat can hide to safely sleep. Expect your cat to hiss and periodically have a mild fight with the dog. The cat will probably hide for a few days at first. New dogs should be kenneled, until you are sure they are house trained. By kenneling the new pet you are allowing the original pet to investigate the new addition, without the ability to have a severe fighting episode occur.
For all dogs or cats, we recommend you teach them that they can go into a kennel, a bed, habitat or even an enclosed box for sleeping. This can be “their own room to be by themselves“. Each pet will prefer his or her own area. Every pet is different but on the average dogs like beds or carriers while some cats may prefer a simple box with an entry way on 2 different sides. It is very important to teach children that they cannot bother the pets when they are “in their pet bedroom”.
If adding a cat to your cat household, first ask yourself, do you need another one if you already have 2-3 cats? Whenever you have more than 4 cats in one house you may expect one of the many behavioral problems to develop. Expect that you will need to provide multiple litter boxes if you have 2+ cats; one box for each cat plus an extra. Most pets do not do very well overall when there are many others in the same household. How would you like living with 4+ other adults? In cats sometimes the dominant cat is called an alpha cat, and the submissive cat is called a pariah. Actually the pariah cat is a cat that the others in the group do not like; they are an outcast. This cat will always hide and be cautious when the other members of the group are around. There is nothing wrong with a cat that hides a lot, but do not expect this cat to be friendly as long as there are other cats in the room. (It should be noted that if you adopt two kittens at the same time, statistically there will be less aggression problems. Bringing in another cat after the first has established her/his position in the territory is a different and does not always result in less aggression). We also have another handout for intercat aggression; please call the veterinarian first for advice.
By using common sense you should not have any problems with 90% of the animals that will be introduced into a new home, if so please call us. Purchase a sturdy kennel for the new pet before bringing them home. For the first few days we recommend you keep the new pet inside a secure room, if possible, and also inside a kennel. Allow the pets to smell each other, through the door, for the first day. Then allow the door to be open, and your current pets to visit the new addition within their kennel. Part of the kennel should be covered so the new pet can hide. After exposure one can allow them to play indoors, and you should especially pay attention to the pets you have had for years, to prevent jealousy. As an overall summary do not feed new pets in the same room. Animals fight for their food. You may have to separate the two animals and feed separately in different rooms for 20-30 minutes once or twice a day. Provide quality attention to both animals, but do this separately, especially for the submissive pet. If one animal is always eating the food of the other animal, consider getting a pet door with a magnetic collar so that submissive pet can eat in another room, a closet, the garage (with no hazards) or even a modified pet carrier. If you are adopting or purchasing a new pet ensure the facility will allow you to take the new pet back if there are problems.
Behavior, adopted 2nd pet fighting with the other animal
Working With Animals Who Are Not Getting Along
The basics of introducing a new animal into the social hierarchy of a group are similar for any species. You must be gentle, rewarding and yet have control of the situation. There are differences in each species, such as mares prefer to be with mares, while with dogs a male and a female may be more appropriate together. Intact males of any species may fight. For the average new pet we recommend you keep them separated in a secluded room for a day or so. Your current pets will then learn the scent of this new addition, and start to become accustomed to it. (For livestock this means having a separate pen, and a fence that will withstand and prevent a fight and/or a double fence).
After a few days allow the new animal to be visually seen by the others. This will require all animals to be on a leash or harness, and with two handlers. For some small pets the use of a kennel for the new addition (or smaller pet) is adequate for the initial visit, yet the other dog will still need to be on a leash. Praise the current animals, pet or comb them, and feed them only when they are calm. Do not give treats to an animal showing signs of aggression; instead redirect them by taking them for a short walk away from the other animal. If one of the handlers tense up and seem worried that one animal will attack the other, the animals may sense this and go into a protective aggression mode. Be calm and talk in a normal voice. If the animals seem calm, then slowly move them closer to each other. For the first meeting an eventual distance of 4-6’ is close enough, even if they seem to be getting along. Separate them for awhile and then you may reintroduce them again 30+ minutes later, if all went well. It is best to not let the animals sniff or touch each other too much at first, as this is when a sudden sign of aggression may occur. Even if the pets seem to play fight, separate them at first. Introduce them again in various areas of the premises where they will be living in. Eventually you can release both pets with drag lines (leashes attached) and still monitor their interaction. When you are handling horses, both handlers needs to turn their horse if it seems like their horse wants to kick. Eventually horses are best turned out in a large paddock where they can be monitored, and not allowed to have a loose lead rope to be attached at all. Other livestock can be turned out in a large enough pasture, to where one can have enough room to leave if they feel threatened. With all animal groups there will be some signs of aggression at first, especially around food. When the fighting turns to kicking, bites causing wounds, etc. then you need to separate them again. Some animals are not socialized and may never be able to be trusted with other animals and/or some animal instincts will cause them to attack other species. With some livestock or cats expect some individuals will prefer to be alone, and as long as you give them enough room and do not concentrate the group they can live appropriately at a distance.
If you have many pets in the household, or multiple new pets coming in, then use the same one-on-one approach to get them used to each other. When you feel one of the new additions is ready to be released to the other(s) who get along, then do so under supervision. Not all new additions will be ready to be added to the group at a single time. “Re-scenting” is a term used to cover up the scent of the new addition; usually this is a feline problem. One cat may not like the scent of anther and/or even attacks blankets where the new cat has slept. Wiping the new cat with a Felivay or similar pheromone cloth may help, and if not then try wiping the new cat with a cloth treated with vanilla. Hopefully the established cat will get used to the smell of the new cat.
It is important to use treats to reward the animals when being introduced to each other. Yet initially one does not want to have a food bowl out where the animals will then fight for food. With all multiple animal households, and especially with new introductions, when you feed them have their bowls at a great distance or preferably in a different room (or stall) initially. There should also be one cat box for each cat in a household, plus an extra one in a different location. Aggression over food is one of the major causes of fighting with animals who may seem to be okay as a group. Use the drag lines when you initially feed pets in a group. Even cats can be on a harness and have a leash attached. For most cat households it is best to kennel the new dog or cat during dinner time and bedtime; the original animals need to feel at home. This kenneling should initially be in a different room, yet eventually the kennel should be in the family area where the two animals can visually see each other under your direct supervision. If you have an aggressive pet (dog or cat) who is attacking another in the household, keeping a short 3-6′ leash (“tether”) on the pet(s) helps one separate the animals if they are fighting and/or not responding to commands. Such a leash should be removed when you are not around to directly monitor the pet.
It is very important to realize each animal is different. Always go slowly and use common sense. Do not yell at the animals, but instead take the lead and move them away from each other when there are signs of aggression. Hitting never will help calm or socialize an animal. All dogs should be taught to sit, which is one of the methods to redirect their attention if you are having problems. First remove the dog far enough from the other animal before you ask the dog to sit. When introducing puppies and kittens to adult animals, expect their play fighting to end up with some minor nipping and growling. As long as there is no real biting or blood drawn, play fighting is a natural way for animals to learn. If in doubt it is play fighting or the real thing, you need to separate them.
Your own safety is very important, and you should not allow yourself or anyone else to be bitten if there is a fight. If they do fight, give the animals room and try to separate them only when they become distant enough to allow it, by using a board, grabbing the drag line, etc to then separate them. Cats may be able to be separated with a water spray bottle. Some animals may not be able to be socialized to their same species and/or a different species of animals you have. It may be more appropriate to find a new home, with no other pets, for this specific animal. Fortunately 90+% of animals will tolerate new additions.
Allergy to pets
ALLERGIC TO YOUR PET?
Having an allergy to a pet you own can create very difficult living conditions. It is the dander (dandruff) that causes most of the allergic conditions towards animals. The allergen in cats is usually found in their saliva or from the oil glands in the skin. Because cats groom themselves their hair seems to be more of a problem than other species, as the allergen is usually in the cat’s saliva. Typically the hair itself may not be much of a problem. Keeping down the dander will dramatically reduce the problem. If you do have a cat and a family member who is allergic to cats, ask us about the use of a drop of acepromazine orally to the cat as a trial.
If you are allergic to an indoor pet, do not allow this animal to sleep or enter your bedroom. If a squirt bottle does not work in keeping your cat out of the bedroom, we have electronic devises and collars available for keeping pets out of specific areas. It is also best not to groom the pet yourself if possible. Also do not allow the pet to be brushed in a room you frequently use. Have someone brush the pet outside and/or in a room you do not frequent very often. An enclosed outdoor habitat for your cat may also be a consideration.
For those with indoor allergies it is recommended to reduce the amount of fabric in the household that can catch dust and dander; carpeting should be replaced with hard flooring, curtains and drapes with wooden or vinyl blinds, wall paper with paint, cloth furniture with vinyl, faux leather, etc. For dry floors use a mop to clean up; vacuums will stir up the allergens, including dust and molds you also may be allergic to. There are some vacuums which have a water trap; we advise these for people who are allergic to dusts, pets, molds, etc. There are special furnace air filters which can help people with allergies (HEPA and/or electrostatic precipitators; ask your MD which they prefer). We feel that if you remodel or move into a new home; strongly consider the central vacuum system with an outdoor collection unit and hot water heat. The allergens are removed to the outside with the central vacuum systems. Some allergies can take 2 or more years to develop.
A study at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis reported that a monthly 10 minute soaking or bathing their cat proves to provide some relief. There are also products sold that keep down the hair and dander of pets. Ask us about these products to help reduce the animal’s dander in your household, which work by keeping the dander and hair on the pet. The pet still needs to be bathed and brushed by someone else, if possible, to remove the hair and dander. The brushing, or bathing, should not be in an area where the human spends a lot of time.
Humans who have allergies should also consider using hypoallergenic clothing, natural fibers and woods in their furniture, install house vents to prevent molds in the attic and basement, clean frequently with a dust-type mop or cloth, keep outside doors closed with an air circulator indoors which removes allergens and to also reduce the amount of sprays, plants and fumes or smells in the house in order to help reduce the amount of allergens in the house. The most common allergen causing asthma attacks in humans is the cockroach, followed by mice, dust mites, dogs and cats in decreasing order of incidence. Incidence is the percentage of people allergic to that allergen (animal) but is not the same as severity of reaction to that same allergen. Guinea pigs, gerbils, mice, rats and maybe horses cause a large percentage of the allergic reactions. Cats cause more of a reaction than dogs, because of the concentrated dander from them licking themselves. There are many variables.
Interestingly, in the late 1990’s studies showed that children raised with pets have less asthma as an adult than those raised with no pets in the household. Another study after 2003 showed that if one has multiple pets when growing up their allergies to pets is at the lowest percentage. Having multiple pets growing up one typically has less allergies than when there was a pet(s) only as an infant. Children with dogs also have a 4x less incidence of eczema; yet if children have cats the incidence of eczema is increased. Yet as we become adults if you have a severe allergy to a pet, avoidance is probably best. It can take up to 2 years of exposure for one to develop an allergy towards an allergen.
There are some breeds of pets that are advised for people who have allergies. The Bischon, poodle, Kerry Blue Terrier, the Portuguese Water Dog and the Irish Water Spaniel are examples of breeds who do not produce much dander or hair. Even if the dog has less dander, a person still can have allergies to that breed. Some species, such as cats, horses and some rodents, tend to have a higher percentage of people allergic to them, compared to other animal species. A light-colored cat usually will be less allergenic than a dark-colored cat. In 2003 a British Short Hair cat was genetically engineered where its “Fel d1” allergic protein is silenced. Overall there is no single breed or species which a person with allergies can live with. Each person is different and the exposure to an individual animal is the best trial. Just because a human has allergies does not indicate that animals are an underlying cause. Dust mites and other allergens are very commonly the cause.
If you are considering adopting a new pet into a household with someone with allergies to pets, it is advisable to visit that specific pet or species first. Take along your antihistamines and/or epinephrine antidote if you are allergic to some animals, for safety reasons. If you visit and brush the pet, then develop signs of allergies within 30 minutes we don’t recommend that your family adopt this animal under normal circumstances. Since avoidance is the best method for allergies, strongly rethink adopting a pet you have known allergies towards. Before 2000, it was thought by some that the hair length and/or the color of a cat determined if it contained more allergens; this is not true. If you are allergic to cats, guinea pigs and horses may also cause problems. There may be times when one does “outgrow” or become naturally desensitized to some allergens. A web site for the national institute of allergy can be visited at www.niaid.nih.gov