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KAREN ANDERSON: How I overcame my 20-year cat allergy

By Karen Anderson

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Almost miraculously, a 20-year allergy came to an end when Smudge entered Karen’s life.
Almost miraculously, a 20-year allergy came to an end when Smudge entered Karen’s life.

For over 20 years I was allergic to cats. Not the slight sneezy type of allergic either.

Full blown ugly everything streaming if within 20 feet of one, that was my type of allergy.

The fact that I am writing in the past tense about it is a pretty big spoiler alert, but that’s the thing with grammar, it often gets in the way of a good story.

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So, what changed I hear you ask? I have no idea is the rather unhelpful reply. I just kept away from cats for 20 years, then was in a situation where there was more to gain from being included with the presence of the cat, than I stood to lose by having my makeup run off my streaming eyes while I went through a packet of Kleenex.

I entered the cat’s territory with great trepidation while gamely playing down the level of allergy I normally displayed to the homeowner so that they wouldn’t rescind the invitation to a cuppa that I was very much looking forward to. At first, Smudge, for that is her name, was nowhere to be seen and I relaxed somewhat. But as soon as the tea was in the cup in, she strolled in to survey who had the temerity to breach the walls. As she surveyed her estate, I sat completely still secure in the knowledge that if she didn’t notice me, I couldn’t possible be affected by her.

Karen proudly sports her new tattoo.
Karen proudly sports her new tattoo.

Foolish notion it may be, and of course only a temporary state that lasted no more than seconds before normal service was resumed – all cats have always sought me out like there was a magnetic pull toward the afflicted sneezer. She’s a very beautiful black and white cat, but her beauty is not her most striking feature. Her intelligently mischievous character is what sets Her Smudgesty apart from us mere mortals.

I firmly believe that cats see humans as staff who are there to provide food and entertainment, but only on terms that the cat has agreed to in advance, in triplicate, witnessed by a relevant authority such as Top Cat, Tom or that head of all things feline, The Pink Panther. But on that night, I was just prey.

She stalked towards me with all of her natural grace and jumped up onto my lap without consideration of anything other than her own comfort. That itchy ear needed scratching and I have long nails. I braced myself for the inevitable explosion of the allergy that had happened every time until I took the avoidance route all those years ago. But no!

There I was with a cat on my lap and yet my mascara was intact, and no tissues were being harmed in the making of this introduction.

My gast has never been so flabbered. Imagine the freedom that is now in my grasp after escaping a life-limiting restriction that has plagued me for over 20 years. I can choose where I go and who I visit without fear of a mangy old tabby causing me to have to retreat and return to base. My joy at being unfettered in public with no fear of feline stalkers is unbound.

Now you may think that this enthusiasm is a bit over the top, but if you have ever laboured under the control of a severe allergy, you will understand that having escaped from it you will never look back and Smudge and I intend to be closes buddies for a long time to come.

Karen is Mum to an autistic son in his twenties and campaigns for the rights of unpaid carers to be supported in their caring role and involved in the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of the people they care for. You can find her on twitter and Instagram @Karen4Carers.

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