Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I had to move back into my parents’ house three months ago, and my cat has moved here with me. She has to live in basement. I am unable to sleep down there at the moment since I’m allergic and am in the process of undergoing treatment for these allergies so I can move down there. In the meantime my cat doesn’t seem to be doing well. Within a month of moving here, she started to scratch her head a lot. It now looks like she is scratching off fur, and the insides of her ears are slightly spotting red (sort of scabby). The last week or so, she hasn’t been eating so well but she has been drinking water. I recently changed her food to a more expensive kibble and some wet food as well. I don’t know which she’s allergic to but I stopped the wet food and the she barely touches the dry food. She spends all her time, it seems, under a bed in a room in the back of the basement. Usually when I go downstairs and play with her (which I do for at least an hour a day) she’ll come out and hang out with me in the den, but now she has stopped doing this. And when I go and get her out from under the bed she usually runs back there the first chance she gets, whether I’m sitting there or not, which she never used to do. Today I noticed she is sneezing a lot with lots of mucous coming out of her nose. I really have no idea what is going on, and I’m very concerned. She’s almost 7 years old, and I am quite fond of her.
Siouxsie: Well, Rya, we think you’re on the right track when you suspect allergies.
Thomas: We think your kitty may be allergic to whatever is making it impossible for you to live in the basement without desensitization shots.
Dahlia: Cats do develop environmental allergies, just as humans do, and basements are infamous allergy breeding grounds.
Siouxsie: First, think about what it is that makes you allergic to living in the basement. Is it mold?
Thomas: We know from experience that basements are infamous for mold problems. We live in a basement apartment, too, and although everything was good when we arrived, Mama’s been fighting mold invasions for the last six months.
Dahlia: We’re lucky that the mold isn’t making us really sick because there’s not a lot of it at this point. We get occasional “eye boogers,” as Mama calls them, and she knows it’s the mold because it makes her nose goopy, too.
Siouxsie: Basements can also get pretty dusty because when people walk on the floors above, dust filters down into the insulation between the first floor and the basement, and from there to the rooms themselves.
Thomas: Furnaces and other appliances can also put contaminants into the air that can cause allergic reations.
Dahlia: So, what can you do? First, take your kitty to the vet for a check-up. This is especially important because she’s really starting to act sick, being off her food and all.
Siouxsie: Your cat could be developing an upper respiratory infection in addition to any allergies she has. As you probably know if you suffer from allergies, sometimes they can make you more susceptible to respiratory diseases.
Thomas: Your vet may be able to help you figure out how to treat your cat’s allergies, too. If they’re really bothering her, the vet may recommend a steroid shot to get the symptoms under control in the short term.
Dahlia: But you don’t want to keep her on steroids as a long-term way to manage her allergies. Steroids tend to mask the symptoms, which can cause more deep-seated problems.
Siouxsie: Ultimately, you and your parents are going to have to deal with whatever’s making that basement an allergy factory.
Thomas: A dehumidifier and an air purifier with a HEPA filter are the first steps. When the air gets drier, it will make mold growth a lot more difficult; and the air purifier will help clear dust, mold, and other allergens.
Dahlia: If there is a mold problem in the basement, you and your parents are going to have to actually get rid of the mold itself. There are chemical things you can use, but there are also natural, inexpensive, and non-toxic ways to do the job, too.
Siouxsie: If, however, the mold has gotten into the walls and the insulation, you may have to actually take the drywall off the walls, remove the insulation, and possibly even take down and rebuild the wall.
Thomas: Meanwhile, if there’s any way you can convince your parents to let you keep your cat upstairs with you–even if she has to live only in the room where you’re sleeping–that will help her to feel physically and emotionally better.
Dahlia: Good luck, Rya, and we sure hope your kitty feels better soon. Remember–get her to the vet as son as you can in order to get her checked out and work on a plan to manage her allergies.