Pets are wonderful companions, but they do tend to create a mess. And, while food allergies are at an all-time high in Australia, pet allergies are also a concern, since living with a pet that you’re allergic to requires a weekly cleaning commitment in order to limit the allergen levels in your home. So if you’d like to introduce a pet into your home but are worried about allergies, mess and the consequential cleaning, here are a few things to keep in mind.
First, it’s important to realise that all pets, be they reptiles, gerbils, cats, dogs, rabbits or birds will create mess. The difference is that caged animals only create a mess in their contained environment, whereas dogs, cats and other free-ranging pets track dirt and leave saliva and fur throughout your home.
Regardless of the pet you choose, you’ll find yourself cleaning up after it. If the daily accumulation of dirt, waste, fur, paw prints and/or accompanying pet odour doesn’t bother you, then you can get any pet you like. But if keeping a clean and tidy home is important to you and you want a dog, cat or other free-ranging pet, then you must be ready to either sweep and/or vacuum every other day or to regularly employ house cleaning services. In a similar vein, if the weekly cleaning of your pet’s cage sounds tedious or causes you to crinkle your nose, then perhaps a cat or dog is a better fit for you and your family.
Next, many people suspect that they’re allergic to animals without getting an allergy test. Yet it is only once you get tested that you can pinpoint what causes your allergic reaction. For example, perhaps you’ve visited a friend who owns a cat and you started sneezing or started coughing. You may think that it’s the cat that elicited your reaction, when in fact it might be mold, dust or pollen that’s causing your discomfort. So before getting your family pet, if you suspect but don’t know for certain that you have a pet allergy, going for allergy testing will enable you to live with the appropriate pet comfortably.
If you or a family member do have allergies, then you’ll need to select a pet where your exposure to the triggering allergen is minimised or eliminated. If, for example, you’re allergic to pollen but not dogs, yet walking your dog outside introduces unacceptable levels of pollen into your home, then a dog may not be the best option. By the same token, if you’re allergic to mold, then pets that live in aquariums should be avoided, since the tanks tend to develop mold over time.
For persons with pet allergies, the simplest route is to chose a different animal as a pet. Remember though that you can develop a pet allergy at any time, and there’s no guarantee that you or a family member won’t develop an allergy to the chosen pet. Also, contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat or dog. The primary culprit in pet allergies to dogs and cats is dander (the pet’s skin), saliva and urine- not the pet’s fur. In turn, even if you get a hairless dog or cat, you can still experience allergy symptoms.
For those allergic to pet dander and saliva, fish, turtles and reptiles are excellent choices. If you need a furry friend however, and your pet dander allergy causes mild symptoms, then gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters and other furry caged creatures minimise your exposure to allergens by limiting them to the pet’s cage. Do consider carefully whether even limited exposure will make you miserable, since you’ll have to clean the cage weekly, and gerbils and the like do produce allergens through their dander and urine.
By concentrating your cleaning attention appropriately, you can reduce allergen levels to a comfortable level for the allergy sufferer. The following house cleaning tips should help the family pet and allergy sufferer co-exist without worrying about allergy or even asthma attacks.
- Clean floors frequently in order to thorough remove dust and dander.
- Use a HEPA filter in your vacuum cleaner to help remove dust and dander from floors and upholstery.
- Launder sheets, mattress covers and pillowcases weekly in hot water.
- Wash couch covers, seat covers, pillowcases, curtains and pet beds frequently.
- Bathe your pet weekly using an appropriate pet shampoo.
- Scoop litter boxes at least twice daily and clean the boxes weekly.
- Clean cages weekly.
- Wash your hands after petting the animal or cleaning its environment.
Having a clean house is nice, but house cleaning is essential when you own pets. For homes with allergy sufferers, house cleaning will help you minimise pet messes and allergens so that you can focus on the joys that pets bring.