Q. I’m 26 years old, have my own apartment, a good job, and I’ve been seeing someone for five months. We are getting along very well and things are getting serious in a “I think we may end up together way.” I haven’t had much luck with dating before this relationship so I’m very excited about it. My problem is that I have a very sweet, 4 year old cat who I love dearly and who, unfortunately, my boyfriend is allergic to. Therefore, we spend most of the time at his apartment or out, even though I love being home and miss my cat terribly when I’m away. He doesn’t dislike cats, but because he’s always been allergic, he hints that he could never live with one. Sometimes he throws out ideas as to who might be able to take her and give her a good home. I can’t imagine ever giving up my cat. She’s my baby. But the thought of giving up my only good relationship is heartbreaking, too. Was wondering about your thoughts on the matter?
A. Well, your story could practically have been mine, so today I’m speaking from personal experience. When I started dating my husband, I knew he was allergic to cats and had been all his life. In fact, he’d been hospitalized as a child from an allergy attack. This didn’t stop him from visiting my apartment despite the fact that my cat, Nikki, was always there to greet him. He came over armed with allergy medication, and when he needed a break from the dander, he’d step outside for a few minutes. This went on for many months, and guess what? Slowly but surely, he became more and more tolerant of my cat, to the point that all three of us eventually moved in together. My husband fared just fine, with some allergy issues here and there (always during allergy season) that he treated with medication. He also had a great attitude about it. Of course this may have been due to the fact that he knew there was about as much of a chance of me giving up my cat, as a snowball would have in you-know-where! But he also happens to love animals so I think his positive outlook helped, and believe it or not, we now have four cats and a dog and he no longer takes allergy medicine! Living with the animal you are allergic to is tantamount to having allergy shots (and by the way, shots are always another option.)
So my personal thoughts on the matter are these: Don’t you dare give your cat away! She’s your baby and she loves you, too! At this point, as much as you care for your boyfriend, you don’t know what your future with him will be. You’ve only known him for five months. And, if you eventually give her up, there’s a good chance you will grow to resent him for it. Let him know this might be the case, and let him read my story so he knows being allergic to a cat isn’t necessarily something that’s written in stone. When I think of the people who’ve given up their beloved cats or dogs for this reason, it saddens me that they do not realize there are other options and possibilities. Tell him you want him to spend time at your apartment, and with your cat, too (and have allergy medicine waiting!) Discuss all of this with him and examine how he reacts to your feelings. It might be very telling. In my case, seeing the sacrifice my husband made for me was one of the reasons I fell in love with him—and just one of the reasons I knew he was “Mr. Right.”
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