Health & Fitness

When animal dander attacks

Cat (animal)Cato CorporationHealthSpaceScienceJay LenoSarah Palin

I had zero interest when my fiancée approached me about boarding a friend's cat for six months while the friend was out of the country. I've always been a dog person, and it's easier to get someone to switch religions than their preference in dogs or cats. I relented when the owner couldn't find anyone else.

Initially, I kept my distance. I always felt cats didn't really do much of anything, which is why I've advocated electing them to the L.A. City Council. But this cat was different.

He soon proved his mettle by eliminating every bug in our place. He was a terrific hunter, sort of like Gov. Sarah Palin but without the baggage and large litter. He was also extremely bright. He eschewed cat toys, and I half expected to come home and find him sitting in front of a completed Rubik's Cube.

My admiration grew until I looked at him curled on my lap one night and realized I was having a bromance with a cat. I decided to try to formally adopt him.

While I was bonding with Cato (ostensibly after the character in the Green Hornet, but due to his being a houseguest I told visitors he was named for Kato Kaelin), my fiancée began sneezing. Not dainty sneezes, either; the last time I heard a sound like that the space shuttle Atlantis was reentering the atmosphere to land at Edwards Air Force Base. Picture Anderson Cooper reporting from New Orleans during a Category 5, and you'll have an idea of the velocity.

A skin test administered by an allergist revealed the fiancée is one of 8 million Americans allergic to cats. It turns out cat hair is among our most powerful allergens. The options included injection therapy (not 100% effective), taking preventive measures around the house and "removing the allergen source." We opted for B.

Following the doctor's dictums and, more important of course, anonymous information posted on the Internet, we bought an air purifier, kept Cato off the bed and applied a liquid "dander remover." I also spent the bulk of my waking hours vacuuming fur while questioning the meaning of life.

Unfortunately, the sneezing continued, and her nose was running faster than Usain Bolt. It was clear that unless she received regular shots that may not work, or lived inside some sort of sterile tent and became Bubble Girl, Cato had to go. I was struck by the abject incongruity of a society that can clone a cat but can't cure a cat allergy.

This time around, Cato's reputation in our circle made him a hot commodity. He spent the second half of summer on mancation with two guys in a Valley bachelor pad. Now reunited with his owner, for good we're told, he's adjusting nicely. Like many who are allergic to pets, we had to make a tough decision. It seems to have worked out. Aside from my pronounced Empty Nest Syndrome, everybody's healthy.

Brad Dickson is a former writer for "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and co-author of "Race You to the Fountain of Youth."

To read another My Turn -- about reader Del Dickson's love of cycling -- and to access the My Turn archive, go latimes.com/health.

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Cat (animal)Cato CorporationHealthSpaceScienceJay LenoSarah Palin
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