'Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?'

First, find an allergist who will work with the allergy sufferer and accept that finding a new home for the cat is the last alternative, not the first one. After all, people who are allergic to trees or grass can't rid their environment of these things; there are ways to work around them. Working with an allergist can help get all a person's allergies under control and may leave a little "breathing room" for keeping a cat.

Second, compromise. Establishing the bedroom as a cat-free zone (some of you may prefer a husband free zone) will let an allergy sufferer sleep in peace. While sleeping with a cat on the bed is one of many pleasure of living with a cat, keeping puss on the other side of the bedroom door may enable you to keep both your cat and your mate.

Third, keep the house clean. Choose smooth, easy-to-clean surfaces in your home -- tile or hardwood rather than carpet -- and give the person with allergies a break from vacuuming and dusting. Use a vacuum with a filter and damp cleaning cloths to keep dander from going airborne. HEPA air filters for rooms and for the central heat and air conditioning system may also help.

Fourth, keep your pet clean. Studies show that rinsing your cat weekly in clear water can reduce dander levels. Obviously, this task should also go to the non-allergic members of the family, as should cleaning the litter box.

The long-term view offers a couple of promising solutions, one of which is, admittedly, controversial. The most promising is the possibility of a vaccine that will prevent cat allergies. News of such a product erupted in the late 1990s, and has given hope to the many people who are, shall we say, itching for just such a drug. The vaccine doesn't exist yet, but it's probably just a matter of time before some company comes up with it.

Now the controversial idea: The prospect of a cat who is genetically engineered to be truly hypo-allergenic has been in the news. But given that the price tag is expected to be in the thousands of dollars -- not to mention the hue and cry from people who don't think pets should be genetically modified -- it's a bit of an iffy prospect how big a splash such cats will make.

The amount of allergen any cat produces varies from animal to animal, although studies suggest that black cats and unneutered males cause more problems for allergy sufferers.

Q. Why do cats insist that bed time is play time?

A. Because a cat is a creature of the night . . . or at least, the twilight. Cats sleep all day -- and most of the night -- just so they can be at their liveliest when the sun is setting. The early bird may get the worm, but it's the late-night kitty who scores the mouse.

While many cats eventually figure out that we're not much fun after dark, some never do stop pestering their owners to play. Especially young cats, who just don't understand why you're so willing to cash in your chips when the night is still young. Cats are pre-programmed to hunt when the sun goes down. And since hunting and play are the same thing to them, their little brains are thinking, "party, party, PARTY!"

Want to sleep? Try playing with your cat an hour or so before bedtime to take the edge off the kitty crazies. (Not only before bedtime, though, or your cat will be bouncing off the walls just as you're trying to sleep. Cats need two or three play sessions a day.)

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