Growing up, a couple who lived in the duplex behind us had seventeen cats. Yes, you read that right. Seventeen. If we opened the back door and they opened their back door at the same time, it didn't matter if you weren't allergic to cats, your eyes watered and the smell of ammonia felt like chloroform. When they left, we had bets on whether or not the new owners would be able to remodel the place or if they'd have to tear the place down.
Because as anyone knows, cats have dander which is ground zero for people with really bad allergies. (Also, cat pee is an olfactory weapon of war, but we'll devote another post to that later. It's hard to believe something so cute could create smells so deadly.)
What is dander? It's microscopic bits of dead skin that furry and feathery animals shed. However, in cats, it's not the actual dander but the proteins produced by the cat—one in the skin's sebaceous glands and the other in its saliva—that get trapped in the dander and create havoc with allergy-prone immune systems.
Because dander is a fraction of the size of dust, it easily becomes airborne and gets over everything. And we mean everything—upholstery, drapes, cushions, carpeting, baseboards, even ceilings. It clings to any and every surface and is very difficult to eliminate completely. This is why decluttering is critical and why it can take as long as six months to eliminate dander even when the cat has vacated the premises.
So how do you get rid of it?
The secret to getting rid of dander is good air filtration and steam cleaning.
While lint rollers and high efficiency particulate bags for vacuum cleaners can help attack dander on fabrics and rugs, the best weapon is water. Steam cleaning tamps down the particulates and, when coupled with shampoo, is your best shot at saving that favorite area rug or love seat. However, if the cat has nestled down in a corner of the carpet for decades, the dander might have become so woven into the strands, the only solution is to say sayonara and find your inner fixer-upper.
When it comes to hard surfaces including wood floors, walls, ceilings, baseboards, tile, granite, and marble, water and nontoxic sprays (which are equally effective but less dangerous than the chemical ones) act effectively to sponge up dander. Dusting, on the other hand, kicks the allergens up into the air—so, not a smart idea unless you enjoy itchy eyes and sneezing.
How long the cat has been lord of the premises can dictate whether or not a thorough cleaning is enough or repainting the walls and refinishing or ripping out the floors is necessitated. Which is what they did next door. As it turns out, they didn't tear the house down. With massive renovation, our neighboring duplex smelled as good as new.
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