Pet Love So Strong It Trumps Allergies

One relationship columnist’s inability to stop cuddling pets

By Leslie Phelan


A close friend of mine has two cats. I adore them, pet them attentively, and always spritz their toys with extra catnip whenever I can.

Did I mention I’m terribly allergic to them? True story. After a visit, I’ll be sneezing from behind itchy eyes for hours after I leave.

Many people are allergic to various kinds of animal dander and usually, that is reason enough to simply avoid the creatures if possible. Not me! Your Persian kitties make me puffy and blind with a junked up nasal passage? No worries, I’ll still leave covered in their hair and brandishing a few new play scratches. Your British Bulldog makes my skin red on contact? Whatever – I’ll still kiss his head and leave your house looking like I made out with someone wearing red lipstick. Point is, the allergies won’t get me down or create a barrier between me and your pet. Cuddles will happen; cuddles will never not happen.

“Pain is a warning that something’s wrong,” sang Madonna in The Power of Goodbye, a song that came on the radio the last time I drove home from my double-cat-havin’ buddy’s place, sneezing so hard I had to pull over to safely blow my nose. I began to wonder if Madge’s famous line could be applied to allergies, too, and not just to pain from bad relationships. I mean, if there’s just something in the DNA of a thing that harshly disagrees with my very existence, should that maybe be taken to mean I should stay away from it? I’m thinking probably.

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All I know is, if I was into a guy, but felt my body reject the fibers of his being with every fiber of my own, I’d have to end it, likely citing ‘instincts’ as my reason. If I had a friend I adored but being around her made me involuntarily and inexplicably vomit, I’d probably have to break up with her too. Those would be tragic, heart-wrenching, bittersweet goodbyes where we’d curse the heavens and say whyyy a bunch of times but I’d explain my cogent reasoning and they’d understand. One should aim to let go of anything that causes a violent reflex in their body, and this is a statement I live by…

…except where it pertains to people’s cute pets.

Maybe allergies are the physical manifestation of an energetic discord between you and things that make you itch, but I won’t ever stop petting and cozying up with cute animals.. Remember that thing Louis C.K. said about kids with nut allergies and how of course we need to protect them but maaayyybe if touching a nut can kill you, you’re supposed to die? I do, and as a person who tends to explore the “maybe” side of any argument, I feel the man might have a point: maybe if we all look the other way for a year, the problem would sort itself out and the human race would be done with nut allergies forever. Maybe if I keep ignoring my dander-iffic allergy symptoms and keep on declining offers of Claritin, I will one day either evolve past the symptoms or die from them, in either scenario allowing nature to take its course. Stay tuned I guess!