Stinging Nettles and Cat Allergies

Facebookers have already seen these pics. Kitty, being a fast moving black hole, is very hard to photograph.

Mrs. Homegrown here:

Sorry this is sort of rambling, but context is everything.

Our friend Anne, of the pea-eating-Chihuahua fame, and the chicken-sitting-on-kitten fame, and various other fames, is a frequent animal rescuer. She came over to our house maybe 2 weeks ago with a pet carrier. She said, “Someone dropped this off at my house at 1:00 AM last night, but I have to go to work. Can you take care of it?” Inside the carrier was a tiny black scrap of fur, a three week old kitten.

Thus she launched her evil plan. We took care of the creature on work days, until she came to pick it up, until we got so used to it that we missed it when it wasn’t around. You see, she knew that no one could bottle feed a creature like that (teeny wittle paws!) and not go soft in the head and want to keep it forever and always.


So it looks like we’ve got ourselves a cat, maybe. We’d planned on getting a dog ever since our beloved dobie passed on, but the universe works in strange ways, and it sent us a cat.

However, there’s a fly in the ointment. I’m allergic to cats. I grew up with a cat, but developed this allergy later, which always seemed stupid and unreasonable. So I’ve decided to ignore it.

There’s precedent for this. I also grew up with dogs, and yet later developed an allergy to them, too. I ignored this for our dog Spike, because I wanted a dog more than anything else in the world. At first, I broke out in hives every time he licked me, but it went away. I’m trusting the same thing is going to happen here with the kitten.

I mean, come on! Were we going to put this on Craig’s List?

I know it might sound nuts, but it’s going pretty well. The allergies seem to have peaked and declined. I had a couple of bad days, with a constantly running nose and weals all over my chest from the kitty’s claws, but that’s over. Now I sneeze once in a while. I have one weal on my chest. It’s been ten days of close co-habitation with the kitten. I’m its primary caretaker, and it likes to sleep under my chin.

One thing that may be helping is that I’m drinking lots of extra strong nettle tea, sometimes adding licorice to the brew. Both herbs are supposed to be good for allergies. Andrew Weil recommends taking capsules of freeze dried nettle extract instead of antihistamines for seasonal allergies (See his Natural Health, Natural Medicine. Here’s a Google Books link.)

Do nettles really work for allergies? I don’t know. It may be all in my head–but you know what? I’m all for the placebo effect. That’s not a negative term in my book at all. Self-healing is the best healing.

Nettles are also really good for you, being full of minerals and green goodness–so there’s no reason not to try. They’re also free for the gathering in most places.

I make nettle tea the Susun Weed way. We cover this in Making It, actually:

  • Put one ounce of dried herb in a quart jar. That’s a lot, really, about a cup.
  • If you have fresh nettles, just stuff a jar full (the stingers will vanish in the hot water)
  • If you have it, you can add a piece of licorice root or a bit of ground root. This sweetens the tea, albeit in a weird, licorice sort of way, and the licorice itself may help
  • Fill the jar with boiling water
  • Let it sit 4-8 hours to get incredibly strong
  • Strain to a new jar
  • Drink it iced, room temp or gently reheated. Try to drink that quart over the course of the day.
  • Don’t keep it around, because it will lose its potency after a day. Pour it on your plants and make a fresh batch.

Kitten facts for those interested:

Kitten is genderless for now. We took he/she to the vet, and the vet was genuinely puzzled. Tricky kitty! We have to wait for more certainty.

Kitten is about 5 weeks old. He/she was more in the 3 week old range when we took the above pics.

Kitten’s name might be Nyx. Or Woad. Or Woadnyx.

Kitten came off the street but miraculously arrived with no fleas, eye or ear infections, nothing. He/she is healthy and well adjusted, and likes all people.

Kitten is entirely black, and of solid alley cat stock. The eyes have faded to grey from blue this week, but there’s no telling final color. I suspect he/she is always going to look like a scruffy Halloween cat.

Kitten was half blind and sleepy at the start of this, but now is gaining mad skilz by the day and is a holy terror, but still pretty darn cute. He/she has been threatening this post as I write, showing a cat’s instinctive affinity for computer keyboards.

The cute thing is all an act. Hail to our feline overlord! Photo credit: Anne Hars

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40 Comments

  1. My mother took spirulina for her cat allergy, and it helped.

    I find all my allergic reactions are better now that I force myself to sleep with my mouth closed by taping it shut with surgical tape.

  2. That is probably one of the cutest kittens I have ever seen. There’s just something about a black cat that gets me everytime. And I can see how you got “suckered” (for lack of a better term) into being a kitty parent. I’m already in love just from the pictures!

  3. I, too, developed an allergy to cats! Had cats all through my teens, then on a break home from college, couldn’t breathe. Finally figured out I’d developed an allergy to my two. Am visiting friends with cats next month. Will try your tea!
    (am also allergic to my dogs, bunny and goats, but am in total denial. What runny nose?)

  4. That is a too-adorable kitten. I hope the nettle tea works! My husband had the same experience as you and your dog with out cat: he had pretty bad allergies at first. It took about a year but now he’s totally allergy-free — at least when it comes to the cat. :)

  5. Oh, you have been suckered, haven’t you? Happens to me all of the time. I’m going to try the allergy remedies you recommend. Thank you for that. I, too am allergic to both cats and dogs. Naturally enough, I have three felines and four canines. Chances are you will always have occasional reactions to the little Basement Cat, but they should ease up some as time goes on. Some cats give off more potent dander than others. I hope your little sweetie isn’t a potent one.

  6. Hm, I’m allergic to cats but it seems to come and go.. I’ll be itching and sniffling like crazy at some cat owner’s houses, but I seem to be ok around my friend’s very well groomed long-haired cat. I have a sneaking suspicion the cleanliness of the cat and the home might affect this (the cleaner the house/cat, the less dander/hair flying around perhaps?). As for the kitty, I’ve heard of cats that get weaned too early from their mother developing pica (this weird urge to suck on things and chew on plastic) so that might be something to look out for.

  7. What is it about cats and keyboards?!?

    Great “rambling” post. I have blessedly never been allergic to any animals and so always had quite the menagerie of cats and dog at home. I hope your allergies continue to abate and that the little black fluffball brings you lots of joy.

  8. Maybe kitty is intersexed? I just saw a post online the other day from someone who adopted an intersexed kitty. I say go for gender neutral pronouns! Ze, hir, etc.

  9. Serious case of “awwwwww” going on here. Especially because I once raised a little black kitten from a day old. All hail to the feline overlord!

  10. Your allergies WILL get better, I was in the same boat as you when I bought our kittens home — I knew I was allergic — and yet, within a few weeks my body adjusted and now I have had them around for several years with no problems. A few things will still get my allergies going — one, their saliva (so I keep my distance when they’re grooming themselves), and two, a scratch will still welt up and itch a lot. But just living in the same house with them is a breeze. Good luck, and looking forward to more photos as he/she grows! Congrats!

  11. I grew up with both cat and dog but later developed allergies to both as well. The cat allergy is serious enough that I’ve developed sneezing and asthma just from having a non-cat-owner who had been to a cat-owner’s apartment sit down next to me.

    The dog thing appears to be particular to a small subset of dogs (especially Chow Chows), not dogs in general, so we have a dog.

    When I was in my early teens, not long after the cat allergy surfaced, I was told by a number of relatives that they knew people in the extended family who had likewise become allergic only around puberty, and that the allergies faded after they reached adulthood. If anything, mine have gotten worse with age, though, so I’m still waiting. Totally jealous of your kitten.

  12. Congrats on the kitten! We love our cats; we got sucked into one a couple of years ago ourselves. A stray, maybe a month old, came trotting up to us while we were in our yard. She rubbed up against my wife, and she fell in love. I resisted initially, but she turned into the best vermin control I’ve ever seen. Mice? Gone. Rabbits? Not a problem. Gophers? If I see a new mound, I know there’ll be a dead gopher in my living room in two weeks.

    Now, if cat poo was fertilizer, they’d be the perfect pet. Defend your raised beds!

    Good luck, he/she’s a cutie!

  13. I’m so glad to hear all these stories of people overcoming their allergies for the love of their pets. Thanks, all!

    Paige: I’d wondered about whether kitten was intersexed–which for some reason seems kind of cool to me. My cat defies gender conventions! Ha to the hegemony! But I think in truth he/she is just a late bloomer. Nonetheless, I do refer to it as hermaphrocat sometimes. And yes, could we please have some gender neutral pronouns!!

    @Mr. Subjunctive: I’m so sorry! That’s an extreme cat allergy. Glad you can still have dogs, though.

    @Chris: I am very excited about the kitten in terms of vermin control. Our mice got out of hand this winter, both indoors and out by the compost. Usually a few traps do the trick, but it’s like we’ve bred super mice over the years, and they scoff at our pathetic attempts to kill them. In fact, I have this notion that my intense longing for a cat to come in and clear out the mice hordes this winter is what landed me this cat. Careful what you ask for, and all that!

  14. @BLD: Yes, what is it about cats and keyboards? Do they want to type out messages to us in code? (4444444jlkjjjjjjjkdkkkk;;;;;;;)

    And it’s not just the keyboard, it’s the computer. He/she likes to watch the screen. The other day Erik and I were watching that cute video that’s been going around featuring stampeding baby pygmy goats. I swear the cat was entranced, and tracking the movement on the screen. We watched it 3 times.

  15. I had the same problem a couple years back, her name is thor and she came with a sister loki :) I was sneezing any time my face was near one of them, with welts from their itty bitty razor claws. That all passed in a couple weeks though. I also had a dog a year before. I the think the reason kittens are so cute is its a part of their grand scheme to enslave the entire human race, we already do whatever they want us too just because they are cute :)

  16. cute kitty!!! i’m a big fan of nettles.. not only for their vitamin/mineral content but because it is supposed to help with allergies… i miss having a cat, but with my present dogs, no kitties are welcome :(

  17. I have had pet allergies all my life, no amount of cat-having has helped. I have a GIANT cat currently who is very cuddly (with me. She likes to try and murder the husband). I find that washing my hands A LOT, avoiding touching my face after I’ve held her, and washing my pillowcase every few days has really helped. She’s nearly 7 now, and I haven’t had to take more than a box or so of claritin in her lifetime.

  18. Funny how the Universe works, isn’t it?

    I am actually trying to grow nettles in my backyard because they are so very good for your garden. I want to make purin d’ortie as a fertilizer, and found that nettles smell really good when you pour hot water over them, so now I want to try them as a green for eating.

    I went to the trouble of purchasing seed and sowing it, but nothing has come up. My comfrey hasn’t either, nor my borage. You would thing that plants otherwise known as weeds wouldn’t be so darn picky…

  19. My husband (boyfriend at the time) was allergic to cats when he first moved in, but living with mine seems to have caused his allergies to disappear. Now he’s even more of a big sappy moosh about our two than I am. *grin*

  20. I had terrible cat allergies too. I really couldn’t stay at someone’s house with cats for more than an hour. But the symptoms did subside after we had our cats for a while and now I can manage at other cat houses. I have had trouble if I am away from them for a month or more. Then I have to start all over again. Asthma inhaler needed almost every night for weeks. That too does eventually pass. Now I usually fall asleep with my head one of them.

  21. @Paula: Nettles are good for eating. They’re not packed with flavor, but are really nice when blended with a stronger green. And yes, they and comfrey are “weeds’ but very picky about where they grow. I can’t get comfrey started in my yard, and I tried nettle seeds for years to no avail. Until this year, when they volunteered out of the mulch. They are very strong minded, and I think resent being planted.

  22. We carefully clip our kitties’ claws so it doesn’t hurt when they play and scratch. It’s not at all traumatic. We can show you how.

    On another note – my nettles have sprouted. Can’t wait till I can get them in the ground.

  23. About three years ago, I was given a kitten and a few months later, a chihuahua mix puppy. These two have grown up together. When they were little, they played constantly. Now that they are older, they still play–but not quite as much. The cat’s favorite trick is to get up on a piece of furniture and pounce on the unsuspecting dog as she walks by. They are best buddies–and so entertaining.

  24. He/she looks like a lovely little adventurous thing. I love cats and would be that crazy cat lady if my husband would let me. And I am also allergic and seem to have built up a tolerance to cats. After years of living with kitties the only thing that really bothers me is if I pet the cat and then rub my eyes – so I just don’t do that. Have fun with your new little friend.

  25. I suffered from serious allergies my whole life. My naturopathic doctor gave me hesperidin pills and over the course of a few years my allergies are almost all gone! I am now the proud mamma of a dog and am even thinking about bring a cat into my home. I never thought that it would be possible to live with fur-animals but I do!!!! Don’t give up- let your body learn to adjust to the allergins.

  26. I find it takes me about one month of intense allergy suffering to get over a new cat in the house. So worth it.

    For my next cat, I’ll definitely try the nettle thing. I don’t like the taste of nettle tea (tastes a bit like spinach water), but since it’s not very strong I blend it with chocolate mint or some other herb that I like, along with a tiiiiiny smidgen of honey. Yum to tea, and yay to kitties. (S)he looks like a champ.

  27. Good luck with the allergies, mine went away as an adult mysteriously, I haven’t had a reaction to a cat in years. I think that love does often conquer all

    Just a sad note on the potential for mice hunter, your cat was taken away much too young from hu’s mother to have been taught by her. Without that, they know they want to hunt, and will stalk, but don’t know how to do the rest.

  28. Irresistibly adorable kitty! And nettle tea is delicious too- I always assumed the allergy effects were for allergies to plants, not animals, but I’m glad to hear that your body is adjusting! I keep wondering if dealing with so much hay and straw on a daily basis is building up my resistance too.

  29. That must be my Pitty Pat come back! Same similar story of a lost black kitten on its own way too early, finds a good home and lives there for 20 years. Dies of old age natural causes. Enriched our lives till her last breath! Great wishes for you and yours!

  30. I clicked this for cute kitty, and I just had to say: hey, that’s my dream bookshelf! I feel pretty fancy for having at least three of those.

  31. My son we just realized has an allergy to cats. We visited a breeder of Bengals and after an hour my son said his throat felt dry and so we decided to cut our visit short. In the car he said his chest hurt when he would try take a deep breathe. So finally it past after 20 min. So we took him to the allergist and had him tested for nuts again, he does have a nut allergy since 3 years old. He checked for cat and dog and other environmentals. The cat came back positive. Strangely we had a cat up until he was 4 years old and never saw any symptoms and moved to a new house that the previous owners had 3 cats and nothing. We do have a dog and he is fine. My bengal breeder said she would lend me an older 10 month old cat for a week to test how he will react with just one cat in the house. So I hope all goes well because my son and I really want our little new (Japser).

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