Our Son and Tickles

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black cat sways over childhood allergies to pets

Portraits of cats in watercolor on cold press paper

This detail is from a painting I recently made of our younger son and Tickles. He named her when he was a toddler and she was a kitten. Thirteen years later, they still have a special relationship.

During his kindergarten year, my son developed severe asthma and, yes, an allergy to cats. While he was recuperating from pneumonia, I was trying to find new homes for our cats. In the middle of this, my husband disappeared, returning an hour later with a carload of supplies from the hardware store.

With the doctors' blessings, my husband turned our living room into a "cat apartment." He put in a glass door that allowed them to see into the rest of the house while keeping their dander inside their room. We tore out the carpeting and put down easy-to-clean vinyl flooring. Air purifiers on both sides of the glass door further cut down on the dander.

The final touch to the cats' apartment was a ramp built onto the sill of one of the windows. At first, we fashioned a cat flap door so that our cats could come and go at will. Neighborhood cats took to visiting uninvited, so that only lasted a few days. If the cats wanted to go out, they had to let one of the humans open the window.

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