Cat in living room

Q. My 11-year-old daughter desperately wants a cat. She’s a good student and a responsible kid, and we’re running out of reasons to say no. But her stepdad is allergic to cats, and her dad is making an issue of it. Any advice?

A. Yes, I do have advice: The adults need to stop fighting with one another and set a good example for the child.  Or did you mean advice about getting a pet? Yes, I can help you there too.

While those with severe, potentially life-threatening allergies should probably not adopt a cat or dog, most people with mild to moderate allergies can tolerate life with these animals, even if their allergists would rather they didn’t. Depending on how severe your husband’s allergies are and how well controlled they can be by working with an allergist, it’s possible to minimize the health impact of a cat .

Here are five proven strategies that can help:

Find a good allergist: Chances are your husband is allergic to more things than animals, and once he is in control of all his allergies, he’ll feel better overall. An allergist who’ll work with you to combat all your allergies is worth her weight in gold.

Create a pet-free zone: If you can keep your bedroom clean and pet-free, your husband is more likely to sleep well, and that will make you both healthier. Since the cat will be your daughter’s, it should be easy enough to keep the cat completely out of your room.

Invest in HEPA filters: Much of what makes allergy sufferers sneeze and wheeze can’t be seen — it’s the tiniest airborne specs of skin and other debris that land, with allergy triggers intact, on every surface. If you use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, you won’t be spreading these allergy triggers about. HEPA filters in your home (or in your central heating/air-conditioning unit) will help remove flying allergy triggers too. Static wipes are great on furniture and plain wood or tile floors, catching allergy triggers without sending them flying.

Cat getting a bath

Opt for washable pet bedding and throws: Those airborne allergens? Guess where they end up? If you guessed in areas where pets relax, well, good on you! Choose washable pet bedding and throws for any furniture the cat may lie or sit on, and commit to keeping both clean. Weekly washing of pet bedding and furniture throws will minimize allergen buildup, helping you skate through life with less to sneeze at.

Bathe your pet weekly: This is my favorite, because it benefits both you AND your pet! A weekly — yes, weekly — bath not only helps your allergies but it also keeps your cat clean-smelling and utterly huggable. If you start bathing your cat when he's a kitten, your pet will likely accept it better. Only use shampoos approved for use in cats, though. Technically you don’t even have to use shampoo: For cats, a weekly rinsing is enough.

I hope you can all work it out, because I know how much pets mean to children, and I would sure like your daughter to have the cat of her dreams.