DEAR HARRIETTE: I agreed to look after my friend's cat while she goes on vacation. She took care of my dog a few years ago, so I figure I owe her one. After agreeing to cat-sitting and meeting the cat, I realized I am allergic to cats! I have never spent time around cats before, and when I left, I had the telltale signs of allergies: itchy eyes, runny nose and raspy throat. I can take allergy medication to deal with the cat, but she insists I keep it at my house! I read online that cat dander can take seven years to leave a home. Am I still obligated to cat-sit? I would feel crummy dropping out. -- Cat Sitter, Austin, Texas
DEAR CAT SITTER: If possible, you should still care for the cat; however, you do not have to bring the cat to your house. Tell your friend the truth. Explain that you did not know you were allergic to cats and figured it out when you met her cat. Offer a compromise: You will take medication so that you are able to be around the cat, but you cannot bring the cat into your home. Chances are great that the cat will make your home uninhabitable for you if you take care of it there.
If your friend insists, suggest that she ask someone else to watch her cat, or even put the cat in a boarding facility, where it will have company and be under constant supervision.
What you should not do is ignore your health and bring the cat in your home because your friend is pushing you. I have severe cat allergies and can tell you firsthand that the cost can easily be too great for your health.