Claire is a senior at Sartell High School. She participates in diving in the fall and is the captain of the color guard in the spring. She works at Hollister...
The light(s) of my life
November 1, 2018
After my family dog, Miles, passed away in 2011, the house felt empty and lonely. My parents looked into getting a cat because we all agreed that it would be hard to have another dog in the house so soon, but that we definitely missed having a pet to keep us company. We tried looking into getting a cat but remembered that both my grandmother and uncle are allergic to cats (and a year or two ago we found out that I’m allergic to cats), so if we got one they wouldn’t be able to visit our house anymore. My parents even went so far as to look into boarding a horse because we all missed having a pet so much.
One night, my mom was doing some research on some cats that have fewer allergens than others and stumbled upon a certain breed of cat called the Siberian. Siberians are very large cats, comparable to Maine Coons, with long hair and big eyes.
Before I get into explaining cat allergens, you need to know where the allergens actually come from. Most think that the protein you’re allergic to is in the cats’ dander, so if you were allergic to cats you could just get a hairless cat. However, this is untrue. The protein you’re allergic to is actually in cats’ saliva, meaning I’d still be allergic to hairless cats. Since cats lick themselves instead of bathing, the proteins are spread all around their bodies. This is why many believed that the proteins were found in cat dander.
The protein that people are most likely allergic to in cats is called Feline d1 (Fel d1). Siberians have been found to produce smaller amounts of the protein than other cat breeds. This means that Siberian cats aren’t completely non-allergenic, but you’re way less likely to react with them. Currently, I’m living with three cats and rarely experience allergy flare-ups from them.
If you are considering adopting a Siberian, I’d recommend doing some extensive research on the breeder that you’ll be buying from. My family had a bad experience with our first breeder, but a fantastic one with the second breeder. I’d also recommend looking into how allergic you actually are to cats. My allergies to cats aren’t very severe, so I can stand the lower levels of Fel d1, however, some people have incredibly severe reactions to the Fel d1 protein, so even owning a cat with lower levels is out of the question. Each cat has it’s own Fel d1 level, so you should test out the specific cat/kitten you’re looking at.
In 2011, we adopted our first cat, Gimlet Grace. When she was still a baby, she bonded with my mom a lot when she was supposed to be my cat, so we decided to adopt another cat. We bought Maximillian (Max) from the same breeder we bought Gimlet from.
After we had Gimmie and Max for a couple of years, Max passed away due to a complication of his heart murmur. He developed saddle thrombosis. This is a blood clot in the back legs that makes it impossible for the cat to move. There was no way to save him.
The breeder we had originally bought our kitties from had a health guarantee, stating that she would pay vet bills for anything unexpected, like Max’s passing was. However, right before he had passed, she went out of business, and for this reason, refused to pay the vet bills. This is why I would definitely recommend looking into the breeder you’re buying cats from, to be sure that they’re going to keep their word and their cats are healthy.
After Max’s passing, my mom and I looked into several different breeders and found Deedlebugs Siberians in Webster, Minnesota.
We adopted our other two cats, Nikolai (Niko) and Kazimir (Kaz) from Dede Barsness, who owns Deedlebugs. I was able to conduct an interview with Dede.
Q: What do you know about the allergen levels of Siberians?
A: Most cat allergies are caused by the glycoprotein called Fel d1, Feline domesticus allergen number 1. Siberians have been shown to have reduced levels of Fel d1 allergen, but are thought to have normal amounts of other allergens.
Q: Why did you want to start raising Siberians?
A: Originally, I began looking at the Siberians because of their lower allergen quality. We have a son with cat allergies, and I have a mild cat allergy. I simply wanted a cat. Staring a business from my home was a natural direction for me. I was already working part-time from home. The end result was different from my original thinking. I did not expect to make the personal connections that have come to be.
Q: Is it hard to part with the kittens when you’re selling them?
A: The short answer is yes! I spend much of my day with my kittens and really get to know them. Then, I hand them over to their new family and I get paid for my weeks of work. I often feel quite torn. My focus quickly moves to the next litter and I am able to move on.
Q: What’s your favorite part of raising cats?
A: I enjoy meeting their needs. I approach the cats as well as others in my life with the thought, “What can I do for you today?”
Q: What’s the worst part of raising cats?
A: “…Males can be unpredictable. I can’t approach my breeders [cats used for breeding] as pets nor can I offer them the lifestyle of a pet. The best I can do is to retire them after a few years of age and place them as pets to be loved and adored.
Also, any illnesses that might come. I can’t fix everything and that’s difficult for me personally.
Q: If you could do anything different about your business, what would it be?
A: I think I would have one area designed for and dedicated to my business and not have it scattered throughout my house. Having a place for everything and everything in its place would be nice, relaxing.
Dede is a wonderful woman and we are so thankful that we were able to find her and adopt two of her cats. Siberians are very unique cats and we’re very lucky to have our three babies in our home.