Dear Annie: Severe cat allergy has family member miserable at aunt’s Thanksgiving celebrations

Dear Annie: My parents, brother and I all live several states away, about a day’s drive between any two points in our geographic triangle. My aunt is roughly a central point between all of us and has invited us for Thanksgiving, where we end up going roughly every other year. My mom and I are hosts on the alternate years.

I am quite fond of my aunt, but I have a very severe cat allergy, and she has two cats. She goes to great lengths to clean the house, and I go to great lengths to take every allergy prevention under the sun, but still within minutes of arriving, I have itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and itchy nose, and respiratory distress (wheezing within minutes and using my inhaler so much I get heart palpitations). For what it’s worth, I have discussed this with doctors as well on many occasions.

It’s all too easy for those without severe allergies to brush it off and think it’s an overreaction, and I am not sure what to do.

My aunt lives in a cold-weather climate, so my usual repertoire of spending most of the holiday on the porch or in my car and only coming inside for short bursts isn’t exactly pleasant, and I end up spending most of the day alone.

I’ve suggested that this year, I will show up late and leave early, which did not go over well. I suspect that was because the women in my family always clean up the dishes after the meal, something that has bugged me to no end on principle. My brother has never in his life been asked to clean a dish at a family gathering.

It is generational gender assignment perpetuation, but a family gathering doesn’t feel like the right place for me to make a scene on ethics. Annie, what should I do? I want to see my family, especially as I am worried my dad may not have many holidays left. However, driving for hours and spending one or two nights in a hotel just to be with my family for a day to sit alone in the cold, or to be in an environment I physically cannot bear and then do the dishes because of my gender, doesn’t sound like a particularly fair deal. I’m disappointed in the collective lack of awareness of both the gender nonsense as well as lack of appreciation for the seriousness of my allergic reaction.

I also feel guilty that my aunt spends a day sanitizing her house for my allergy, which, sadly, is too severe to really be mitigated.

Having Thanksgiving at another location is not an option. We have no other family, and my aunt enjoys hosting us. Apart from not going, what would you suggest as fair in such a situation? — Allergic to Thanksgiving

Dear Allergic: That must be really difficult to be so allergic to cats. Could your aunt board her cats for a few days? You could use the money you were going to spend on a hotel on that. As for the “gender roles” that bother you, it is her house and her rules. So if she wants to do the dishes and expects the other women to help out, I would go along.

No family is perfect, and the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with your father in his later years will never come again. At the same time, if the allergic reaction persists despite efforts by you and your aunt, then stick to your guns about showing up late and leaving early.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to


We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Lazy Cork
Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart