Allergic to cats? Most of the problem is to do with you! About 15-25 percent of people are allergic to cats to varying degrees1. The blame for being allergic to cats should be shifted from the cat to people.

If we are to apportion blame or fault, and some people do, new research3 indicates that people are more to blame than the cat. Here is the argument behind that statement.

A cat allergen is something that causes an allergic reaction. The cat allergen that causes a cat allergy is called Fel D1. You can read about it on this page. Let’s just say it is in cat dander and cat dander contains dead skin cells. Fel D1 is a protein on these skin cells that comes from cat saliva and glands in the skin and it is very small. You can forget the rest of the science, I think. All animals with skin shed millions of skin cells every 24 hours and that applies to people as well.

The Fel D1 allergen interacts with a bacterial toxin that is common in the environment. The toxin is called Lipopolysaccharide (LPS). This toxin is a major part of a certain type of bacteria that is found in the gut of people. This type of bacteria is called “gram-negative”.

The interaction between Fel D1 and this toxin causes the allergic reaction in people. An allergic reaction occurs when the person’s immune system overreacts causing sneezing, itching and watery eyes etc. A person’s immune system incorrectly sees the cat dander as an invading health hazard when it is not2.

To recap. The cat sheds skin cells just like us. A substance on the dead skin cells that mainly come from a cat’s saliva reacts with a toxin that comes from bacteria in us. That reaction causes the person’s immune system to be confused and it overreacts causing the allergic reaction.

In that scenario or chain of events where, on balance, do you think the blame for a cat allergy lies? The answer has to be people.

But for the toxin produced by bacteria in our gut there would no allergic reaction.

Fortunately, this research opens the door to a “cure” of sorts for the cat allergy. There is a treatment that stops the specific response (TLR4 response) of the human’s body, under these conditions, that causes the allergic reaction.

We will see what happens next. Any cure for the cat allergy is worth millions.

Associated page: Top breeds for allergies

  3. University of Cambridge researchers. I am yet to see the actual document.


  1. 3D rendering of the Fel d 1 dimer, the primary allergen present in cat saliva – Wikimedia commons file
  2. The cat dandruff photo is copyright Michael at PoC.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I am 70-years-of-age at 2019. For 14 years before I retired at 57, I worked as a solicitor in general law specialising in family law. Before that I worked in a number of different jobs including professional photography. I have a longstanding girlfriend, Michelle. We like to walk in Richmond Park which is near my home because I love nature and the landscape (as well as cats and all animals).

View Comments

  • It's still possible in some areas to get a referral from your GP to an allergy clinic where you can have a series of tests done to establish exactly what your allergy is to. Then it's often possible to have follow up where tiny, diluted amounts of the allergin are put on your skin in increasing amounts over a period of time, this teaches the body's immune system to gradually ignore the allergen.

    This kind of exposure therapy got a bad name back in the 80s because it was delivered via GP clinics and they weren't really equipped to do it safely. A few people had serious anaphylactic reactions and eventually the service was dropped. But it is still available, just through properly equipped hospital clinics

    I think it would be much better for people to be cured of their allergy than burdening the cat with yet another treatment.

  • Yes it is worth millions - and it might save millions of cats although I suppose many of those handed in to shelters with the 'allergy (all of a sudden)' excuse will just have to find another excuse.

    However I have heard many times stories of people who really want a cat but can't because of this issue - so it would be nice. If the percentage of people wit this problem is that high it could mean alot of new homes for cats - I hope so. The next step of course will be trying to make it known to the general public. A TV commercial would be the best I suppose.

  • I hope there is soon a treatment for allergy to cats then it will be one less excuse people can use to relinquish their unwanted cat, although I suppose they will think up another excuse instead.
    Yes it's peoples faults, everything is, but many find it much easier to blame cats.

    • I thought the argument was neat because people see the cat as causing the cat allergy when in fact humans contribute more to the cause of the cat allergy than cats.

      If there is a simple "cure" it would be very beneficial for the cat I feel.

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