Categories: allergy

Can cats be allergic to feathers?

Can domestic cats be allergic to feather pillows and duvets? I ask because a recent newspaper story tells us that humans can be allergic to feathers in bedding. A guy called Martin Taylor developed ‘feather duvet lung’ and was signed off work with fatigue and breathlessness. He could barely stand.

It is a condition caused by breathing in the dust from duck or goose feathers in bedding. It is a severe allergic reaction to this dust. The cat’s fundamental anatomy is very similar to that of humans which indicates that cats could suffer from the same disease.

So is there anything, anywhere which confirms that cats can suffer in the same way? Well, my research found very little on the internet. However, there is a passing but telling comment about this condition in a book I have on cat health problems1.

Can cats be allergic to feathers? Yes, possibly. Picture in public domain with words added by PoC.

It is a section on flea bite dermatitis which drifts into a sentence on a feather allergy:

“If the cause of the allergy can be determined and eliminated from the cat’s environment, such as removing all feather pillows, that would be ideal.”

Nothing to do with fleas but a direct reference to the potential for domestic cats to be allergic to feathers in duvets and pillows.

It is just another possible hazard in the home for domestic cats. I expect it to be rare. However, the root cause of a lot of allergies are not discovered by veterinarians. The point I am making is that if a cat is suffering from a mysterious allergic reaction and it is proving impossible to track the allergen it might be sensible to change the feather pillows and duvet with synthetic ones.

For a house proud person that might sound awful but health and welfare come before status and comfort. Anyway synthetic duvets are just as good and you don’t have to pluck the feathers from a duck to make them.

Most duck feathers are plucked during slaughter, but ‘birds in breeding flocks and those raised for meat and foie gras (also very cruel) may be plucked repeatedly while they are still alive’ (PETA).

This causes pain and distress. All for a duck down duvet that might be causing your cat pain and distress as well. One last point: cats spend a lot of time on beds. All the more reason why feathers might cause an allergic reaction.

Note 1: Cat Owners Home Veterinary Handbook 3rd edition.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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