Can you desensitize your immune system to the domestic cat allergen?
Another way of asking this question is: can a person who is allergic to domestic cats reduce his or her sensitivity through exposure to them?
The answer would seem to be that for many people it is possible to desensitize themselves to the allergen in domestic cat saliva which causes the allergic reaction, the symptoms of which are well known such as sneezing, itchy, red or watery eyes and a runny nose etc.. Also, on a wider issue, doctors say that people can outgrow their allergies. This supports the notion that they disappear if one persists.
You probably know that the specific protein allergen that causes this reaction is called Fel D1. There is actually a cat food out at the moment, LiveClear, which subdues the allergen which in turn results in less of an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to it. You might look at that.
Note: if I was allergic to cats what I would do is adopt a cat and feed her with Purina LiveClear which should subdue the allergic reaction and I would give myself several months to see whether my immune system became desensitised to the allergen. I would then reassess the situation after several months. The reason is that some people, as mentioned, can lose their allergy to a large extent to the point where it becomes acceptable and cat ownership becomes viable. You would need a backstop position to accommodate failure. You would have to adopt out your cat if you simply could not adjust. That’s the downside to this idea.
In this article, I want to refer to a story on the Quora.com website which has received lots of views and up votes about a guy, Davey Taylor, who adopted a black cat. The story of the adoption and the journey thereafter is interesting.
He was with his wife on a wet night when he got into his car. A black cat with a white locket (tuxedo) was lurking around the car and when he got in the cat followed and climbed onto his shoulders. This cat was in a bad way which is unsurprising seeing that it transpired that the cat was domesticated but abandoned. This cat desperately wanted to live with a human being and foisted himself upon Mr Taylor to insist that he take him home.
But Mr Taylor was at that time allergic to cats. So, while this cat was climbing all over him, he was asking himself and his wife, in his words, “WHAT THE FUCK IS IT DOING??!?”.
Despite his aversion to cats and the wounds that he says that were being incurred on his neck, they decided to do the decent thing and get advice as to what to do next. They walked down to the local vet surgery, with the cat still affixed to Mr Taylor, and the lady who worked there was involved in a local animal support group. She suggested that they put the cat into a cage until they could find out if the cat had an owner.
Feeling sorry for the fella they decided to take the cat home to care for him there for the time being. He stressed in his quora.com post that:
“The cat was dirty, had ticks, fleas, skin infections, ear infections, worms and was in obvious psychological distress.”
Anyway, the cat’s owner was found but they had kids who were “beating up the cat”. Rather than educate their children on how to handle a domestic cat they kicked the cat out instead. The result: the cat was homeless and even when he had a home he had been badly treated.
Armed with this knowledge they decided to give him a fighting chance. They spent a minor fortune on him to get his health up to scratch. Throughout this excellent privately funded treatment, Mr Taylor suffered terribly with his allergy to cats. He said he ‘pushed through’ nonetheless. It was a tough time; painful for both of them: him and the cat.
But here’s the deal: Mr Taylor found that over a period of many months his “body started getting used to having ‘cat’ in the air all of the time and my allergies started to fade, in direct opposition to what doctors have always told me should happen.”
And it wasn’t just his cat allergy, he said. Mr Taylor has allergies to pollen, dogs and contact allergies. They all improved significantly over the next two years.
Five years later this mangy black cat who insisted on being taken home by the Taylor family is now named Sheldon and he is a treasured part of the family. Mr Taylor said that he could not imagine living without him as he is the perfect pet. His fur is beautiful and soft. It glistens and shimmers in the sunlight. He is perfectly behaved. Sheldon follows him when he goes for a walk and keeps the place free of mice.
Sheldon always thanks his human companions by gently rubbing against their legs when they open the door to give him food. And the good thing about this story is that Mr Taylor says that he….
“..can now go outdoors in the summer without being destroyed by allergies, the family has gained a wonderful friend and Sheldon gives us more than enough love to go around.”
I am not allergic to cats. However, it is a known fact that unneutered male cats are more likely to have a higher percentage of cat allergens in their saliva and therefore provoke a stronger allergic reaction. I was allergic to a certain extent to a beautiful stray, male cat who came to my flat at that time around 12 years ago. I found that my allergic reaction faded over the many months that he visited my home.
I would, therefore, support Mr Taylor’s viewpoint in that a person’s overreactive immune system to the Fel D1 allergen can be desensitised if one is able to put up with the symptoms when in the vicinity of a cat. And you only have to be in the vicinity to feel the symptoms. This is because the allergen is in the saliva and the saliva is deposited on the cat’s fur. It dries and is released into the atmosphere and these particles of saliva combined with fur called dander are then deposited on furniture throughout the home.
Increase in human allergies inc. asthma – reason? – children allergic to cats – spread of cat/dog allergen – environment – lifestyle
Desensitizing babies to the cat allergen?
Cat snuggles up to baby: beautiful and mutually beneficial (supported by science)
Alec Baldwin’s regrettably false reason for not adopting a rescue cat for his daughter
Allergy to cats VERSUS mild common cold symptoms
Yvie Jones says that a cat allergy gave her hives. Is she sure?
How do I know if I have cat allergies?
Can you be allergic to cats but not to dogs?