Desensitizing babies to the cat allergen?

This is a discussion no more. I am thinking aloud but I’d suggest that more should be done to remove the problem of an allergic reaction to the domestic cat in the interests of both people and cats.

A major problem

An allergy to the domestic cat is given as a reason for giving up a pet cat to a shelter or the return of the cat to a shelter in around 5-15% of all cases of relinquishment (giving up a cat – abandonment). Being allergic to cats is in the top 3 to 5 reasons for surrender to a shelter. It’s an important aspect of cat ownership.

It’s a great shame that the cat carries this allergen, Fel D1, which is deposited on the fur in their saliva and which dries on the fur and then flies off to land on furniture and carpets and bedding et cetera to have such a negative impact. The allergen is everywhere in the home which, incidentally, points to one way to reactively deal with it.

Cat Allergy
Photo Andrew Goloida
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Control measures in home

Control measures such as removing carpets and soft furnishings from bedding and washing your cat twice weekly showed a greater than 90% reduction in allergic reactions in one study. A success although I don’t agree with washing a cat twice weekly as there will be negative health consequences. But certainly, a hard floor rather than carpets helps.

Anti-allergen food

There are other measures to control and suppress the feline allergen. Perhaps the best currently on the market is Purina’s Pro Plan Live Clear cat food which incorporates chicken egg-derived anti-Fel D1 antibodies into cat food. I hear it’s reasonably successful (see link at base of page).

Purina LiveClear cat food to prevent people being allergic to their cats
Purina LiveClear cat food to prevent people being allergic to their cats. Source: Nestlé Purina PetCare

Early age desensitising

Most measures are reactive. What about a proactive measure in desensitising people to the cat allergen? My thoughts turned to this method because of a story in the newspapers today about another common allergy, this time to peanuts. A study indicates that peanut allergy incidences could drop by 77% if the diet of babies between the age of 4-6 months contained peanut products. In adopting this method, it would be desensitising a person to Fel D1 at a very young age.

The researchers said that there is a window of opportunity in terms of age i.e. 4-6 months when a person can be desensitised to the allergy in peanuts resulting in a lifetime of much reduced allergic reaction to the substance.

The research published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology asks for the UK government to review advice about introducing solid foods to babies from around 6 months of age. Peanut allergy affects around 2% of children in the UK.

Immunotherapy

It is well known that immunotherapy is the repeated introduction of very small amounts of an allergen to allow the body to get used to it. The amount is gradually increased until the personal maximum dose is reached. This desensitises the person to the allergen.

Immunotherapy drops
Immunotherapy drops. Image in the public domain.

The allergen can be delivered by injection or in the form of drops or tablets in which case they are kept under the tongue (sublingual) for one or two minutes before they are swallowed.

Cat allergen desensitisation

I’ve not seen any literature on cat allergen desensitisation in babies. Can someone point to it? Perhaps it is impractical but perhaps not. It might be a practical way forward when bearing in mind the major impact that the cat allergen has upon cat ownership. It is a barrier to cat adoption and successful cat caregiving.

The conclusions of one study states that:

“The human-animal bond associated with cat ownership is frequently very strong, but the occurrence of cat allergies can have important implications. Objective data from published studies suggest that between 5% and 35% of potential owners avoid owning a cat or dog due to concerns about allergen”.

The majority of people allergic to cats keep their cat despite the relatively high percentage of relinquishments but this indicates that they struggle sometimes with their allergic reactions.

It would help a very large number of people and cats through increased adoptions if less people were sensitive to the cat allergen.

Review: Purina LiveClear Allergen Reducing Sterilised Adult Turkey cat food

WHY does the cat allergen Fel D1 cause an allergic reaction?

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