Is An Allergy to Cats Partly in the Mind?

Cat allergy
Is it partly a mental process?
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

When people have an allergy to cats a prominent factor magnifying the symptoms might be psychological.

Why do I say this? Well, a company, Circassia, in the UK has developed a cat allergy drug.

This sort of drug would be very profitable because a significant percentage of people are said to be allergic to domestic cats; millions of people are allergic to cats.

In a trial of this drug called Cat-SPIRE, it was found that the drug was successful in reducing allergy symptoms by around 60%. There were 1,245 participants across Europe, Russia and North America. Great. The drug works…they thought.

The problem is that a placebo worked as efficiently as the drug. When people took a placebo it greatly reduced their allergy symptoms by the same amount.

This surprised the manufacturers of the drug. “Who could predict that a placebo could have such a massive effect?” said chief executive Steve Harris.

It is thought that the placebo effect suggests that participants exaggerated the severity of the allergic reaction to cats at the beginning of the trial. However, they don’t know why, in truth, the placebo effect was so strong.

However, it made me think why a placebo had such a pronounced effect. My only thought is that people who believe that they have an allergy to cats exaggerate the symptoms of their allergy because of psychological factors. They probably have a genuine allergy but it is magnified and the symptoms made worse because of their thought processes concerning the presence of a domestic cat.

If this is true, a form of treatment for people who suffer from an allergy to cats could be some sort of psychotherapy in which the anxiety felt by the person in the presence of a cat is reduced. It may be that some people who are allergic to cats simply become anxious in the presence of cats which then magnifies their allergy symptoms through some normal, human response nervous mechanism.

I would suggest that scientists look into this more seriously because perhaps a way of reducing cat allergies is not to manufacture a pill but to consider consulting with a psychologist or a psychotherapist to talk through anxieties thereby reducing the allergy symptoms.

Circassia Pharmaceuticals lost two-thirds of its value as a result of the trials! They may have dump the idea of manufacturing a cat allergy pill.

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8 thoughts on “Is An Allergy to Cats Partly in the Mind?”

  1. I agree that for many, their cat allergy symptoms are psychosomatic. Strange how dander never affects them unless a cat is also present 😉

    A childhood friend did suffer an extreme reaction to their pet cat, but her only symptom was several fatty cysts which suddenly developed on her body and face. The local hospital were baffled and sent samples away for further analysis. She was very unhappy with the results because it meant her parents re-homed the cat.

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  2. According to my MIL my husband was so allergic to the world he should have been in a bubble. And in the next breath she would tell how they kept baby goats in their children’s rooms at night. They had dogs, cats, rabbits and poultry.
    I believe this claim was self serving to her own needs. We have cats in the house and I have yet to see a horrible allergic reaction. In fact his only allergies are outside during high pollen season.
    There are people who are truly allergic but I don’t think it’s so easy to claim I’m allergic to cats. It is one of the big reasons cats are dumped at shelters. And in most cases I think it’s an absolute lie.

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  3. It is my belief that true allergies to cats is rare.
    Dander, ofcourse, could render an asthmatic attack with some people. But, for the most part, people who claim to be allergic, just dislike cats.
    I’ve seen and heard it a thousand times. I’m of the age where I have asked people to hold or come near a cat (with the understanding that I will pay any medical bills), just to see if they develop weeping eyes, red noses, and sneezing. Not one has accepted my offer.
    They are bogus.

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  4. This is not surprising. I know someone who claims to be allergic to cats. Her symptoms only appear when her husband wants to visit and she doesn’t. Her fake sneezing starts when she’s ready to leave.

    How do I know it’s fake? She’s stayed the entire weekend several times over maby years without any problems.

    If she were as highly allergic as she pretends to be, her symptoms would be present when we visit her as our clothes carry cat hair every where we go.

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    • Neat and thanks for commenting on this. I have a feeling that quite a lot of cat allergies are in the mind or just deliberate for a convenient reason of the type you have referred to.

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    • Exactly. It’s a fake allergy.
      My clothing, my home, my car is filled with cat hair and dander. No one coming in contact with any of this could fain allergies.
      Any true friend would tell you, upfront, that they just don’t care for cats.
      I would respect that more than a lie.

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    • Just to clear the air, we have a different friend that is truly allergic to cats, even though he has outdoor cats. Once he has come in contact with one, he needs to clean the area to prevent a legitimate and visible reaction. They also affect his breathing.

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