Is the domestic cat allergen Fel d 1 a toxic defence to keep predators away?

About one in ten people are allergic to domestic cats. This is because of a protein, the allergen Fel d 1, in their saliva which is deposited on their fur, which dries and floats off into the environment as cat dander. It’s a remarkably problematic aspects of our relationship with domestic cats.

Domestic cats and slow lorises have something on common: the protein that makes people allergic to cats.

Domestic cats and slow lorises
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Domestic cats and slow lorises have something on common: the protein that makes people allergic to cats. Picture of American SH: Helmi Flick. Slow loris in public domain.

As it happens, the slow loris, a cute looking but venomous primate produces a very similar protein in its armpit glands. When threatened, these fluff monsters put their hands up and lick the glands under their armpits. This allows them to add this protein and other compounds to their spit which is then deposited in the wounds that they make when fighting predators. It causes the wounds to heal very slowly which enhances the prospect of them defending themselves successfully against predators.

This begs the question whether the domestic cat’s allergen exists the same reason. It sounds rather extreme but it is nonetheless an interesting hypothesis. The scientists who carried out a study which is discussed on the website say that the human’s allergy to cats is so commonplace that it would be a strange coincidence if the allergen hadn’t evolved as a defensive weapon in the way the protein used by slow lorises. Obviously this is speculative and a further study is required.

COMMENT: having giving this some thought, as I must, it seems that the suggestion is unlikely although somewhat compelling because of the very similar nature of the protein produced by these two species. The fact is that the wild cat, the North African Wildcat, which came in out of the wild to domesticate itself with the approval of humans, would not have behaved in this way if it considered the human a predator against which it had to defend itself. That said the physiology of the wildcat has been in place for perhaps hundreds of thousands of years and its origins may have been as a defensive system which subsequently became redundant when the wildcat decided to become a domestic cat.

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Therefore, it seems possible that the cat allergen which so inconveniences many cat owners and prevents many others from adopting a cat despite their love of felines is a redundant defensive system to help fight off predators.


Sinusitis in humans caused by cats?

Can cats cause sinusitis in people who are NOT allergic to cats?

Google does not help me in answering the question in the title. I'll have to work it out. Although the ...
Read More
Immunotherapy drops

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 ...
Read More
Why does the Fel D1 protein cause an allergic response?

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

We know that the cat allergen which is the cat's saliva and which is also secreted by the sebaceous glands ...
Read More
Cats and babies in harmony together

Is cat dander bad for babies?

Is cat dander bad for babies? My answer based on careful research is that it is probably or possibly good ...
Read More
Purina Live Clear

Cat lovers who are allergic to cats wait patiently for a true hypoallergenic cat

I had hoped to write that the wait might be over for cat lovers who seek a truly hypoallergenic cat ...
Read More
Passengers sensitive to the cat allergen can have symptoms on public transport

Passengers sensitive to the cat allergen can have symptoms on public transport

In an interesting, eye-opening, study conducted in Helsinki, Finland and published on October 9, 2008, scientists found that "Dog and ...
Read More

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 ...
Read More
Author Margaret Atwood in Tallinn, Estonia

Margaret Atwood is adopting Siberian kittens as she is mildly allergic to cats

Margaret Atwood's last two cats before a long intermission in cat ownership were Blackie who was a very big part ...
Read More
Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *