Love Cats But Are Allergic To Them. Are There Hypoallergenic Kitties?
Are you an avid cat lover but unfortunately also allergic to them? I can’t imagine how exasperating it must be for those people who are undergoing a conflict that is so incredibly frustrating.
Years ago when I discovered a company called Lifestyle Pets offering “scientifically proven” hypoallergenic” cats for sale that they developed using a “highly selective process” I thought to myself “here was an option for folks longing to be owned by a cat, but were sadly allergic to them”. I hoped these kitties could be an answer to their prayers.
But my initial optimism concerning “hypoallergenic” cats faded away shortly after learning that Lifestyle pets were selling these cats for an astronomical cost. The price of these “hypoallergenic” cats was only within the reach of affluent buyers. Additionally, if prospective clients’ allergy tests revealed high levels of feline allergen, Lifestyle Pets refused to sell a kitten to these people. I couldn’t help but wonder what “dirty little secret” was up Lifestyle Pet’s sleeves.
Allerca kittens (whose appearance is identical to a domestic shorthair cat) were fetching $4,000 USD in 2006. Today the company is asking $8,950 USD for Allerca kittens. In 2006, the Ashera GD, (the larger of the “hypoallergenic cats”) was about $22,000 USD. Today one would have to shell out as much as between 26,950 USD up to $125,000 USD to buy a cat whose appearance is identical to the Savannah breed¹.
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According to their website, Lifestyle Pets kittens sell at 13 weeks-of-age and come with a complete and updated vaccination records upon delivery. Also included in the kitten’s cost is a Lifestyle airline “certified” cat carrier, a veterinary health certificate (required for travel), and a one year replacement guarantee in the event of [the kitten’s] death through accident or illness.
After I watched a recent re-airing of the ABC’s “20/20” investigation into Lifestyle Pets, my suspicions were entirely validated that these cats are no more hypoallergenic than the average stray cat roaming through your neighborhood.
ABC’s Lookout Team submitted a sample of cat hair for study to Indoor Biotechnologies, a company that specializes in allergy, asthma and indoor air quality. After finishing their study, the company concluded that:
..while” [Allerca’s] claim is based on the Fel d 1 allergen [four Allerca cats] being somehow different than that perhaps of normal cats. … That difference is something that we weren’t able to show when we look at the immune response of allergic patients.”
Based on Indoor Biotechnologies findings, the Lookout Team said:
“Indoor Biotechnologies found that the four Allerca cats it tested, including two from owners who thought their cats did cause fewer allergic reactions, were no more hypoallergenic than other cats.”
Remember the old fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? In my humble opinion its message fits this scam to a “T”.
Making matters even more disgusting, after interviewing Allerca Cat’s founder, Simon Brodie, pressing for answers, they learned that a classic brown tabby, one of the Allerca cats that he was selling for $8,950 USD, was purchased from a British Shorthair breeder in London for $250 USD. The Ashera cats turned out to be Savannah cats, but sold as “hypoallergenic” to buyers at a skyrocketing price tag.
My heart goes out to the people who have been snookered by the “hypoallergenic cats” and have paid dearly for these cats; some of which have never been delivered to the buyer. I think it is nothing but a dirty, rotten scam.
Unfortunately there are no cats that are 100% hypoallergenic (although some individual cats might produce less Fel D1 allergen than others). Some breeds such as the Rex cats, Bengal and the Sphynx and others are sometimes claimed to have some hypoallergenic properties. The Siberian is often claimed to be hypoallergenic but tests prove otherwise.
Most folks think that it’s the fur to which people are allergic, it’s the dander (flakes of skin mixed with saliva – containing the Fel D1 allergen) that causes allergies. All cats shed dander. Ahhhchoo! Michael actually argues that the problem is as much about people as it is about cats.
There are ways in which cat allergies can be minimized with regular vacuuming, washing hands after touching a cat, and of course getting allergy shots.
So if you’re allergic to cats and have sufficient spare cash to purchase a“hypoallergenic” kitty, don’t bother. Save your money. Make a sizable donation to an animal shelter.
How do you feel about this outrageous scam? Tell us in a comment.
Refs and sources:
- photo credit Flicker User: AussieGold
Sarah,, WOW, what a great article!
Thanks for sharing that! A fantastic read. This man and his company sure has a huge set of stones! I just hope that he will pay dearly for these outrageous scams in the very near future. I am so glad that ABC re-aired their 20/20 show about Brodie and his “snake oil” cats.
There’s still a “Brodie-watch” going on and various sites post up-to-date details of his latest schemes. I had more info from another investigative individual that couldn’t be published as I couldn’t get independent verification. Needless to say, it involved living the high life at the expense of others.
This person has been watched for half a decade or more by various individuals on the Internet. I can remember 5 years ago concerned people posting blogs about him and how he was buying Savannah cats and calling them Ashera GDs. I remember one of the cats was abandoned or confiscated in Holland I think it was. It is amazing to me that he’s still going.
I’m one of those watchers 🙂 I also agreed to be a one-stop-shop (repository) for findings.
I did a detailed investigation into the whole Brodie/Ashera scam and his other scams. There are now people keeping an eye out for his latest scams, which hopefully won’t involve cats. I made the info freely available to other’s investigating these cats:
I just don’t get it. If you have allergies to ceertain things, you just have allergies. I do not see how one cat dander differs from another. Just my opinion.
I think you will find that the amount of the cat allergen in some cats is greater than in other cats. It is said that unneutered male cats are more likely to cause an allergic reaction in people. It is about quantity not type of allergen.
I found an interesting article on feline allergies to share. In addition to unneutered male cats, apparently intact females are also to blame for an increased risk.
It is truly sad to me that someone is preying on allergic people to make money. I feel sorry for the people that are allergic. They fork over a LOT of money for these cats. If they are truly allergic the cat is probably returned or re homed or worse. If the allergy is psychosomatic then they are happy. It doesn’t matter either way.
I honestly believe that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat. My sister currently lives with a Spynx. Although the hair is minimal the cat has to frequently have a bath and has other health related issues. Sad to say but when I saw this story, years ago, about hypoallergenic cats I was very skeptical. Thanks for the update on this issue. Someday I hope that all allergic people will be able to hold and love the cat of their dreams.
The fact that Lifestyle Pets has not yet gone out of business (I believe I am correct in saying that) indicates that people are, on the face of it, less allergic to their cats than other cats but as you say this may simply be for psychosomatic reasons. If that is true then an allergic reaction to a cat might be partly psychosomatic. There may be a link to being frightened of a cat which brings on an allergic reaction. I do not know but it does seem strange that this business still runs.
What I found most interesting, Michael- about the folks who purchased the cats and claimed that their allergy symptoms had been greatly diminished brings up two questions here. Were they truly allergic- or was something psychosomatic connected with their “allergy” or.. had they psyched themselves into believing that the cat didn’t affect them as much as other cats, since they had just paid an outlandish amount of money for their cat- justifying the expense.
There is NO scientific evidence that these cats are any more hypoallergenic than the average “stray”, or in fact any other breed. So this is puzzling to me.
I think it’s disgusting how companies can capitalize on things like this. They have done it with hypoallergenic dogs as well. There is no such thing, in my opinion, as a hypoallergenic animal that has fur. Just my thoughts.
I forgot to add what I thought about this scam. It is a scam and perhaps the best-known scam in the cat world. The trouble is, there are many scams in the world. In fact half the world is scamming the other half. And what about the unscrupulous cat breeders of purebred cats, and there are a few, who scam people as well by selling cats that are ill and then refusing to reimburse stating that the new owner is at fault through poor cat caretaking.
To be honest, I am not surprised about this particular scam but as you say it is bad. I also have to say that I am a bit surprised that it is still going on because so much has been written about Lifestyle Pets you would have thought that they would be gone bust by now.
Wow very interesting. I think I even read about a couple who wanted one of these cats because of this problem.
yea i know my ex bf mum allergic to cat fur so cant cope with the fur. She was able to cope with getting a cat for rat and mice control she got it from a rescue group she takes medicine for her allergies. Shes mostly a dog person but tolerates cats but doesnt really like them. which i feel is sad but i guess everyone is different
It is interesting that your mother is allergic to cats but not allergic to dogs because people can be allergic to dogs. Less people are allergic to dogs than to cats but apparently about 10% of the population are in fact allergic to dogs. That figure is not that dissimilar to allergies to cats.
yea it was my exs mum. I dont think she really likes cats to be honest.
The cat allergy is an interesting thing. It varies depending upon the individual cat – tomcats can be the worst – and it varies between people. It may even vary depending upon the age of the person and how much the person has been exposed to cats over his life.
There are lots of variables and another is the cat breeds. It may be the case that some breeds tend to be better than others but I see no evidence of it.
There were lots of claims about the Siberian cat being hypoallergenic but it appears to have been all anecdotal; probably claims made by breeders to support the sale of their cats.
There is no doubt that there is a significant number of people who love cats but cannot keep them because they are allergic to them, which is very sad. Some cat lovers struggle on nonetheless which is heroic.
I have never been allergic to cats until I adopted my late mother’s cat, Charlie. I would not say I was allergic to him as very slightly allergic to him. It has faded somewhat over the time I have kept him.
However, sometimes, I am not sure whether my sniffly nose is due to my allergy to Charlie or a mild cold. It makes me wonder.
There may be a injection coming out or maybe is already out which calms the person’s allergy to cats.