It seems counterintuitive but a family cat in the household can help prevent asthma developing in children. It is about exposing these kids to the allergens early.
The same benefits don’t apply to dogs. Children under five years of age carrying a genetic variant called TT genotype associated with a higher risk of contracting asthma benefited the most from having a cat around the home.
The presence of a family cat provided little benefit to children with a low risk of developing asthma.
‘We found a consistently lower risk of asthma after cat exposure among children with the high-risk TT genotype.’ (Dr Jakob Stokholm lead author of the study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology).
How does it work? It is believed that exposure to the allergens in cat hair boosts the child’s immune system as it develops. Adults have fully formed immune systems.
Why are cats more affective than dogs? Probably because cats use children’s beds more leaving the allergens on bedding where it is inhaled by the child.
The exposure to cats should be in early life: under 12 years of age for maximum benefit. This information is important because asthma in children is growing because of increased pollution in the atmosphere it is believed. It is good for cats too.