There is a TikTok video on the Internet of a beautiful cat snuggling up to his baby companion. The cat clearly loves this baby. He loves the smell and the contact. The cat is Teddy and the baby is William. It is the kind of video which attracts a lot of attention and this one has been seen over 9 million times.
However, it is not that unusual. I have seen many other similar videos. Cats like babies. They like the smell and we know that cats like human contact and warmth.
Teddy & Baby William 🥺❤️ this cat loves the little guy
Note: This is a video from another website which is embedded here. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.
This looks like a win-win situation with both mutually benefiting. However, some people might question it. They might ask whether the baby might get a disease from the cat. There are quite a lot of squeamish people. It’s the reason why a lot of cat owners keep their cat companions off the kitchen counter. I don’t incidentally. In fact, I feed my cat on the kitchen counter.
And what comes to my mind when I see this video is the issue of allergens. I don’t see the potential for transmission of a disease such as toxoplasmosis. That’s a red herring in this instance.
The real science behind this beautiful picture and video is whether the baby benefits by being desensitized to allergens by the presence of the feline allergen, Fel D1, on the cat’s fur in the form of dander.
Fortunately, there are some studies on this. In fact, there are two studies that I have picked up one of which concerns prenatal exposure to household pets. This study is about the benefits of domestic cat to unborn babies. The study is called: “Prenatal exposure to household pets influences people immunoglobulin E production”. The conclusion in the summary states that mothers with cats or dogs in the home during pregnancy give birth to children with “lower cord blood IgE levels compared to mothers who do not live with these pets”.
High IgE levels are indicative of an allergic disorder. Conversely, low IgE levels indicate, on my interpretation, the desensitisation to allergens and the ability of a baby to better cope with the presence of allergens in the environment. Therefore, the study on prenatal exposure indicates that babies benefit by being desensitised to allergens when cats and dogs live in the home with the pregnant mother.
Moving forward, another study called: “Role of current and childhood exposure to cat and atopic sensitisation”, comes to the same conclusion. In other words, when a baby is exposed to a domestic cat it makes them more robust in later life to the potential of becoming allergic to allergens.
That also is my interpretation. In the words of the scientists, they concluded that when a child is exposed to pets including cats, they were less sensitive to cats when they become adults. This particularly applies to families in which there is a history of atopy. Atopy means a hypersensitivity to allergens.
There is actually a third study which I can report on which concerns the exposure of newborn babies to second-hand smoke and pets. They found that the immunoglobulin E level was higher in male newborns than female newborns. They found that the IgE levels did not go up if their mothers (while pregnant) and their newborn babies were exposed to pets. This is less positive than the two studies mentioned above but it does indicate that when a baby is exposed to pets as we see in the video it either boosts the immune system or has no impact on.
I have inferred that because a baby develops a more robust immune system to the cat allergen that this may also have a generally beneficial impact on the immune system in being able to better deal with all allergens. This may be incorrect but it is my current assumption.
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