The behaviour of the young girl in the video interacting with the family cat should be the parenting objective of all mothers and fathers as it will promote animal welfare going forward and improve the lives of both the cat and the child in the video. Of course, the parenting includes educating the child to respect the cat and to understand cat behavior to avoid untoward scratches.
There might some associated benefits for the child. You may already be aware of them but I’ll briefly touch on them for the sake of clarity.
One question that comes to mind when looking at this video is whether it is good for the child in terms of bolstering their immune system so that they are less allergic to allergens produced by animals. I’m thinking of the feline allergen called Fel D1 which is in the saliva of cats and ends up on their coat. It is also secreted in the sebaceous glands.
It causes people to become allergic to cats. Can this kind of interaction that we see in the video between child and cat help to prevent the child – when they are an adult – becoming allergic to cats? The WebMD website says that “some studies have shown that exposure to pets as a young child seems to reduce the risk of developing pet allergies later. On the other hand, a child who already has allergic tendencies may become worse with exposure to a pet.”
That would tell us that if a child does not have a tendency to be allergic to allergens, they will possibly or probably benefit from the kind of interaction we see in the video. Whereas, a child who is sensitive to allergens may become more sensitive because of these interactions.
A study published online in THE LANCET journal starts with the suggestion that “a cat in the house can decrease the risk of asthma”. They investigated this immune response with a wide range of allergen exposure. 226 children participated, 47 of which had symptoms of asthma and bronchial hyperreactivity.
They state that in contrast to exposure to the mite which increased sensitivity, “the highest exposure to [a] cat was associated with decreased sensitisation, but a higher prevalence of IgG antibody to Fel D1.
Their interpretation of the data is that exposure by children to the cat allergen can produce an IgG and IgG4 antibody response without sensitisation or risk of asthma. My interpretation is that the body reacts to the allergen and produces an antibody but “animals in the house may decrease the risk of asthma” which, by the way, is what is said by cat owner observation of their children i.e. anecdotal evidence.
Occupational therapy for autism
There is a lot on the occupational therapy of incorporating animals for children with autism. To my knowledge, it is universally recognised that children with autism can enhance their lives after interacting with animals including of course domestic cats.
You don’t have to look far for a study on the topic. For example, in the American Occupational Therapy Association journal they have the summary of a study which concluded that, “Results suggest that the children demonstrated significantly greater use of language and significantly greater social interaction in sessions incorporating animals when compared to sessions using exclusively standard occupational therapy techniques.
Comment: clearly, using animals as occupational therapy for kids with autism is recognised as one of the most successful methods and is superior to conventional methods as at 2006. Since that date there has no doubt been more work on this topic to reinforce that finding I would expect.
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