When your furry friend makes you sick
Is there such a thing as hypoallergenic pets?
Imagine being deprived of one of life’s greatest pleasures: Burying your face in the soft, fuzzy belly of your favourite animal. If you’ve been on the internet lately, it’s almost certain that you have googled adorable animals for some serious squee time.
But not all of us have that luxury, especially when allergies rear their ugly heads. Reactions to an animal’s saliva, urine or dander (cells shed from skin) can cause anything from a mild skin irritation, to a full-blown asthma attack.
Krista Helman, 22, developed allergies to her tortoiseshell cat, Brandy, after cohabitating with her cat for 17 years.
“I developed severe allergies to her and would get asthma attacks if I was close to her for too long,” she said.
After Helman was hospitalized following one of the attacks, she was faced with a heart-wrenching choice — get rid of Brandy or move out.
“I chose to move out. I was told by a handful of specialists that I simply cannot be around cats, including the feline friend who had been at my side since I was four years old,” she said.
Helman now carries an inhaler, and limits her time around cats. “If I walk into a house with a cat, my chest will tighten; if I hold a cat, I have to use a puffer.”
The company Allerca Lifestyle Pets, based out of southern California, boasts that they have bred a hypoallergenic breed of cat, (not one of those wrinkly hairless ones either!), but their claims go largely unsubstantiated by the scientific community.
The price tag of one of their mutant ”no-dander” creations will run a sneezy cat lover anywhere from $7,000 to a whopping $28,000 — which is one hell of a health care gamble on a living thing that requires love, affection and litterbox duties.
The claims made by Allerca are “backed up” with only one study of nine volunteers and one cat. Which is “too small a sample size to draw any conclusions,” said Dawn Smith on DecodedScience.com. “Allerca was unwilling to participate in a follow up study using more cats and people, so there is still no evidence for the existence of a hypoallergenic cat.”
Because the jury is still out on completely reaction-free fuzzy animals, individuals who have mild allergies to pet dander have other options than investing in iguanas or a school of fish.
There are many breeds of cats and dogs that are considered “less allergenic” than others, and are mainly breeds that require frequent grooming or bathing to remove the dander that they produce before it makes its way into our sensitive respiratory systems.
Diligent cleaning of furniture and fabrics in the home may combat allergic reactions from yourself or guests to your lovely abode, but it does not come as a guarantee. Refraining from touching your face and eyes with your dander-laden hands is also recommended for those of us who have the affinity to huff every kitten in sight and pet every dog at the park.