Kitty Conundrum Cleared Up: Scientists Create Cat Food that Reduces Allergy Symptoms
Citation: Ebenezer Satyaraj, Harold James Wedner, Jean Bousquet. Keep the cat, change the care pathway: A transformational approach to managing Fel d 1, the major cat allergen. Allergy. 2019;74 1075-17. DOI: 10.1111/all.14013
I’m allergic to my daughter. It’s a mild allergy, but our nightly snuggles always result in itchy eyes and a runny nose.
This is my adopted daughter Kimchi. Like many cats she is good at the following activities:
- eating food
- lying in sun beams
- being a fuzzy-wuzzy little baby
As an only child, Kimchi is quite needy. She demands attention and physical affection. That’s right! Contrary to what the pictures portray, Kimchi loves cuddles. Though waking up to her breathing heavily in my face is cute (and creepy) it always ends in disaster.
Luckily, my daughter and I may soon be able to embrace free of sneezes thanks to a promising new study.
Researchers at the Nestlé Purina Institute crafted a specialized cat food that reduces feline allergens.
Cat allergies stem from a protein called Fel d1. This protein is produced in the cat’s salivary glands. When our tiny fluffy friends groom themselves, they spread Fel d1 all over their bodies. The allergen clings to their fur and the tiny flecks of skin they shed known as dander.
Cat dander is incredibly tiny. It becomes airborne when you brush or pet your fur-baby. Dander can hang in the air for hours or settle on surfaces and remain present for up to a year. Cat dander is so invasive that even cat-free houses contain small traces of the stuff.
Cats have long held the title of least allergen-friendly domestic animal. Roughly 20 percent of adults suffer from cat allergies, so it is no surprise that scientists have been trying to solve this kitty conundrum for decades.
Researchers have developed various ways to treat cat allergens, but there is currently no real cure.
Many allergy sufferers rely on over-the-counter antihistamines to treat their symptoms. Antihistamines work by blocking the body’s production of histamines, a chemical compound released by the immune system in response to allergens. Histamines want allergens to “GTFO,” which leads to inflammation, sneezing and itching.
Antihistamines work for some allergy sufferers, but like all medications they often come with unwanted side effects. Also, they simply block the body’s response to an allergen without addressing the root issue.
Allergy shots are another commonly used method of treating allergies. By slowly injecting the body with small amounts of an allergen, the immune system builds up a tolerance. Overtime the body becomes less sensitive to the allergen.
Allergy shots are the only treatment on the market proven to reverse certain allergies. Unfortunately, the results seem to be temporary and the treatment requires getting upwards of a hundred shots. I don’t even mind needles, but that still sounds time consuming and terrible.
Some people have attempted to treat allergy issues at the fur-covered, toe-beaned source. One breeding company even claimed to design an allergy-free cat.
In 2006 Allerca opened their waiting list for “sniffle-proof kitties.” Allergy sufferers waited patiently for their hypoallergenic kittens. The few people who received an Allerca cat, continued sneezing. Most waited months, but their $3,950 designer cat never arrived. Lawsuits piled up and the company shut its doors in 2010.
All of this being said, the current cat allergy treatments on the market are flawed. Luckily, a new study shows signs of solving the age-old issue.
Hope on the Horizon
A team lead by Ebenezer Satyaraj at the Nestlé Purina Research Laboratory recently discovered a special antibody in eggs (anti‐Fel d 1 IgY ) that neutralizes Fel d1. To test the effectiveness of the antibody, IgY was added to a standard cat food and feed to 105 cats over a twelve-week period. Hair samples were taken periodically and analyzed for Fel d1.
Certain breeds of cat, like those featured on HouseholdPets.co.uk, have more Fel d1 present on their fur at any given time. Because of this, test results varied amongst the subjects. However, all subjects saw a substantial reduction in measurable Fel d1 with the group average being a 47 percent decrease.
Why You Should Care
If you suffer from cat allergies, this one is a no brainer. Mild allergy suffers could potentially see a complete reduction of their symptoms. Goodbye sniffly nose and itchy eyes!
While this special food may not be the Holy Grail for people with severe allergies, it could reduce related symptoms. Who knows, coupled with proper medication you may soon be able to bury your face in the soft fur of your sweet kitty-cat!