According to Health News, “Around 10 percent of people have allergies to cats, and about a quarter of all homes have cats." What’s more, about 3.4 million felines end up in animal shelters and rescues every year. "I'm allergic" is one of the top complaints of those relinquishing their cat.
I feel partially qualified to write this blog since I've suffered from cat allergies for several decades. Until my late twenties, being around a cat would give me a sore throat, watery eyes, and "the itches," as my veterinarian calls them.
Since then, I have taken allergy shots to help me live in peace with my two cats, Maw and Paw. Every third Wednesday, I drop them off at the groomer and head to my doctor. We all do what we can around here.
It seems my issue is fairly common. Cat people who are allergic to cats would rather give up their car than their cat, and they just learn to deal with it. Allergic Living, cited below, tells us, "It's the most common animal allergy, affecting about one in five adults worldwide."
After regular shots, the next choice of treatment is what the docs call, "immunotherapy." For years, the simple allergy shots have propped me up. For now, I'm being told I'll have to take them for the rest of my life if I want cats around, which I most certainly do. However, the new immunotherapy would involve one shot a week for only three years.
Fortunately, Allergic Living reports that research for more alternative treatments is underway. Some of the most exciting ones include "a new biologic medication that enhances allergy shots." I'm not sure about committing to two medications for the rest of my life. However, other new treatments are coming soon, such as an allergy shot for cats whose humans are allergic to them. In addition, there is at least one major cat food company that now sells cat food that "neutralizes allergens in a cat's saliva," which makes them less likely to cause allergies in humans.
The "CATNIP trial," as presented at the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, cited below, said, "Researchers found that combining cat allergy shots with the biologic medication tezepelumab desensitizes those with cat allergies more quickly – and that the results may last even after the medication is stopped."
The bottom line of the trial, as reported by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, is that "After a year of treatment, the group who received tezepelumab plus immunotherapy had significantly fewer nasal symptoms than those who got allergy shots alone."
Researchers note the effect of tezepelumab "isn’t cat-specific” and the medication may help to desensitize to other allergens as well. But going the immunology route can be expensive, so more work is needed to make it affordable.
What if cats received shots instead of their owners? Researchers in Switzerland are studying a vaccine they call HypoCat. The mission for Hypocat is to reduce allergy symptoms in cat parents by targeting a protein, or allergen called Fel d 1 that cats produce.
According to Health News, cited below, "The idea is to reduce a cat's 'allergen load' using a virus-like particle to provoke the cat’s immune system to immunize it against its own allergenic protein. The vaccine prompts the cat to develop antibodies that bind with and neutralize Fel d1. The idea is that this will reduce allergy symptoms in pet owners."
This study has been met with success, with seven out of nine cat parents whose cats have received the shot reporting fewer symptoms when close to their felines.
Furthermore, Allergic Living states that a new cat food could be "made with eggs that contain an anti-Fel d1 antibody. When cats nibble on the kibble, the egg powder binds to Fel d1 in the cat’s saliva, neutralizing it and producing fewer symptoms in the human." However, the food is expensive and may not have the full effect of immunization for pet parents or cats.
There are also gene editing studies in the works. Researchers are trying to delete the Fel d1 genes from cat saliva and sweat glands. This research is in the early stages, but it could enable scientists to erase the harmful genes, giving the pet parent needed relief.
While many of these advanced options for cat allergy reduction are still being developed, know that there is hope for allergy relief that can keep you and your pet healthy.
Quote to remember: "I can't have kids because my cats are allergic." - Anonymous
"Nothing to Sneeze At: New Strategies for Controlling Cat Allergy"
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
"Effects of combination treatment with tezepelumab and allergen immunotherapy on nasal responses to allergen: A randomized controlled trial"
"Scientists Have Created a Cat-Allergy 'Vaccine'"