All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Child Developed Allergy to Pet Cat


Dear Marie:
My five-year-old daughter has developed an allergy to our cat.  Our pediatrician has told us to either keep the cat outside or get rid of it.  I have had this cat for 8 years and he is part of our family.  We never put him outside and I am not about to start now.  He’d become a coyote dinner before the first night ended.   I also can’t just get rid of him.  My daughter loves him.  She would be devastated.  Not to mention, our whole family would be devastated.  Have you heard of any other alternatives to these drastic measures?

Toni, Rancho Santa Margarita

Dear Toni,
Ask your pediatrician to refer you to an allergist, preferably one who is sensitive to your concerns about your pet and your daughter’s feelings.  Pet allergies are one of the most common allergies in the world, ranking second to dust mite allergies.  The easiest and thus quickest recommended method for coping made by doctors is to avoid or get rid of pets.  However, this recommendation does not take into consideration the emotional issues connected with pet allergies.

If you get rid of your cat because your daughter has allergies, she will feel like it is her fault and possibly experience guilt and grief - especially if the whole family feels bad about having to get rid of the kitty.   If she has siblings who also love your cat, they may blame her and harbor long-term resentment toward her.  This is certainly not an ideal situation for a young child. 

The first thing you should do is to learn as much as you can about allergies to cats.  I can give you a little information, and you can use this as a jumping off point for more.  Knowledge is going to be your major tool for creating an environment and lifestyle that will allow you to keep your cat.  Giving your cat up for adoption should only be a last resort if everything else has failed.

Felines create more allergic reactions in humans than do dogs.  These allergic reactions can be very serious and thus should not be taken lightly.  Allergies are triggered by allergens.  In the house cat, this allergen is produced in the sebaceous glands of the cat’s skin and in its saliva.  Therefore, these allergens will accumulate on your pet’s
fur.  Experts used to think that a cat’s constant cleaning by licking itself was the major cause of allergen deposits.  However, it has now been shown that the sebaceous
glands are the bigger culprits.  Nevertheless, the two sources produce an allergen that is extremely small, thus allowing it to penetrate deep into the lungs after being inhaled.

There are products currently available that can eliminate these allergens.   They can be applied to your cat’s fur with a sponge on a weekly basis.  These products cause no adverse reactions to pets.  They are non-oily and there is no noticeable residue that is left after application. There are also no perfumes or fragrances added.  Eighty to eighty-five percent of allergy sufferers who have applied these products to their pets have enjoyed marked improvement in their ability to tolerate cats. There are many scientific papers that discuss these results as well as other related tests.  The bottom line is that if you are able to remove the allergens from your cat before they become airborne, you will reduce the chances of your daughter experiencing allergic reactions to these allergens.

Further, your daughter may be allergic to other allergens in the environment – not just your cat’s.  In fact, many individuals who are allergic to felines are sensitive to a number of different allergens.  All of the allergens together create a threshold point for allergy sufferers, which causes reactions to occur.  Consequently, you should try to make your home as allergen free as possible.  Take steps to eliminate dust, mold, mildew, pollen, paint, perfume, soaps, cosmetics, and other household items which may potentially combine to trigger allergic reactions in your daughter.


A recent study at John Hopkins University has reached some exciting conclusions.  In the near future, synthetic vaccines may become available that will alleviate allergic reactions to felines.  Talk to your allergist about these and other new treatment regimens.  Chances are, your feline companion and your daughter will not have to be separated.

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