Struggle to snuggle: The impact of cat allergens on cat owners

June 16, 2020
dvm360 Staff

New survey results show that cat owners who suffer from pet-related allergies are willing to do whatever it takes to keep their feline family members.

With as many as one in five adults affected by cat allergen sensitivities, many pet owners find it a struggle to snuggle with their favorite felines. Despite the watery eyes, sneezing and infinite attempts to remove dander from the home, however, 84% of cat owners said they would dismiss advice from their doctor to rehome their pet due to allergies. Twenty percent went so far as to say they would consider getting a new doctor instead.

This is according to a new survey conducted by Purina Pro Plan and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). The two groups surveyed 2000 cat owners in the U.S. to better understand the impact of cat allergens on all aspects of life in allergen-sensitive households.

Data collected from the survey reveal that:

  • 90% of cat owners feel their cats are members of the family.
  • 75% say the relationship with their cat is important to their own health and wellbeing.
  • 37% of households with sensitivities to cat allergens have changed their lifestyle to accommodate their cat.
  • 50% of owners with cat allergies wish they could spend more time playing with, snuggling and petting their cat.
  • Cat owners with allergen sensitivities do 41% more household cleaning than those without sensitivities.

Purina Pro Plan and HABRI believe the survey responses illustrate the need for better management methods. "Cat-owning households are trying a variety of ways to manage cat allergens, but ultimately 62% say their current methods are only somewhat effective or not effective at all," says Kurt Venator, DVM, PhD, chief veterinary officer at Purina, in a press release about the survey.

To aid in allergen relief, Purina Pro Plan recently launched Pro Plan LiveClear, the first cat food known to reduce the allergens in a cat’s hair and dander. In a published study, feeding Pro Plan LiveClear was shown to lower the allergens in cat hair and dander by an average of 47%, starting in the third week of daily feeding.

"Many people think that cat hair is the root of their problem," explains Ebenezer Satyaraj, PhD, an immunologist for Nestlé Purina Research and lead investigator on the research that led to the development of Pro Plan LiveClear, in a press release announcing the product, "but it's actually what's on [the hair]—the major cat allergen called Fel d 1, a protein that cats produce naturally in their saliva."

The key ingredient to the new line of cat kibble is a specific protein sourced from eggs. When cats eat LiveClear, the protein binds to Fel d 1 and safely neutralizes it in the cat's mouth. By reducing active Fel d 1 in the cat's saliva, the allergen that is transferred to the haircoat during grooming is also reduced.

"Because scientists don't know exactly why cats produce Fel d 1, our goal was to neutralize it rather than inhibit its production," Dr. Venator says. A 6-month safety study showed that the egg-product coating is safe for cats to ingest. The action happens in the cat's mouth, but once swallowed, the ingredient is digested like any other protein. “The beauty of Pro Plan LiveClear is that it reduces cat allergens in cat hair and dander without impacting the physiology of the cat," he adds.