Allergies and fear of cats

I once travelled with Chloe on a public bus when a fellow passenger suddenly struck out at Chloe with a rolled-up newspaper.

Fear of cats does not justify behaviour like this. Chloe was stationary on my shoulder and doing nothing wrong.

An assistance animal owner relies on their animal to help address their disability and achieve independence. An appropriately-trained assistance animal will not climb furniture and bother other people.

Allergic disease caused by dogs appears to be less common than that caused by cats. However, this reported difference may be down to skin testing challenges to detect dog sensitivity.

With cats, the biggest problem is a small, sticky protein called Fel d1. This attaches itself to dried skin, called dander, that flakes off and floats through the air when cats wash themselves. It then clings to surfaces like curtains, carpets, furniture, bedding, clothing, and even walls and ceilings.

Research has shown that Fel d1 is found in almost all American homes, including those where there are no cats. The same study found the canine equivalent protein, Can F1, in all of the homes tested. Pet dander is also found in all public places and on public transport.

Research has shown that dogs and cats are less likely to bring on an allergic reaction than dust mites, pollen, paint and cleaning products.

Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to assistance dogs, and the same should be true for assistance cats also. However, there is plenty that a responsible assistance cat owner can do to minimise risk.

The first thing to consider is that neutered, female cats produce lesser concentrations of Fel d1 and unneutered males the most. In 2000, a study suggested that dark-coloured cats made more Fel d1 than light-coloured. Later studies have shown colour has no impact.

Regular grooming will reduce the amount of Fel d1 on a cat. Wiping away the dander with a product called PetAlCleanse will also help. This lotion, composed of cleansers and moisturisers, remove the dander saliva and urine from the coat and encapsulates the Fel d1 allergens. Tests have shown that PetAlCleanse alleviated the symptoms of 90% of sufferers.

A newer, lesser-known option is to feed your cat Purina LiveClear. This is a dry food that uses an egg product to neutralise the Fel d1. However, do ensure you are comfortable with the relatively high amount of carbohydrates in the food.


Further reading