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Pet Q&A: There's no 'safe' cat for allergy sufferers

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 7D

I recently heard that there are cat breeds that are OK for allergy sufferers. What are they?

No breed of cat can ever be said to be "OK for allergy sufferers." While there are some individual cats (studies suggest lighter-colored females) and certain breeds (some Siberian and Rex cats) that mild to moderate allergy sufferers may be able to tolerate better, for those with severe allergies, the risk probably is not worth it.

Allergies to cats are so prevalent and so often severe that they've been suggested as one of the factors in the increased diagnoses of asthma. It's not cat fur that causes the problem – which is why lightly furred or hairless cats aren't the "cure" – but an ingredient in cat saliva that gets deposited on fur when the animal grooms.

Some tips to help allergy sufferers:

• Keep animals clean: A weekly water bath (no soap needed) for cats has been shown to reduce levels of dander and may make living with a cat workable. It's best if a non-allergic member of the family handles the pet-grooming chores.

• Keep animals out of sleeping areas at all times: While it's hard to give up the hot-water-bottle pleasures of sleeping with a pet on the bed, your body needs a break from the stress of fighting off allergens.

• Limit exposure to other allergens: Keeping all your allergies under control can help your body handle the exposure to a pet.

• Most important, work with an allergist who's willing to work with you. The one whose advice starts and ends with "your cat needs a new home" probably isn't the one to choose.

A good specialist can put together a treatment plan that, along with a commitment to environmental management, may make living with a cat possible for all but the worst allergy sufferers.

– Gina Spadafori

The buzz

Pet-supply trade show a big draw in Florida

• Global Pet Expo runs this week in Orlando, Fla., filling the city's massive convention center with nearly 900 exhibitors from all over the world, and featuring more than 2,400 booths with hundreds of thousands of products. The annual trade show packs all nearby hotels with buyers for large chains and small mom-and-pop pet stores, along with dozens of media representatives looking to see what will be the most talked-about merchandise for Americans' pampered pets.

– Mikkel Becker and Dr. Marty Becker

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