Well, we know cats have psychological benefits as companion animals. In addition cats can protect children against asthma. Research carried out at Columbia Centre for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) at Columbia University suggests that children who are around cats at an early age can develop antibodies to allergies. I can remember reading somewhere a long time ago that children today were too protected and lived in an environment that was too sterile. I think this latest research is saying the same thing from a different perspective.
What is happening, it seems to me, is the child develops an immunity to the well known allergen produced by the cat Fel d1 (Felis domesticus allergen 1). This is a protein in cat's saliva, which dries on the cat after she/he washes herself. It then flies off as what is commonly called cat dander (saliva, skin and hair). Forcing a young body to deal with this promotes a strong immune system, it seems.
About 10% of the population are immune to cats. Cat dander can be in places where one would have thought unlikely. Timmy, a stray cat only has to be in a room with me and I can start to itch and I am not allergic to cats. It must be his brand of Fel d1. This research indicates that trying to avoid allergens at an early age is unwise as it is a time to build immunity. I child has to build his or her brain and physique; the same goes for the immune system.
Cats Can Protect Children Against Asthma to Allergy Free Cats?
Photo of a child getting a good dose of cat allergen is by Etolane and published under a creative commons license:
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