The New Prescription Cats Are On The Way

By Bill Hall

I am among the many victims of cats who are slightly allergic to those little creatures. And I don't just mean socially. I don't mean merely that cats are irritating to be around. I mean that they irritate my nostrils and my sinuses.

I have been tested for allergies and my reaction to cats is only a borderline problem. I am more allergic to oak trees than to cats. I suppose that means that, worst of all for me, would be a cat climbing an oak tree.

However, oak trees act up only a few days each year. And best of all, oak trees don't sleep in my bed when I'm away for the day, the way the cats do. Whatever pollutants oak trees distribute into the air, they stay outside where they belong.

Cats don't just come inside. And they don't merely sleep on your bed when you re gone. They try to sleep on you when you're not gone. If you don't train them otherwise, they try to sleep on your chest, exhaling their lovely breaths into your face. A person can develop a reaction to that kind of conduct whether it makes him sneeze or not.

However, it is not too difficult to break a cat of the urge to sit on your chest and breathe in your face. The wrong way is to pick them up and throw them out a window. The right way, the simple way, is to blow in their faces. They hate that, especially if you have a lovely breath of your own.

While cat breath is a simple thing to avoid, the cat particles that make you sneeze are a different matter. Reuters quotes Dr. David Avner as saying that glands in a cat's skin secrete an allergen protein that makes us cough and sneeze and plug up.

But the good news is that Avner and his partner, University of Connecticut Professor Xiangshong (Jerry) Yang, are working on the development of an allergen-free cat. They plan to begin by genetically altering a cat.

And then, once they have enough male and female cats of that sort, they will set the cats to reproducing themselves in the standard way -- out there in the night under your bedroom window yowling their lungs out.

In other words, there is no limit to how far science will go in bringing relief to allergy sufferers -- and tapping that market for a tidy profit.

For instance, there are new allergy medicines on the market in recent years that have made quite a difference in the lives of sneezy people like me. In the past, the potions available for that purpose were a mixed blessing. The over-the-counter antihistamines, for instance, have had unpleasant side effects for most people. Oddly enough, they make some people groggy and sleepy whereas they tend to stimulate other people. I am in the latter camp. They wire me like nine espressos.

An antihistamine is an upper to me. It floods me with energy and an urge to get a lot of work done. I think my wife slips them into my food when the storage closet needs rearranging.

The newer prescription drugs don't have that drawback. They leave me feeling as normal as a liberal living in Idaho can feel. And they work. I don't sneeze around cats, oak trees or even cats climbing oak trees.

Now the feds have decided to take some of those pills out of the prescription category and make them an over-the-counter drug. So they will be available to all without going to a doctor. And next we will have the allergen-free cat, which the cat inventors hope to have ready by about 2003 at a cost of $750 to $1,000 each.

I don't know if those will be prescription cats or over-the-counter cats, but they will provide some easing of the irritation that cats cause human beings.

Of course, cats need a lot more work than that. If science can give us a cat that doesn't make us sneeze, science can give us a cat that shows a little affection even when it doesn't want to be fed.

Or how about a cat that hates mice and won't bring them indoors as grisly gifts?

How about a cat that doesn't leave white fur on your dark shirt?

But apparently we will soon have the cat that doesn't make you sneeze. The day will come when a doctor can tell people with allergies to take two genetically altered cats and call him in the morning.


Forward to the next column
Back to the Main Page