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Can Cats Make Your Kids Allergic?

Updated on December 9, 2014
Maggie Bonham profile image

Maggie Bonham, or Margaret H. Bonham, is a multiple award-winning pet author and expert. She has written more than 20 books on pets.

Allergies and Pets

Were you ever told by a doctor that you should get rid of your pets because of an allergy?

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Allergies are on the rise, and it's easy to wonder if your cat could be making your children allergic. You'll be relieve to know that quite the opposite is true--your cat can be making your babies less likely to have allergies.

Increase in Allergies in the United States

According to the UCLA Food and Drug Allergy Care Center and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergies have skyrocketed among Americans with as many as one-in-five having some sort of allergy.

There are several theories behind why this is happening. One reason might be because of Western hygiene practices. The idea is that people aren't exposed to allergens and germs, and therefore their bodies don't make enough antibodies to fight off the allergens when exposed to them. The body overreacts, causing allergic responses.

Cats and Babies

So, when it comes to cats, what do the studies show? A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that toddlers exposed to pets are less likely to be allergy suffers that children who were raised in households without pets. 15.5 percent of children raised without cats developed cat allergies, as opposed to 11.6 percent of those children raised with a dog or cat, and 7.7 percent for those who had two or more cats or dogs. For dog allergies, 8.6 percent of children raised without pets were allergic to dogs compared to 3.5 percent of children raised with a dog or cat. and 2.6 percent of children with two or more cats or dogs.

Better for Other Allergies

What's more, exposure to two or more cats can actually reduce your child's risk of developing other types of allergies. The study reported in JAMA showed that 33.6 percent of children who did not grow up with pets developed allergies to common allergens. Compare that to 15.4 percent of children growing up with two or more pets who developed allergies.

Interestingly enough, the study showed a slight increase (total of 34.3 percent) in children allergic to common allergens if the child grew up with only one pet.

Why Your Cat May Create a Healthier Environment

Cats may decrease allergies by exposing your baby to bacteria that will help your baby's immune system overcome them. Another theory is that the baby gets exposed to the animal and his or her body adjusts to allergen before allergies develop. Regardless, owning pets is healthy for children, and your cat may be your child's best friend in more ways than one.

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