Cats Protection, the UK's oldest feline welfare charity, has raised concerns about recent announcements to produce a cat genetically modified not to product allergies.
Transgenic Pets, of New York, recently announced plans to produce the 'GM cat' by the year 2003. If successful, the firm, now looking for funding, would follow it up with a modified and allergy free dog.
The process would involve identifying and removing a gene called 'Fel d1'. This gene produces a protein which keeps a cat's skin moist and is at the root of most human allergies to cats. Once removed, the firm would then clone the modified animal. The cloned cats would additionally be neutered to prevent genetic crossover with unmodified cats.
The American Cat Fanciers Association greeted the news with muted praise, saying such a cat would be welcome amongst many allergy sufferers, provided no harm was done to the animal.
In contrast, the UK charity, has put it's concerns in clear language:
"We do not as yet know what the consequences of this type of genetic modification will be for cats," says Derek Conway, Chief Executive of Cats Protection. "Whilst we recognise the problems that cat allergies can cause, we would seriously question any potentially invasive and non-consensual procedures that may cause suffering to the animals involved. We hope scientists proceed with caution and that proper thought is given to the ethical and wefare issues in genetically modifying cats in this way."
There are measures that allergy sufferers can take to reduce allergic or asthmatic responses to their pets, such as:
- Using a product such as Petal Cleanse or Outright Allergy Relief, which is applied to the coat to remove saliva and encapsulate the allergen
- Making sure your cat is free from fleas to reduce scratching and spreading of allergens
- Regularly grooming you cat outdoors to reduce the amount of allergen indoors
- Frequent vacuuming, using a machine fitted with a HEPA filter
- Keeping the cat away from your sleeping areas, to ensure part of the house is allergen-free
- Increasing home ventilation to decrease airborne allergies
Allergen reducing products are available from PetPlanet's online shop.