Hypoallergenic Cat Or Just A Scam?

Kiki

At the end of last year, a California-based company called Allerca started selling a hypoallergenic cat. These allergen-free cats cost $6,950. Even amidst the high price, many cat lovers who have been waiting for a hypoallergenic cat were on long wait lists.

Allerca says that they have sold and delivered two dozen of their cats in the United States and Canada. According to the company, the cats have a naturally mutated gene and therefore do not produce the same concentration of the potent feline allergen Fel d 1.

One owner of an Allerca cat, Judy Smith, says that the expensive price tag was all worth it for her Kiki. She says that Kiki doesn’t make her sniffle and sneeze, and she believes that her cat is truly hypoallergenic.

Some critics may not agree with Smith. Many cat geneticists and allergists from all around the nation are dubious if Allerca has done what they claimed to have accomplished. They have asked Allerca to release their scientific data, but the company has refused and explained that the information is proprietary. Until Allerca proves their claim with scientific data, these suspicious geneticists and allergists just don’t believe that these hypoallergenic cats are for real.

There is also talk about Simon Brodie, the founder of Allerca. He has had a past filled with failed ventures, a criminal conviction, and fraud allegations.

From Boston Globe:

Cat allergens are among the most prevalent in the United States. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 17 percent of people are allergic to cats. The main culprit, scientists say, is the protein Fel d 1, and Brodie is not the only person interested in creating cats without it.

In 2001, Dr. David Avner founded Transgenic Pets LLC with the hope of removing the Fel d 1 gene from cats. Brodie, a potential investor, spoke to Avner about the project. But Brodie never invested in the company and Avner, an emergency medicine physician in Denver, later sued, saying Brodie kept his company’s confidential material.

The two settled in February 2005 with Brodie agreeing not to enter the genetically engineered hypoallergenic cat market until after May 31, 2006. Brodie said a scientist, whose name he said he cannot recall, told him that some cats had a naturally mutated Fel d 1 gene, which would not generate as much allergen. Brodie said another person, whose name he will not reveal, then gave him a few of these cats. Allerca says it bred these cats and ultimately produced kittens with a mutated Fel d 1 gene.

“The body does not see it as an allergen,” Brodie explained by phone from Delaware, where he recently moved his company from California. “The body does not recognize it as an allergen. Even though it’s the Fel d 1 protein, it’s a different makeup of the protein.”

Cat geneticists say this might be feasible, but they say it is also fairly unlikely. The fact that Brodie refuses to document the science, through an independent study or in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, leaves many skeptical.

And then there is the question of his past. In 1994, according to the English newspaper the Argus, Brodie was convicted in England of seven counts of false accounting in connection with the collapse of a hot air balloon company called Cloudhoppers. He was sentenced to two years in prison. Brodie said he served less than a year and later came to the United States.

Dr. Dale Umetsu, a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School and an allergist and immunologist at Children’s Hospital Boston, said it is possible that Brodie has delivered on his promise and created a hypoallergenic cat.

But Umetsu is skeptical. About a year ago, he contacted Allerca, asking if he could study its cats and perhaps publish an article about its work, he said.

Their answer, he said, was no.

9 Responses to “Hypoallergenic Cat Or Just A Scam?”

  1. Robert Davis says:

    Being someone that has to take meds for allergies, I’m sure if this lady did not receive a real hypoallergenic cat, she would be sneezing her hed off, or be unable to breathe, etc.

    I have no background information on this company, but it seems to me, the writers of the article are trying to dig up dirt since they will not release their data. Not saying the dirt isn’t for real, but you know how dumpster diving people can get if you don’t give them the information they want.

    I am curious if a patient is told a cat is hypoallergenic and it wasn’t, would they have reactions? It might be an interesting test to see if there is any psychology behind it all.

    Does the company have to provide any data to government bodies before selling this type of cat? That would have been some good information to include in the article.

  2. wescott20 says:

    It’s true…it could be a placebo effect, but if it works and unites cat lovers with cats, it’s a good thing. I do think psychology plays a part in a lot of allergy cases where pets are involved…I believe there is a small minority of people who are truly allergic, but certainly not a number as large as 17%. There are just too many cases of people being fine until they find out a cat or dog is in their midst (perhaps the animal had been out of view in a covered carrier) and all of a sudden the person starts sneezing and so on.

  3. Merlin Marshall says:

    I’m allergic to cats too, but I have 7 of them. There is some research that continued exposure the animals in question can in some cases reduce the allergic reactions. I’m allergic to pollens, molds, etc too and take an over the counter antihistamine and nasal steroids and seem to not have near as much trouble as I used to.

    My point is that the people with the hypoallergenic cat could have “outgrown” the allergy, or if they are allergic to other things, their meds might be impacting the cat allergies too. Then there is the psychological effect as well. Without controlled studies, we can’t know for sure if the hypoallergenic cats really are hypoallergenic. Why hasn’t some researcher bought a couple of the hypoallergenic cats from this guy and done his or her own experiment?

    Another good question is what does this cat gene do besides cause allergies in people? What are the longterm health consequences for cats with these mutated genes?

    Maybe its for real. On the other hand, by not offering any proof, it does cause room for suspicion that things are not what they are claimed to be.

  4. Lynne says:

    Imagine what a no kill shelter could do with $6,950.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Robert said: I have no background information on this company, but it seems to me, the writers of the article are trying to dig up dirt since they will not release their data. Not saying the dirt isn’t for real, but you know how dumpster diving people can get if you don’t give them the information they want.

    Here’s some background, Robert. Get out of the dumpster and read the article - or go back to your troll cave.

    “Many cat geneticists and allergists from all around the nation are dubious if Allerca has done what they claimed to have accomplished. They have asked Allerca to release their scientific data, but the company has refused ”
    “Simon Brodie, the founder of Allerca. He has had a past filled with failed ventures, a criminal conviction, and fraud allegations.

    “The fact that Brodie refuses to document the science, through an independent study or in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, leaves many skeptical.”

    ITCHMO ADMIN: Please refrain from calling other readers “trolls”.

  6. Traci says:

    “Here’s some background, Robert. Get out of the dumpster and read the article - or go back to your troll cave.”

    Uh, just maybe that’s uncalled for?

  7. Former Allerca Waiting List says:

    Studies have shown that up to a third of people who think they are allergic to cats are actually allergic to dust mites. Allerca has been testing everyone and denying cats to anyone who tests high for cat allergy. It also takes six months for cat dander to build up in a home. Notice that the lady in this article did npt say that she was not having any allergy symptoms, just that they were not severe. The only other person to be shown to have an Allerca was actually a PR person they presented as a Mother of two. Allerca also used to sell a shampoo that could be used to wash dander off of a cat. This would make it easy to create a fake demo cat that could be used to fool most reporters.

  8. Hypoallergenic Cats Denied To High Allergy Sufferers | Itchmo says:

    […] see who has these hypoallergenic cats. There is Judy Smith who was in the Boston Globe article that we posted up yesterday. She believes that Kiki is truly a hypoallergenic cat. The other person […]

  9. Amy says:

    While there are a few testimonials on Brodie’s website, people just aren’t posting positive comments about the Allerca cat outside his website.

    I can tell you that I ordered a cat and waited for two years, only to have the company arbitrarily cancel my order one month before the kitten was due to be delivered. Several other people were denied cats because they tested in the severe allergy range (3 or above). It’s well known that people with moderate to mild allergies (2 or below) do well with known hypo-allergenic breeds (see THE SNEEZE FREE CAT OWNER). Siberian cats, especially, work for 80% of people with cat allergies.

    Whether or not the Allerca cat is genuine remains to be seen, but the price keeps increasing as Brodie’s credibility is increasingly called into question.


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