A Hypoallegenic Cat?

Published November 2004

With the constant advances in man's understanding of and manipulation of gene technology, the word is a changing place.

The new biogenetic technologies first touched the world of cat breeders in February, 2002 when a California company called Genetic Savings & Clone announced that it had successfully cloned a kitten. In August 2004, the same company announced they had cloned two kittens from a one-year-old female Bengal cat. They are now offering to clone anyone's pet for about $50,000. Read the article Cloned Kitten for more information.

Now, a California biotechnology company called Allerca is taking orders for a yet-to-be-produced hypoallergenic cat.

The hypoallergenic cat is a genetically engineered feline which they hope to have available by 2007. This new "breed" of cat, is the first in a planned series of lifestyle pets, Los Angeles-based Allerca said in a press release.

Allerca expects their customers to come from among the millions of people worldwide who suffer from cat allergies.

In the United States alone, up to 10 percent of the population is believed to be allergic to cats.

Cat allergies are caused by a potent protein secreted by the cat's skin and salivary glands. The allergen is so small it can remain airborne for months.

Using "gene silencing" technology, Allerca is able to suppress the production of the protein.

The first breed of hypoallergenic cats will be British Shorthairs, which are considered to be ideal pets with friendly, playful and affectionate personalities.

Allerca expects the first kittens to be born in early 2007 and is already accepting $250 deposits from interested customers.

Allerca president Simon Brodie told The Associated Press that he ultimately hopes to sell 200,000 of the cats annually at $3,500 each in the United States.

Brodie said the cats would be spayed and neutered to prevent breeding with naturally born animals.

He also said he didn't expect to have any problems with federal regulators after neither the U.S. Department of Agriculture nor the Food and Drug Administration objected to the creation of a genetically-engineered pet fish because it wasn't meant for human consumption.

The GloFish, which went on sale in pet stores earlier this year, is a zebra fish implanted with a fluorescent sea anemone gene.

"As long as people don't start eating cats and they don't enter the food chain, then we should be handled like the GloFish," Brodie told the AP.

The genetic-engineered cat is the latest attempt to apply biotechnology to the lucrative pet industry.

Many cat lovers ignore medical advice and discomfort and choose to keep the animals as pets, or use expensive medications to cope with their allergies.

Cat allergen is also one of the main causes of childhood allergies, asthma and other respiratory diseases such as bronchitis.

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