Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Worried about your kids developing allergies or asthma? Maybe it's time to visit your local pet shelter!

Theo and Vincent Van Gogh
My sleep last night was delightful. Why? Because neither Vincent or Theo Van Gogh joined my husband and me in bed. The Van Gogh brothers are cats, by the way, and they love to curl up in the nook of knee or across my feet or somewhere adjacent to my body. While this may pleasant when I'm cold, it loses its appeal whenever I attempt to change positions. Theo will occasionally grab on with his claws in a desperate attempt to maintain his place on the bed. Not cool.

I was never a fan of letting the cats sleep on the bed. I just don't like it. Through the years, we kept the bedroom door shut and our menagerie of pets slept elsewhere. Then, about 7 years ago, our cat, Mow (Meow without the 'e') started losing weight. He was sick and often his body felt quite cold. So we invited him to share our bed. After Mow died, Vincent came to live with us. Vincent is a very vocal Ragdoll, and he wanted no part of being shut out of our room. So, in order to stop the incessant meowing, we started letting him up on the bed. Later, Theo joined the family, and the co-sleeping arrangement. Thus, the issue of my not being about to move during the night.

Oddly enough, I am not allergic to Vincent (the Ragdoll) or Theo (the Siberian Forest cat), as both breeds tend to be hypoallergenic. Unfortunately, as I've grown older, my allergies to other cats have increased dramatically. We've had to part with a couple of our pets because of this. My kids, on the other hand, do not have allergies to cats... or dogs. While they've inherited many of my other maladies, why is it they are free from pet allergies?

My grandson and his cat, Baxter

Scientific research just might have the answer. Apparently, according to many studies, children under 9, who are raised with cats and dogs, tend to grow up allergy-free. At least where pet dander is concerned. My kids grew up with such an assortment of pets, they're probably immune to all animal-related allergies. Through the years, we had 18 cats, 4 dogs, a horse, numerous rodents, a ferret, a snake, a gecko, 3 rabbits and a variety of birds. Welcome to the Caye Zoo!

Now that it's just my husband and me living here, we've whittled down our menagerie to include only the 2 cats. My allergies appreciate that. As does the bank account. Pets are expensive! Especially when you use eco-friendly and pet-safe litters and premium foods. 

But the point of this post isn't to talk about the craziness of living with lots of pets; it's about the lack of allergies the girls have because they grew up in the Caye Zoo. 

My granddaughter and her cat, Congo
The relationship between early life exposure to animals and the development of allergies and asthma is somewhat confusing. Previous evidence suggested that children exposed to animals early in life are more likely to develop allergies and asthma. More recent research seems to show that early exposure to animals (cats and dogs in particular) may actually protect children from developing these diseases. Newer research also suggests children raised on farms develop fewer allergies and asthma. 

Even WebMD supports this claim, and adds another bonus:

In the latest study, allergist Thomas Platts-Mills, MD, PhD, of the University of Virginia, and Swedish researchers find that the longer children had pets when they are young -- ideally during their first two years -- the lower their frequency of having pet allergies is years later. 

It follows a study last year that found babies raised in a home with two or more dogs or cats were up to 77% less likely to develop various types of allergies at age 6 than kids raised without pets. Besides pet allergies, those children were less likely to develop reactions to dust mites, ragweed, and grass. 

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, kids raised with dogs and cats are "almost half as likely to have hyper-responsive and easily irritated airways -- a risk factor for asthma."

Is your concern about pet allergies keeping you from bringing a pet into your home? Well, having a dog and/or a cat just might be your answer. Don't trust my word on this. For more info, visit the following links:

But before you run out to find the perfect pup or kitty to welcome into your family, make sure you do your research. The last thing you want to do is offer any kind of support to the puppy mills. Check out your local shelters. Your kids will thank you for it!

Caring about your kids,



  1. That is an interesting fact about kids under 9. I didn't know that. We have 2 dogs and they are around my boys all day long.

    My smallest dog sleeps with us every night and has for the last 10 years. Even though she really annoys me at night there is no way she would let us kick her out of bed.

    1. My sister had asthma, so we couldn't have pets. When I was 7, my parents got her a dander-free poodle. Result? I have allergies and asthma. My kids have always had pets. Result? No allergies or asthma. My husband wasn't allowed to have pets as a child. Result? Allergies. I see a pattern here...

  2. Im facing difficulty in breathing since from two weeks. Can I expect it has asthma?

     Allergy and Asthma 

    1. It certainly could be. But doctors often miss it. I went to my regular doctor for years and wasn't diagnosed until I saw a pulmonary specialist. I hope you feel better soon!


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