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Hypoallergenic Cats 215

Posted by Zonk
from the good-use-of-science dept.
Lambticc writes "The BBC is running an article about how a US firm has successfully bred cats to reduce the production of the protein which causes an allergic reaction. Since the result was achieved through selective breeding, there should not be any complaints from the anti-GM lobby." From the article: "The cats will not cause the red eyes, sneezing and even asthma that some cat allergy sufferers experience, except in the most acute cases. Despite costing $3,950 (£2,104), there is already a waiting list to get one. Allerca first started taking orders for genetically engineered hypoallergenic cats back in 2004."
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Hypoallergenic Cats

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  • Dupe (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:34PM (#16180755)
    You already reported it in 2004 [slashdot.org].
    • by Psykechan (255694) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:37PM (#16180781)
      Get yours now from petsovernight.com [petsovernight.com].
    • Re:Dupe (Score:4, Informative)

      by TekPolitik (147802) on Monday September 25, 2006 @01:34AM (#16181391) Journal
      It wasn't even new then. There's an entire breed, called Siberians, that have been known to have this quality. All that seems to have happened here is selective cross-breading to get it into other more conventional species.
      • by rs79 (71822)
        Now if they can only breed out the other annoying undesirable traits cats have. Should only take about a thousand years.

        "Down kitty, no I'm not a scratching post AAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEE"

        And to think some people PAY for vasectomies.

        Fucking cat.

        • by AGMW (594303)
          Now if they can only breed out the other annoying undesirable traits cats have.

          It's funny how dog owners are expected to pick up their dog's sh1t and put it in a bin, but cat owners are allowed to let their animals roam free and crap whereever the hell they like, but obviously not in the owner's garden because cats like to crap elsewhere! Nice.

          Years back our dog got into the next door garden after chasing their cat and the neighbour came around to complain. My dad was quite happy to comply ... "certainl

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            1. Dogs take big piles of steaming shit wherever they please. Every cat I've had finds an area of loose earth and digs a hole, covering it over after he has finished. A dominant unneutered tom may leave his faeces uncovered, but if you let such a beast roam free, you're an idiot.

            2. The cat by its temperament is unlikely to attack a human, its natural prey being always smaller than itself; when outside its own territory, if it confronts a giant, it prefers to flee. The fox, a locally populous wild creature,
          • by Eivind (15695)
            It's strange about pet-owners in general. The amount of irritation and damage that they feel it's fair to impose on everyone around them just for the sake of something which is, ultimately, just a hobby. (a blind-dog or similar is obviously something completely different!)

            I used to live in a block in Germany. There where 2 families having cats in the block. They thougth all of the following was reasonable to expect their neighbours to put up with:

            • Cats roaming the entire property, using the childrens san
      • Why this is news (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Moraelin (679338) on Monday September 25, 2006 @07:13AM (#16183127) Journal
        Well, this is obviously good news anyway for people who don't want a Siberian.

        1. Have you seen a Siberian? The Siberian isn't just another body shape or fur pattern, it's something as big as your arm. It's a _huge_ cat. It's bigger than some dog breeds. (And legends have it that some are also actually able to function as a dog, because at that size it feels a lot less threatened by someone human sized. So it _can_ defend its territory from a human, if needed. I wouldn't know if it's myth or not, though.)

        Now I'm all for large cats myself, but I can also see why someone would want a standard 5 pound lap cat instead.

        2. The Siberian isn't anywhere near allergen-free. In fact, no natural cat breed is, from moggie to lions and tigers. The Siberian does produce a lot less allergen, but for some people it's still too much. So producing cats with even less, would still be welcome news for a lot of people.

        3. The Siberian only has less of the cat-speciffic protein. I.e., it won't help anyone whose allergy is to something else. E.g., someone with a generic allergy to fur, will still be just as allergic to the Siberian as to any other cat breed. Basically, if holding a rabbit or petting a dog also gives you an allergy, getting a Siberian won't help at all.

        I don't know if this new breed addresses this third point, but it IS one area where improvement is possible.
        • I have a Siberian (Score:3, Informative)

          by Smallest (26153)
          she's only 8 pounds, not huge. her parents were a bit bigger, though.

          i have some pretty sensitive (not severe, just very easily activated) cat allergies, but I haven't have any symptoms with our cat. before we got her, as a test, we went to the breeder's house and i stayed in the 'cat room', with five aduts and ten kittens, for an hour - just to make sure i was symptom-free. no problem at all.

          i'm also taking Zyrtek, but that's not supposed to be all that great against pet allergies.
          • The typical Siberian weighs between 10 and 15 pounds for the females, and between 15 and 20 for the males. They also tend to keep growing until they're 5 years old, which when they reach the weights above.

            So, yes, I'm not that surprised if yours is a female (you say, "she") and I'll guess something like only 1-2 years old, since you say her parents were bigger. Well, that's just the thing: these cats keep growing. Yours will very likely get bigger too.

            It's not intended as an insult or anything, but basicall
            • by Smallest (26153)
              >But, if you want to dispute my calling them huge

              i don't, didn't and don't know why you think i would.

              my cat is not huge, and she hasn't grown any in 6 months. i'm sure there are truly huge Siberians, as they are known for their size. but there are also many smaller individuals who are not huge, and painting the whole breed as some kind of dog-like mini-tiger is a bit unfair - they're not all like that.

              >Basically you can't extrapolate your experience to _everyone_

              well then it's a damned good thing i d
      • Re:Dupe (Score:4, Insightful)

        by rishistar (662278) on Monday September 25, 2006 @07:36AM (#16183281) Homepage
        And what they fail to point out to the people buying these cute cuddly kittens is - what happened to the many 'unsuccessful candidates' in the breeding program?
        • by osgeek (239988)
          Mmmm... Kung Pao Kitty.
        • Well, here's an idea for you: if you're going to selectively breed cats lacking Fel D1, then you can test them _before_ you buy them. It would be pretty stupid to buy a million cats and kill those with lots of the allergen, when you can buy just those without it in the first place.

          The Fel D1 protein will be all over the cat's fur and in her saliva, so you only need a little hair or saliva to determine how much of it does it produce. Since the fur will be the most problem for people with allergies (due to sh
  • Heh (Score:5, Funny)

    by B3ryllium (571199) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:34PM (#16180759) Homepage
    But when will they finally breed the North American House Hippo!? Huh? That's what I want to know.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rpbird (304450)
      Our friend Mr. Evolution actually created those, and elephants the size of dogs. I kid you not. Weird things happen to creatures stranded on islands. Sometimes they get really large (the Dodo), sometimes they get really small (tiny elephants and hippos). Unfortunately for those pet lovers out there, our distant ancestors found these island species and ate them all. Kinda reminds me of Futurama and the last can of sardines.
    • That's my ex-wife, you insensitive clod.
  • Patents? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by giminy (94188) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:36PM (#16180769) Homepage Journal
    I hope they annoyingly patented what they did (though I don't get how to you specifically patent selective breeding), or the first two owners of frisky felines will put them out of business.

    Maybe they'll sell one gender of cat?
    • Re:Patents? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Duckz (147715) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:41PM (#16180811) Homepage
      You can only get spayed or neutered animals from them.
      • by iroll (717924)
        Good thing we live in the age of cloning!

        Only way they could (currently) close that loophole is by selling only aged and decrepit cats. Young'uns would clone nicely :)

        (sigh...You know you're a nerd when thinking about selling clones reminds you of Compaq.)
      • by Firehed (942385)
        Well, after the recent article on part regeneration, that's hardly a problem!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by QuantumFTL (197300) *
        You can only get spayed or neutered animals from them.

        And that, my friend, is why I release all of my pets under the GPL. What an outrage!
        • These cats are GPL compliant. The company simply forked the existing feline breed and released their own breed. You can of course modify those cats all you want. The only caveat is that their cats have already been modified in ways that prevent additional forks.
           
          • surely they're not GPL or LGPL because they aren't providing the full source code to your cat (I'd expect a CD with a datafile of their gene map!)... not only that, they're not even providing access to the build tools so you can build your own cat from source.
      • by quokkapox (847798)

        But you could clone a neutered hypoallergenic cat. The offspring would not be sterile.

        Of course, the "intellectual property" which is represented by the cat's genetic makeup may also be copyrighted or patented.

        Now, if you'll excuse me as I entertain Buttons(TM) here with a Laser Pointer [youtube.com](TM) until I go broke from licensing fees or fall asleep in a hypnogogic Benadryl(TM) haze [wikipedia.org]...

        la la la la la atchoo atchoo atchoo! bless me dammit i'm an atheist but i do love benadryl and cats

        • by Surt (22457)
          You could clone a neutered cat in the future when all of our cloning techniques don't require either sperm or ova.
          • by russotto (537200)
            You need ova for cloning, but the ova need not be from the individual being cloned. Take normal cat ovum, insert hypo-allergenic cat nucleus, get hypo-allergenic breedable cat. Assuming the critical gene is in the nucleus, anyway.
      • Good! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Craig Ringer (302899)
        Sure, that's just good business sense for them - but it also helps reduce the number of strays on the streets, and gets people used to sterilizing their pets.
      • or sell only male or only females.
        • by Duckz (147715)
          Makes more sense to neuter or spay them because male and female cats have such different personalities.
    • by Da3vid (926771)
      I believe selective breeding would be grouped with genetic engineering in terms of patents. Look at the hyped GloFish (not to be confused with an actual breed of tetra found in the wild). The company developed them with loftier goals than the developers of these cats... the fish originally were designed to fluoresce a certain colour in the presence of environmental toxins. They were to be the perfect sensor... but what they really ended up was making a hugely popular fish for aquarists.
  • Well... not really. Just evolution in action, with manmade selection vs. the 'natural' kind. I like cats, but hate the allergic reactions I get from them. Sign me up.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by kfg (145172) *
      You might want to wait for the second model year. There's still some question about whether they're just selling cat oil or not.

      KFG
  • Breading? (Score:5, Funny)

    by dmwst30 (463874) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:43PM (#16180827)
    Hrm...selective breading of cats...wonder how that works. Extra crispy or regular? Corn flake or bread crumb or batter? How do they keep the cats from eating it?

    ("The BBC is running an article about how a US firm has successfully bred cats to reduce the production of the protein which causes an allergic reaction. Since the result was achieved through selective breading, there should not be any complaints from the anti-GM lobby." if they fix this one)
  • by KNicolson (147698) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @11:54PM (#16180885) Homepage
    I know every time I've got some pussy, I've had terrible rashes and itchiness, although I've never had to pay as much as $4,000 dollars for them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fahrbot-bot (874524)
      I know every time I've got some pussy, I've had terrible rashes and itchiness, although I've never had to pay as much as $4,000 dollars for them.

      As Norm MacDonald once said:

      • Norm: How come whenever we go out it always costs me a couple hundred dollars?
      • Woman: Because I'm a prostitute.
  • Does anyone know if this gene has a desired effect besides "make humans allergic to us"? It seems there could, possibly, be side effects from this - there aren't that many species that humans are commonly allergic to, so perhaps there's a reason for this gene to exist.
    • Does anyone know if this gene has a desired effect besides "make humans allergic to us"?

      You don't think "keeping humans away" is enough of a positive side-effect in an animal gene?

      • by ZorbaTHut (126196)
        When it's not intense enough to keep the human from killing and eating you, but too intense to keep the human from taking care of you? I think it's a pretty clear negative side-effect.
  • As noted in a prior comment to Slashdot [slashdot.org], I proposed this idea to Usenet in 1992 (link to Google archive of my original article included in my prior comment.) Of course, I'm tooting my horn, but Allerca actually did it. Good luck to Allerca.
  • The real question is, though, will they taste as good?

    Good BYEEEEE karma
  • by Brad1138 (590148) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Monday September 25, 2006 @12:29AM (#16181103)
    ACK! phftt!
  • I'll buy the damn cat if you'd just stop adversiting on slashdot every month!
  • ...breed out the gene that attracts psycho women who think they're a witch, read their stars religously every day, and treat their cat as if it were their child? On second thoughts I like having a clear sign that a chick is nuts. Without this men would fall prey to the psycho chicks more often.
    • by Tumbleweed (3706) *
      On second thoughts I like having a clear sign that a chick is nuts.

      Or you could just make sure there's no Y chromosome. That's another clear sign. Dude, they're ALL nuts, just in different ways, and to different degrees. That's why they're always a surprise!
    • by danpsmith (922127)
      ...breed out the gene that attracts psycho women who think they're a witch, read their stars religously every day, and treat their cat as if it were their child? On second thoughts I like having a clear sign that a chick is nuts. Without this men would fall prey to the psycho chicks more often.

      So you banged her too, huh? My advice is to not let her know where you live.

  • Wake me when I can get a hyper-allergenic cat. Ideally one that's so adorable that even though it causes excruciating allergy flare ups in its owners, they can't bring themselves to get rid of it. Yes... That would be the perfect gift for those pesky in-laws...
  • by stox (131684) on Monday September 25, 2006 @12:32AM (#16181125) Homepage
    No one "owns" a cat. What they really need to say is that there are 38 million households where the cat(s) tolerate the presence of humans. In most cases, the cats will have trained their humans to fulfill their every whim.
    • by Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) on Monday September 25, 2006 @12:56AM (#16181229) Homepage
      kmdoibhau''an 97483ujrg vmcv

      Get off my damned keyboard you whiskerfaced devil!!!
    • by quokkapox (847798)
      Actually, cats are incredibly good pets. My Mittens catches mice and insects that get into the house. They bathe themselves, and they bury their own waste, unlike dogs. They tend to have rather unique personalities. I've known more than a dozen cats in my thirty-odd years, and every single relationship has been rewarding for me, and I hope also for the cats.
      • by stox (131684)
        I never said cats weren't good pets. I was commenting on how much cats manage to negotiate a shared existence with their cohabitants. Clever little devils.
    • by allanj (151784) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:19AM (#16181641)
      I've heard it like this:

      The Dog sees the Man serving food and water and generally taking care of it and loving it. The Dog concludes: "Wow, he must be God".

      The Cat sees the Man serving food and water and generally taking care of it and loving it. The Cat concludes: "Wow, I must be God".
      • See, the dog just sees you as the alpha dog of the pack. Not as "god", not as "owner", but like a bigger and more powerful dog, and usually therefore the pack leader. Since wolves hunt in packs, they're programmed to follow the leader. That's all the "love" you're getting there. No more, no less.

        Note that you're not even automatically always the pack leader there. I really mean it that to the dog you're just another dog. Sure, you're the bigger and more dangerous one, and thus a natural choice for the alpha
    • by eggz128 (447435)
      Dogs have owners, cats have staff.
  • Now I won't have to keep sneezing because of my fashionable homemade bag [encycloped...matica.com].
  • Why pay that much for a cat when theres plenty of dogs out there that are already hypoallergenic.
    Take the Basenji for example. It's hypoallergenic, doesn't bark, grooms itself like a cat, and dislikes water like most cats.
    And while they don't bark, they do make a yodeling type of noise.

    And, you can usually get one for quite a lot less than $4000.
    • by jfengel (409917)
      Cats are rather easier to care for than dogs. A dog really requires attention every day. Not just for its physical needs, but because dogs are pack animals and really crave attention from their owners. Most cats can be left on their own for up to a few days with sufficient water, food, and a big litter box.

      They're also content in relatively small spaces, like an apartment. A dog really should be taken outside every day if at all possible.

      This isn't a debate about what's "better". It's just some people will
    • by LanMan04 (790429)
      Ah, but does this dog poop in a box? Can you leave it alone (with another dog of its type, so it's not too lonely) for days at a time?

      That's the main reason I have cats: low maintenance!
  • IMHO, selective breeding is just one way of genetic modification. It does alter the DNA as well, and the difference is a matter of degree. People have practiced it for millennia, and for some weird reason it's only in recent years that we've had anti-GM activity.

    I imagine it's possible to get the same results with modern, direct GM, as these guys did with SB. In that case this is equally evil and unnatural as any GM ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aXis100 (690904)
      No amount of natural cross-breeding will result in tomatoe vines with glow-in-the-dark fish genes.

      The anti-GM activity is due to the proliferation of new protiens in existing foods that will trigger new alergies/diseases. Also with plants once they start releasing pollen you cant control it.
      • No amount of natural cross-breeding will result in tomatoe vines with glow-in-the-dark fish genes.

        Bullshit! Mutations are (mostly) random. If a bioluminescent gene gets mutated into a tomato vine "naturally," it could then be bread in to more vines. The effect could potentially be strengthened via selective breeding.

        GM merely speeds up the process (by A LOT).
    • People have practiced it for millennia, and for some weird reason it's only in recent years that we've had anti-GM activity.
      Our ancestors bred based on the phenotype. These guys breed based on the genotype. It's a critical distinction.
  • Sphynx cats (Score:3, Informative)

    by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Monday September 25, 2006 @01:30AM (#16181377) Homepage Journal
    I know a guy who is allergic to cats, so they got a couple of sphynx cats. Hairless, so no dander problems. Look a bit like Yoda [naughty-nature.com]. In fact, kind of repulsive. And I'm a cat lover.
    • A torrent of anecdotal evidence claims that this breed, a more normal looking one, doesn't make allergic people wheeze and break out. On the other hand neither my allergist nor our late cat's vet has seen anything to confirm that in the professional literature.

      They're also very expensive.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberian_(cat) [wikipedia.org]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ortholattice (175065)
        My experience was the opposite. I'm only very mildly affected by most cats - we have a tabby at the moment - but a few years ago we had a Siberian. We gave it away because my eyes would water so badly when I was around it. (OK, I was constantly brushing it, too, which didn't help. Unfortunately it would only let me touch him, and in fact developed such a strong attachment to me, constantly begging for attention, that it was a nuisance.)

        I had never heard this anecdotal evidence. Perhaps if I had, the

      • by Smallest (26153)
        i have one.

        i have pretty sensitive cat allergies (i can usually tell if someone has a cat by sitting next to them). but i'm symptom-free with my cat (unless she scratches me, then my skin reacts a little). i also take Zyrtek for allerigies in general and Sigulair + Advair for ashtma in general, so maybe i'm not a good clinical study.

        expensive, yes - because they're pure-bred.
  • Hypoallergenic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:13AM (#16181589)
    Interestingly, it's a marketting term - it has no legal meaning per the FDA, which is why cosmetic companies feel free to use it; they are not saying you won't be allergic to this or that any FDA approved testing has been done. Yet people think it means something so they buy hypoallergenic products.

    As one marketeer put it during a presentation - "My job is great - I sell a product that is 90% air and people pay a premium for it!!"
  • does this mean when you convert your cat into biodiesel [ananova.com] that you won't get allergic reactions to the exhaust fumes?

    this would certainly get ME to buy as diesel car as I'm allergic to cats !

  • So what's to stop me buying several of these kittens and just making some more, and reselling them? Or is selective breeding now an IP related area? Makes me think - do we now need Open Source hypoallergenic cats?
    • by will_die (586523)
      they only sell them as spayed or neutered.
      Don't know what it would take to reverse that process if that is even possible.
    • by revlayle (964221)
      Maybe they spay and/or neuter them before they are "shipped" to their owners?
  • "A cure for allergies [dailymail.co.uk] that affects millions including asthma and hayfever [earthtimes.org] will be available within the next few years [scotsman.com]" so we don't need hyperallogenic cats. Let's make them glow [tribune.com.ng] instead.
  • They've got this the wrong way round. They should have been breeding humans that can tolerate having a cat in the environment :)

    After all it's a human with the intolerance problem (who probably didn't get to play around in the dirt/with "wild" animals enough as a child so didn't receive the trigger stimulus for the necessary bits of the immune system to develop)
  • Piracy? (Score:2, Funny)

    by noidentity (188756)
    I'm sure these are copy-protected cats. I can't wait until someone pirates one! Cheap hypoallergenic cats with eye patches for everyone!
  • Just breed me a cat that is irresitably attractive to, yet also fatal to, fleas.

    I'd pay at least $1000 ...
  • by mi (197448) on Monday September 25, 2006 @11:22AM (#16185753) Homepage

    We have been "genetically modifying" animals through selective breeding for millenia.

    It is not neccessary to introduce bits of cells (the narrow understanding of "GM") from other things to modify genes.

    If agriculture was invented today, it would've been banned...

  • People and their wimpy hypoallergenic cats. Me, I have giant (12-17 lb) hair and dander machines. Give them a good brushing and you've got enough hair to knit another big cat.

    These 2 are super frendly and leave you covered with a thick layer of hair after a few minutes of petting. If you are allergic these pictures could make you sneeze.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/webweasel/6022722/ [flickr.com]
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/webweasel/127260496/ [flickr.com]

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