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Biotechnology not cat’s meow

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Chrissy Zehrbach, Editor in Chief

Chrissy Zehrbach, Editor in Chief

For anyone allergic to cats: have no fear, a solution is on the way. There will soon be an option to purchase a cat that can live in harmony with allergy-sufferers stuffy nose and sneeze free.

No, you did not read that wrong. The biotechnology company Allerca plans to create the first hypo-allergenic cat.

The cat will be the first in a series of “lifestyle pets” created by the company so that pet lovers can enjoy the furry creatures without allergy problems.

Through a process called “gene silencing” Allerca will be able to eliminate the potent protein secreted by a cat’s skin and salivary glands, eliminating the allergen. This is what people are allergic to, not the actual cat itself. But what they aren’t saying is that cats need this protein and blocking it could be detrimental to their health.

Does anyone else think this is horrible? Isn’t this disturbing? What are we doing to these poor cats? Especially at a time when animal testing has become so taboo, this does not seem like the right alley to go down.

But nonetheless, Allerca plans to have the first kittens available in 2007 for the small price of $3,500.

Surprisingly it hopes to sell 200,000 of these genetic marvels annually once they hit the market. For those who can’t wait to get their own hypo-allergenic cat, online reservations can be made with a $250 deposit.

When compared to purchasing a cat from a pet store for more than $100 or adopting one from the Humane Society for $100 or less, this is absurd. Somehow I doubt that that many people are going to run out and get one once they become available.

Only 10 percent of Americans suffer from pet dander allergies. And I don’t know a lot of people who are allergic who actually like cats, for that matter. So who’s to say this will be a success? Will we end up with poor orphan genetic rejects?

So why not just buy or adopt a regular cat? If you’re allergic, why not just get a dog? Or try a different breed of cat. Sometimes people aren’t allergic to every breed since different breeds produce different amounts of the allergen. Which brings me to another point.

The horrible people who decide to purchase these poor cats don’t get to choose the breed. British Shorthairs will be the first to be altered, and there are plans for other breeds to follow.

Seems to me that for $3,500 I’d expect something more than what comes off a conveyor belt production line.

Are we as a society really so selfish that instead of thinking about what this may do to the cats, we would rather satisfy ourselves with a pet that causes us less problems?

If we have the ability to alter these poor creatures why don’t we turn it around and alter ourselves so we’re simply not allergic anymore?

We are the ones, after all, who want this marvelous outcome. So why don’t we just make ourselves immune to any allergies so everyone can enjoy anything they can’t enjoy right now. And if you don’t want to, don’t complain. Sounds simple to me.

But if there is nothing we can do to stop this, these cats will soon join the league of freak pets like the GloFish – a zebra fish that has been injected with the fluorescent sea anemone gene.

Seriously, why are we spending scientific effort and time and, more importantly, money on such endeavors?

There are still cancers and diseases that we don’t have cures for that we could put our efforts towards instead. These are the causes that need our time and research.

Chrissy Zehrbach, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at

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