[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 24 September 2006, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
'Hypoallergenic cats' go on sale
Hypoallergenic kittens (photo courtesy of Allerca)
At just three weeks old these kittens have already been reserved
What are claimed to be the world's first specially bred hypoallergenic cats have gone on sale in the US.

US biotech firm Allerca says it has managed to selectively breed them by reducing a certain type of protein that triggers allergic reactions.

The company says the animals will not cause the red eyes, sneezing and even asthma triggered by cat allergy, 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 hypoallergenic cats back in 2004.

No genetic modification

It tested huge numbers of cats trying to find the tiny fraction that do not carry the glycoprotein Fel d1 - contained in an animal's saliva, fur and skin - which often prompts an allergic reaction in humans.

Those cats were then selectively bred to produce the hypoallergenic kittens now on sale, the company says.

The company's Steve May told the BBC that it was a natural, if time consuming, method.

"This is a natural gene divergence within the cat DNA - one out of 50,000 cats will have this natural divergence," he said.

"So candidates - natural divergent cats - were found and then bred so there is really no modification of the gene."

The BBC's Pascale Harter says there could soon be a global market for the kittens - in the US alone 38 million households own a cat, and around the world an estimated 35% of humans suffer from allergies.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Joshua, the first hypo-allergenic cat



SEE ALSO
Pets 'could lower allergy risk'
27 Aug 02 |  Health

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific