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Is there any basis in the myth that people allergic to cats are also allergic to big cats like lions and tigers, or are the larger big cats different than their domestic relatives?

Dear William

Thank you for your question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

I don't think there is a definite answer and many of the websites rely on anecdotes, rather than on scientific evidence. My sister was allergic to our pet cat, but didn't seem to show any allergies to lions or other wild cats at London Zoo. As far as I know, she wasn't allergic to my mother's pet cats years later. People may not suffer from every cat they cme into contct with.

Justin ( into great detail about how people develop allergies. He says that house cats are only distantly related to big cats. Justin refers to an article from the July 1990 issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The researchers investigated if the main house cat protein known to cause allergies in humans (Fel d I) is found in big cats as well by examining Fel d I-specific IgE response (as well as the more general IgG response) to big cat dander. They found the IgE reacted with the proteins found in the big cat dander, but the amount of reaction was nowhere near that of Fel d I itself. The tiger dander was found closely in line with the other big cats. It seems that tigers and other big cats can prompt an IgE response in house cat-allergic people, but not with the same vigour. says that allergies to cats are allergies to a combination of the cats saliva and dead skin or dander. When a cat grooms itself, it deposits a thin layer of this mixture which drys and becomes airborne. Wild cats kept in captivity would also have this dander/saliva combination, but this differs from that of a house cat. Somebody who is allergic to house cats may not be allergic to lions and other big cats. Also, most people spend less time near big cats than they do near domestic cats, so are less likely to suffer from the accumulation of saliva and dead skin.

I hope this helps.

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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