Keeping a cat can trigger allergic reactions in more than a quarter of the population, scientists have discovered. British scientists found cats could cause breathing difficulties in people with some of the most common allergies.
The team from Imperial College, London, took samples from the mattresses of almost 2,000 European volunteers with common allergies, including dust mites and timothy grass. They found those exposed to cat allergen had a greater respiratory sensitivity and were more likely to cough and wheeze.
"This was an unexpected finding," said Dr Chinn, lead author of the study at Imperial College.
"Our study suggests that all allergenic individuals have signs of asthmatic responses if exposed to cat allergen, even if blood tests show they are not allergic to cats."
The increased symptoms suggest that a reduced exposure to cats may be beneficial to those with allergies, regardless of what their specific allergy is, the researchers said. However, they added more research would be needed.
"People need to be aware that cats are a problem for more people than we realised," said Dr Chinn.
"If they're thinking of getting a pet and a cat is just one of their options, they might want to pause before choosing."
The report is in this month's issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.