A few years ago, when our family was researching pets, I read that scientists were trying to come up with a hypoallergenic cat. Now I see a...

Share story

A few years ago, when our family was researching pets, I read that scientists were trying to come up with a hypoallergenic cat. Now I see a California company has succeeded and they are selling their “product” for $4,000 per kitten.

They can charge so much because, while we may be smart enough to monkey with their genes, cats are expert at manipulating human brains.

Our family didn’t wind up getting a cat. I’m highly allergic to the creatures, so we took in a couple of leopard geckos whose person was headed off to college.

But a few months ago we became a cat household anyway, against our will and better judgment.

Our neighborhood has lots of cats, many of whom do not feel bound to one particular house. Our deck is a popular place for sunning and stretching and snoozing, but this summer one of the neighborhood cats tried to run away from home and take up residence with us.

A gray cat we’d not seen before showed up one day and meowed outside our door. She looked a little scraggly and sad. She has an extraordinarily expressive face, so I could tell she was going through hard times.

She’s awfully cute, too.

We didn’t know which house she belonged to, and after a couple of days I began to think maybe she was abandoned or lost. So when she asked for food, I gave it to her. That was a mistake, but she was looking me right in the eyes and pleading for help.

From then on, when we opened the door to get the papers in the morning she was there asking to be let in. When we sat down to meals, she came to the window and asked, what about me?

When we went outside, she rubbed against our legs and asked to be petted. And anytime a door was open longer than a split second, she’d run into the house.

We eventually discovered that she lived a couple of houses away, and that she was on a diet at home.

But that wasn’t the only reason she was trying to adopt new humans. The poor thing was traumatized by the introduction of other pets into her household, including a second big dog.

Even though I was miserable with allergic reactions that overwhelmed my nose spray, I got attached to her. We all did.

We even protected her during the cat wars. Other cats heard about her good deal and challenged her position. We’d be bumping around the house and hear furious hissing and caterwauling. Is it the big orange cat? The black cat? Lucy from down the street? And one of us would run out to play referee.

Now it’s getting cold outside. We’re trying to explain to her that she can’t move in, that she has a nice warm home and that is where she belongs. She’s angry with us. She doesn’t understand why we won’t do what she asks. Haven’t we been trained yet?

But she is around less and less these days.

When I read the latest story about hypoallergenic cats, I guffawed at the price, but then I thought about that face at the window and I understood why someone might pay that much.

The story said cats are the most common pet in the United States and Europe, even though cat allergies are one of the most common human allergies. Lots of people who have cats also have allergies and pay in suffering for the company of animals that can sometimes be indifferent to everything but their own needs.

We’re suckers for anything cute. I’m guessing the company, Allerca, is going to make a fortune. They didn’t actually manipulate cat genes the way they thought they would, but they discovered some cats are already hypoallergenic.

The mutation shows up randomly in a number of breeds, so the company used the old-fashioned method of shaping animals or plants to human needs and bred cats for that genetic variation.

Of course, there are cat-resistant humans out there, too. But I guess I’m not one of them.

Jerry Large: 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com.

His column runs Thursdays and Sundays and is found at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.