What follows may be of interest to my tabby cat, Ami, and my stout white cat, Jack.
First, while I have the cats' attention: Would you please consider using that $40 deluxe scratching post I bought you for Christmas (and even sprayed with a $6 canister of catnip essence) instead of persisting in shredding my couch?
To continue: I've been learning a bit about cat allergies and have concluded that Ami is much more likely to be an allergy-inducing kitty than Jack.
On the one hand, Jack is male--and male cats are more likely to induce sneezes and watery eyes, etc., than are females.
But on the other hand, Ami has dark fur; Jack's pelt is as white as the driven snow, at least in theory. And dark cats are more likely to trigger allergies than are light cats.
That, at any rate, is what allergy experts at the Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn concluded, after a study involving more than 300 people who suffered from "allergic rhinitis"--runny, stuffy nose, sneezing, red eyes, the rest of it. Of these folks, 145 had dark-colored cats and 96 had light-colored cats and 80 had no cats at all, poor things.
Dr. Shahzad Hussain and coauthors (who reported their findings at a recent allergy meeting) found a statistically significant difference in the severity of allergy symptoms in these groups.
People with dark-colored cats, they reported, were 2 to 4 times more likely to report severe to moderate allergies than those with light cats or no cats.
But why? Possibly, say the researchers, cats with dark coats may produce more of a substance called Fel d 1--a protein that is a big factor in cat allergies.
Fel d 1 may not have a very natty name, but it's powerful stuff. It's present in the skin and saliva but gets rubbed all over the fur by the cat's endless grooming and flies off into the atmosphere in little flakes of dander that stay hanging in the air far, far longer than normal bits of dust.
The entire pelt of a cat contains an average of 67 milligrams of Fel d 1--based on a study in which cats were shaved. The neck area is particularly rich in the stuff. Male cats seem to make more Fel d 1 than females--unless they're neutered, which Jack is.
And Fel d 1 persists! You can wash a cat, and a week later the protein will be back just like before. It can take six months or more to clear a house of the stuff, once cats have left the premises.
Cats. They leave their mark, and not just on the upholstery.
Food Facts to Chew On
Here is some news from the world of food, my cats' favorite subject:
* Broccoli of the future may be loaded with lots more cancer-fighting chemicals. In what the Agricultural Research Service calls a "groundbreaking study," scientists at the U.S. Vegetable Laboratory have investigated 71 broccoli varieties and found that amounts of a cancer-fighting chemical, glucoraphanin, vary 30-fold.
Next step: breeding cancer-busting strains of broccoli. Step after that: getting kids to eat their broccoli.
* Fruits, vegetables, meats, baked goods--you name it--may one day be served to us covered with "edible films" made from pureed fruits and vegetables, according to a report from a recent meeting of the International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies in Hawaii. The idea is to use the films to keep cut fruit and other products fresh, perhaps adding flavors to foods as well.
The film "looks a lot like a sheet of paper--opaque and orange, if it's made from carrots, for example. Strawberry is red, and broccoli is green," says Tara McHugh from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. What's more, she says, "it's very flexible without having to add plasticizers like glycerol"--and for that, at least, we're thankful.
* Are interesting new toothpaste flavors in store for us this millennium? Wasabe--the pale green, super-hot condiment that's served with sushi--might help prevent tooth decay, according to another report from the Hawaii chemistry meeting.
The paste is loaded with antibacterial chemicals called isothiocyanates that inhibit the growth of tooth decay-causing bacteria, at least in the test tube. Though, personally, I refuse to believe wasabe is potent until they give it a stripe.
If you have an idea for a topic, write Rosie Mestel at Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.