Allergy-free cats latest proof of consumers' pet obsession

Allerca, a lifestyle pet company based in San Diego, has developed a hypoallergenic cat for cat lovers who always wanted a furry little companion, but couldn't own a feline friend because of allergic reactions.

Allerca, a lifestyle pet company based in San Diego, has developed a hypoallergenic cat for cat lovers who always wanted a furry little companion, but couldn't own a feline friend because of allergic reactions.

Allerca isolated the gene in felines that creates a protein that causes allergic reactions in humans. The company was then able to breed the animal without the protein, producing a natural breed of kittens that won't make a person's eyes water. The cats are currently on sale for $3,950, and a waiting list already exists. The cats will become more widely available in the first quarter of 2007. Allerca has said that it will be unveiling new lifestyle pets in the coming year.

Why does it matter?

"It's important to consumer PR because it's a growing market," says Bob Seltzer, leader of the marketing practice at Ruder Finn. "Americans right now are obsessed with their pets, so you have everything from designer clothing for dogs and the rise of pet insurance in the US, and new products like doggy dental treats and the liquid bandage for pets."

Seltzer says that influences like Paris Hilton have had a huge effect on the market and the current trend of carrying your pet like a purse. "Right now it's a great time to be a dog
or a cat in America," he adds. "Americans love their animals, and right now pets are chic."


Five facts:

1 According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 63% of US households own a pet, making the pet business a huge market for suppliers of pet food, clothes, and accessories.

2 An estimated $38.4 billion will be spent on pets in the US this year, up from $28.5 billion in 2001. Almost $3 billion of the money spent this year will go toward pet
 services like grooming.

3Celebrities such as Paris Hilton have made pets the hottest fashion accessory of the season. Small pet carriers are being sold by luxury brands like Louis Vuitton at prices exceeding $500.

4 PetMed, a pharmacy for cats, dogs, and horses, has made BusinessWeek's list of Top 100 Hot Growth Companies. PetMed has expanded its customer base by more than
1.3 million in the last two years.

5 Target and Wal-Mart have recently entered the $14 billion pet-food market with generic brands of dog and cat food. Mars is also trying to boost sales of its Pedigree brand pet food with a $200 million ad campaign it launched in 2005.

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