Risk factors for new-onset cat sensitization among adults: A population-based international cohort study

Mario Olivieri, Jan Paul Zock, Simone Accordini, Joachim Heinrich, Deborah Jarvis, Nino Künzli, Josep M. Antó, Dan Norbäck, Cecilie Svanes, Giuseppe Verlato*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Cat exposure during childhood has been shown to increase the risk of developing cat sensitization, while the effect of cat exposure in adulthood has not yet been established. Objective: To evaluate new-onset sensitization to cat in adulthood in relation to changes in cat keeping. Methods: A total of 6292 European Community Respiratory Health Survey I (ECRHS I) participants aged 20 to 44 years from 28 European centers, who were not sensitized to cat, were reevaluated 9 years later in ECRHS II. Present and past cat ownership and total and specific IgE levels were assessed in both surveys. Allergen-specific sensitization was defined as a specific serum IgE level of 0.35 kU/L or more. Results: A total of 4468 subjects did not have a cat in ECRHS I or ECRHS II, 473 had a cat only at baseline, 651 acquired a cat during the follow-up, and 700 had a cat at both evaluations. Two hundred thirty-one subjects (3.7%) became sensitized to cat. In a 2-level multivariable Poisson regression model, cat acquisition during follow-up was significantly associated with new-onset cat sensitization (relative risk = 1.85, 95% CI 1.23-2.78) when compared with those without a cat at both surveys. Preexisting sensitization to other allergens, a history of asthma, nasal allergies and eczema, and high total IgE level were also significant risk factors for developing cat sensitization, while cat ownership in childhood was a significant protective factor. Conclusion: Our data support that acquiring a cat in adulthood nearly doubles the risk of developing cat sensitization. Hence, cat avoidance should be considered in adults, especially in those sensitized to other allergens and reporting a history of allergic diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-425
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The coordination of ECRHS II was supported by the European Commission as part of its Quality of Life program. Funding for the individual centers is listed at http://www.ecrhs.org .

Funding Information:
Disclosure of potential conflict of interest: D. Jarvis has received grants from the European Union to coordinate ECRHS and to perform the Indoor study. J.-P. Zock and J.M. Antó have received grants from the FIS-Health Research Fund , Spain, to support the ECRHS II study in Spanish centers. The rest of the authors declare that they have no relevant conflicts of interest.


  • adulthood
  • cat allergen
  • cat ownership
  • epidemiology
  • Sensitization


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