The benefits of cat ownership are numerous for us and our feline friends. Unfortunately, cat allergies limit the ability of many would-be cat owners to adopt a furry bundle of joy. The upcoming HypoCat vaccine given to cats may soon make cat ownership a possibility for those with pesky cat allergies. However, pet insurance coverage for this vaccine may not be so simple.
Here's the agenda today:
What's the big problem: cat allergies in people
A new solution: HypoCat cat allergy vaccine
Get out the crystal ball: the future of HypoCat
The common problem of cat allergies
Cats are great companions to humans, with cat ownership exceeding dog ownership in many countries. Over 25% of U.S. households have cats. Meanwhile, allergies consistently rank in the top five reasons people choose not to own a cat. Cat allergies are the second most common cause of indoor respiratory allergies in people, with around 10-20% of people allergic to cats.
Unfortunately, cat allergies are also a leading cause of pet relinquishment, contributing to the space limitations that burden animal shelters and rescues.
No approved therapies exist to prevent a person from developing allergies to their cat. Instead, cat-allergic people must rely on managing their symptoms after developing an allergy.
Management of cat allergies in people consists of:
- Antihistamines like diphenhydramine or cetirizine to manage symptoms
- Allergy shots given to people to desensitize them to cats
- Avoidance of cats to prevent triggering allergy symptoms
HypoCat could offer a different solution to cat allergies.
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What is HypoCat?
Developed by Swiss company Saiba Animal Health, HypoCat is a vaccine that would be given to cats to cause the cats to induce fewer allergies in people.
Over 80% of people with cat allergies are allergic to a specific protein called Fel d 1, found in cat saliva, tears, and fur. The vaccine induces the cat to create antibodies against Fel d 1, neutralizing the protein. The level of active Fel d 1 produced by the cat is lowered, reducing its impact on cat-allergic people.
Read our HypoCat article to learn more about the cat allergy vaccine.
HypoCat and pet insurance
Although HypoCat has shown promising results for reducing cat allergies in people, it’s unlikely to be covered by pet insurance providers. Pet insurance plans are designed to help pay for medical expenses if your pet becomes sick or has an accident, meaning these plans cover illness and injury.
Pet insurance aims to reduce the financial burden on pet parents after unexpected veterinary bills. Like human health insurance, you will pay a premium and must meet a deductible before the insurance company starts paying a portion of your bills. These policies also have a copay, usually a percentage of the total veterinary bill, that you still pay for each veterinary visit after meeting the deductible.
Some insurance providers provide optional wellness plans that cover routine vaccines and preventative care for your cat. HypoCat isn’t currently anticipated to be a routine part of cat wellness, so we wouldn’t expect HypoCat to be covered under these add-on plans.
One caveat is that insurance plans may cover reactions to the HypoCat vaccine. Thus far, cats reacting to the HypoCat vaccine experience mild, typical post-vaccination symptoms, including fever, appetite loss, or reduced activity for 1-3 days after injection. Most often, these side effects don't require medical intervention.
If your cat were to develop allergies, pet insurance will usually help cover the treatments necessary to manage your cat's allergies, as long as it's not a pre-existing condition. This is because the allergies would be an illness affecting the cat rather than their human family members.
The future of HypoCat and pet insurance
We will know more about how pet insurance companies respond to the introduction of HypoCat once it reaches the market, which could occur as soon as 2024. Insurance companies haven't published statements on whether they will cover HypoCat, but we wouldn't expect to find HypoCat as a covered item for most pet insurance at this time.
We recommend checking with your pet insurance company to see what is covered before committing to a plan. Remember that some insurance companies have optional add-on plans that may improve coverage for your pet.
Why won't my pet insurance cover HypoCat?
Most pet insurance providers cover accidents and illnesses. HypoCat is designed to prevent allergies in people rather than treat disease in the actual cat. As a result, pet insurance providers may not choose to cover HypoCat. However, if your cat experiences complications from the vaccine, treatment may be covered by your pet's insurance provider.
When will HypoCat be available?
HypoCat may be available in the United States as soon as 2024, but according to Saiba Animal Health’s website, they will still need to perform pivotal studies before government approval. Roll-out of the vaccine would begin in the United States before moving into other countries.
How do I check if my pet's insurance will cover HypoCat?
Most insurance companies have not issued statements about HypoCat coverage at this time. You should contact your pet insurance provider to see if they have plans to cover HypoCat. Make sure to inquire about whether they would cover any reactions to the vaccine, as well.
Cat allergies are one of the most common allergies in people and are among the top reasons people choose not to have a cat.
An up-and-coming vaccine called HypoCat given to cats may reduce cat allergies in people.
Because the HypoCat vaccine is intended to reduce cat allergies in people rather than treat allergies in cats, it’s unlikely to be covered by pet insurance.
To see if HypoCat will be covered by your pet’s insurance, contact your pet insurance provider to ask about coverage.
- Viruses. Immunization of cats against Fel d 1 results in reduced allergic symptoms of owners.
- The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Immunization of cats to induce neutralizing antibodies against Fel d 1, the major feline allergen in human subjects.
- Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. Human allergy to cats: A review of the impact on cat ownership and relinquishment.
- Saiba Animal Health. Pipeline: HypoCat & HypoDog.
- AVMA Website. U.S. pet ownership statistics.