Cat-choooo: meet the pet detective who is allergic to cats but admits his allergy acts as a cat radar helping him find missing moggies
Meet Tom Watkins, the pet detective who is allergic to CATS.
For unlucky Tom, 40, even just a single brush with a furry feline can spark uncontrollable sneezing fits and debilitating asthma attacks.
As founder of Animal Search UK, responsible for reuniting owners with their missing pets, most would describe Tom’s allergy as an occupational hazard.
But ironically Tom said his allergy works in his favour acting as a cat radar, helping detect when a missing moggy is near by sending him into a fit of sneezes.
He said: “My allergy hasn’t stopped me tracking down a cat yet, in fact, it actually acts as a sixth sense when trying to hunt them down.
“You could say it’s actually impacted my work in a positive way, despite how much I suffer.
“As long as I take the necessary precautions, I can battle through the allergy in the line of duty.”
The former police officer became aware of his allergy as a child after he realised cat fur made him sneeze uncontrollably.
But having never owned a cat, it wasn’t until he started handling them for a job that he noticed he suffered from more serious symptoms.
He said: “If I have any contact with cat fur at all, I start to sneeze uncontrollably and I break out in an itchy and painful rash, it’s very worrying.
“That’s not to mention the horrible asthma attacks, which can last for days sometimes if not treated properly.
“It can be really extreme reaction at times and I often have to wear protective equipment to prevent the fur from coming into contact with my skin.
“Doctors have advised me to stay away from cats but I’m willing to put my health on the line, I just love the satisfaction I get from returning them to their owners.
“I sometimes think, why can’t I just be allergic to peanuts or something instead, it’s so unfair.”
But despite his affliction, nothing would deter the animal lover from pursuing his dream job.
After retiring from the police force in 1996, he set up Animal Search UK in 1999 and now employs 15 staff across two offices in Hereford to track lost pets.
He said: “I used to love working for the police and wanted to combine my love of pets with my investigative skills.
“I was also a fraud investigator for Hereford Council which was great, but it was no way near as fulfilling as my job now.
“Despite my severe allergy, I get lots of satisfaction from my job and actually have a massive appreciation for cats, they’re wonderful animals.
“I’ve actually always wanted to own a cat but I’ve never been able to because I’m just too allergic.”
Animal Search UK is one of the leading search services for missing pets in the UK.
With over 30,000 volunteers on their Pet Patrol scheme, they help to recover more than 3,000 missing animals a month.
You can report a missing pet on their website for free at http://www.animalsearchuk.co.uk/.