Are Sphynx Cats hypoallergenic? - The Pets and Love
The Sphynx is…an odd sort of cat. They show us what cats look like beneath all that fur. It certainly takes a moment to get used to it. But, could it possibly be that their lack of fur is the key? Could Sphynx cats be the ultimate cat for allergy sufferers?
In short, are Sphynx cats hypoallergenic?
Unfortunately, Sphynx cats are NOT hypoallergenic. In fact, touching their bare skin can cause a serious allergic reaction. However, the lack of hair might keep the allergen from getting spread around the house. So, the Sphynx cat is worth looking into for those willing to take certain precautions.
Now why would you take this risk?
Because this eccentric cat isn’t just unique in appearance. This cat will rock your world, given the chance.
The Sphynx Cat
Boisterous, active and utterly intrigued by what you’re up to, the Sphynx cat is a joy and a handful to have around.
Utterly playful and with a great sense of humor, you’ll instantly know what’s on their mind as they’ll tell you, loudly and proudly. And they expect the same transparency from you and your family in everything you do. They’re typically great family cats and particularly well-suited to indoor life.
Due to their special condition and their personality, they want and actually need pampering. This breed tends to be easy to handle because the kittens learn at a young age that handling is part of life.
In fact, it is vital to their well-being. Typically, you wash a Sphynx once every week to remove the excess oil on their skin. This oil is meant to lubricate the hair that…well, isn’t there.
Similarly, due to the lack of hair in the ears, Sphinxes also tend to produce an abundance of ear wax, which will need cleaning out. And if your Sphynx goes outside, they’ll even need sunscreen during the summer and a sweater, plus maybe some booties during winter.
With this all in mind, the Sphynx tends to be a dream for people who love a close, hands-on, almost dog-like bond with their cat. They’ll absolutely soak up all the attention while being pampered and dolled up.
So, let’s stop dancing about.
Is this lack of coat a perk or a problem for allergy sufferers?
It can be both. The fact is that the most common allergen people react to is Fel D 1. It is a protein produced in the sebaceous glands of a cat. This means that the oil that lubricates the skin (and normally the fur of a cat) contains these pesky proteins.
In other words, you now have that allergen in a concentrated form on your cat’s skin, instead of dispersed amongst thousands of hair strands.
This means that touching the cat when those oils are present could potentially set off a major reaction in an allergy sufferer. That said, if you are taking care of your Sphynx, you’ll be washing those oils off every week.
Meanwhile, there is another side to this. While every Sphynx is different and they vary in just how ‘hairless’ they are (some have some serious down), they will undoubtedly spread way less hair around the house than any other cat.
And if you keep their skin in tip top shape, you can significantly reduce the amount of dander, as well. That means your house would be nearly allergen free, with a few precautions here and there.
Additionally, the limited research we have so far seems to indicate that kittens and females produce less Fel D 1. Neutered males produce more than females and kittens, while intact tom cats produce the highest amounts.
So, you may want to consider adopting a female.
All right, so you’ve made the decision to adopt a naked, feline family member.
Time to make sure you all live happily – and comfortably – ever after!
There are three ways to come at this:
Pampering Your Diva
As we saw before, pampering your kitty is part of the fun of having a Sphynx cat. It can actually be a fun bonding ritual.
- Spa Time! Once a week, wash your Sphynx with a special shampoo for allergy sufferers, available at your local pet store. Most Sphynx cats are veterans regarding bath time, if their breeder was diligent. So, you shouldn’t run into problems here. Make it fun with treats, a heated bathroom and affection, so they continue to enjoy it. You may also want to ask for some tips and tricks from the breeder on how to properly do bath time and how to prevent dry skin – and the formation of dander!
- Dry Skin Proneness. Some cats have a natural predisposition towards dry skin, which in turn allows pesky dander – and with it, allergens – to roam your home. One thing you can do to prevent this, is pick up Omega 3 fatty acid supplements at the pet store. These will keep the skin nice and supple – and dander free!
- Acepromazine. This is a type of medication you can add in very low doses to your cat’s food. It can significantly diminish your reaction to your kitty.
Next, let’s take a closer look at your home. There are a few tricks we can apply there to make everyone more comfortable.
- No Sphynxes in the bedroom. While they have no hair, you don’t want your kitty to transfer the oils on her skin to your bed linen. You’d spend 8 hours a day, rolling around and breathing in possible allergens. Unfortunately, it just isn’t worth the risk.
- Rethink your home. While there is no cat hair to be trapped by fabric, there is still some concern regarding the oils on your kitty’s skin. See if you can figure out your Sphynx’s favorite snoozing spots and cover them with washable blankets. That way, you can remove them if you want to sit there, as well as regularly wash them to stay on top of the allergen.
- Use furniture polish and dust often. Make sure that you spray the polish directly on the surfaces, as this removes the dust more effectively. Also, did you know that adding a rigorous dusting routine may actually reduce air-borne cat allergens by 95%?
- Get yourself a HEPA vacuum. These vacuums are designed to deal with pet dander and hair. See if you can get someone else to do the vacuuming, though, as dust (and therefore the dander) does get kicked up quite a bit.
- HEPA Handheld Air Purifiers. To truly catch all the allergens in the air, especially in rooms with a lot of textiles, get yourself some of these handy machines. You can place them anywhere you need a little assist.
Your Body Is Your Temple
Setting up your daily routine
- Washing your hands. As your Sphinx does not have the buffer of hair, this is even more important to protect you from the oils on their skin. So live it, breathe it! Alternatively, you may want to get them a nice little outfit, or keep some gloves on you, to minimize your exposure.
- Love thy washer. It’s your best friend in the battle against those pesky proteins, so use it diligently. It’ll remove the oils your Sphinx leaves on your clothes, as well as the dander your clothes will hold on to. With that in mind, think of cotton as your new best friend. Polyester and wool tend to trap a lot more of the allergen than cotton does.
- Have a chat with your Sphynx. Cats often have a tendency to show their affection by licking. And this does pose a problem. You see, Fel D 1 isn’t the only pesky protein cats produce. A secondary one, that many people are also allergic to, is found in their saliva. So, teach your highly intelligent Sphynx that licking, as sweet as it is, is not appreciated by instantly walking away every time. Then reward them with tons of affection and even treats for showing their affection through bunting (= head budding you), purring and cuddling instead. It’s all about good communication!
- See an allergist. They can help you figure out your allergy and how to best approach it. You may even be a candidate for immunotherapy. This is where they use injections to desensitize your body to your kitty.
- Over-the-counter options. Find out if Benadryl and allergy tablets are a viable option for you, in case of emergency. Keep your preferred method on you at all times and have some back-up ready in the first-aid kit at home. Don’t forget to tell your doctor which tablets work for you.
- Alternatives . As for holistic remedies, there are two that show great promise in alleviating symptoms: the neti pot and plain saline nasal spray.
Other Breeds You May Want To Check Out
The Sphynx isn’t the only cat that may peak your interest. If you love the general look of the Sphynx but aren’t sure about their high-maintenance grooming needs or the fact that they are, well, naked cats, you may want to check out the rest of the Rex family.
They just happen to have a bit more hair. Their hair is curled, kind of like a poodle. And this comes with its own benefits. Their hair will actually evenly distribute and diffuse the oils on the skin. Additionally, due to the curly texture and minimal amount of hair, these cats don’t shed much at all.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a cat that is rumored to be truly hypoallergenic despite having luscious long hair that goes all over the place, check out the Siberian Cat.
Limited research so far shows that this breed generally produces significantly less of the allergen Fel 1 D, compared to other cat breeds. So, the actual protein presence in the oils and on the hair is theoretically minimal.
However, please do keep in mind that each individual cat has their unique genetic make-up and there are no guarantees on just how hypoallergenic your specific kitty will be!
Whatever feline family member you settle on, be sure to do an ‘empirical’ test and spend time with your kitty before adopting them. See how you respond to them, and make an informed decision on whether or not it is feasible to integrate them into your lifestyle.
Astrid Mannes is an animal behaviorist, specialised in cats, with 20+ years of experience in the field. As a child, she was known for playing with cats instead of dolls. She has worked as a veterinary assistant, rehabilitated and re-homed problem cats and is continuously expanding her knowledge in the animal behaviour field.