Say you want to have a feline companion of your very own…but you are allergic. That would be rather problematic, wouldn’t it? Maybe, but perhaps there is hope, afterall!
You see, certain cat breeds are rumored to cause less of a reaction than others.
So, what are some of the best cats out there for people with allergies?
The truth is that there is no such thing as an allergy-free cat. However, female cats appear to have lower levels of the allergen and some cat breeds do seem to be hypoallergenic. These breeds include the Siberian Cat, The Balinese, The Devon Rex, The Cornish Rex and the Sphinx.
What causes cat allergies?
Cat allergies are caused by an allergic reaction to one or more of the allergens produced by cats.
As sebaceous glands provide the hairs with lubricating oil, and saliva is licked directly onto the fur to keep clean, you can see why cat hair becomes a real problem for those allergic to these proteins.
So why is it that some cats seem to cause less of a reaction than others?
We aren’t fully sure yet.
But there seem to be at least two factors at work.
The Hair(less) Factor
Some believe that the distribution of loose cat hairs has something to do with it.
As we saw earlier, it is not the cat hair people are allergic to. It’s the proteins in their saliva and sebaceous glands. But the hair does become a carrier to then distribute these proteins all around the house.
It stands to reason, then, that having less hair on a cat is favorable for allergy sufferers.
And this is why Rexes are often a popular choice for those looking to adopt a hypo-allergenic cat. Their hair does significantly differ in a couple of ways from other cat breeds.
Known for its intelligence, big ears and slender body, the Devon Rex has very little guard hair. This is the top layer of the coat.
Their coat curls due to a mutation, earning them the nickname ‘Poodle Cats.’ Their other nickname, due to the shape of their head is ‘Pixie Cat’.
They also love people, are keen on play and have a bit of a mischievous side to them. Since they are so clever, it is quite easy to teach them all kinds of tricks.
Similar to the Devon Rex, the Cornish Rex has wave-like hair, caused by a different but similar mutation.
This kitty is also quite the little performer, and will vie for your attention like no other.
The Rex truly does deserve their kingly name, as they are larger than life in everything they do.
Highly active, highly intelligent and very invested in everything in your life, you’ll find that they easily keep up with anything you throw at them, provided it is rewarded with attention and affection.
From less hair to hairless!
Caused by yet another type of mutation, this cat is fully hairless.
Because of their condition, they do require quite a bit of care, including frequent bathing.
This can be a blessing regarding allergies. One common tip when dealing with cat allergies, is to wash your cat frequently with a special type of shampoo available in most pet shops.
With that said, beware that you may have a strong allergic reaction when touching their (unwashed) skin, as there are no hairs to shield you from those pesky allergens.
As a companion, Sphinx cats are known for their extroverted nature, and wanting to be part of everything you do. They tend to be very well socialized, in part due to the need for frequent care and handling.
While there is no guarantee that less hair on a cat will help your allergy, it will at least reduce the amount of the hair spread throughout your house.
But there is perhaps another reason that these breeds seem to cause less reactions in those with allergies.
They may just be one of the breeds that produces less of the allergen that makes your skin crawl and your nose itch.
The Protein Factor
You see, some breeds seem to produce less of the allergen than others.
And oddly enough, they are some of the fluffiest, long-haired breeds you can find.
In particular, the Siberian is known as THE hypoallergenic breed to beat.
And, true enough, the Siberian generally does possess lower levels of that Fel d1 protein. In addition, people have reported that specific Siberian cats do not cause as much of a reaction as others.
So, again, there is no guarantee that the Siberian cat you adopt will have lower levels. But they’re more likely to.
However, that could also be true of other breeds.
Research is still in its early stages. For example, the Balinese is said to be lower in levels of Fel d1 and provoke fewer reactions, as well. Breeders are keenly working to find more evidence on this.
And should you want more options, it is likely that those with some Balinese ancestry might produce lower amounts of protein allergens, as well.
Additionally, female cats have been shown to produce lower levels of the proteins, followed by neutered males. Intact males seem to be the worst offenders.
Known for their easy-going nature, curvaceous body and luscious fur, this russian cat is equipped to deal with the outdoors like no other.
Looking at all that fur, you’d never expect this kitty to be potentially suitable for allergy sufferers, but the limited research done so far suggests otherwise.
For those allergy sufferers dreaming of a long-haired kitty that is suitable to family life, playful and intelligent, this beauty might be worth checking out.
This pretty kitty is the long-haired version of the Siamese breed and therefore shares similar personality traits.
Vocal, present, utterly social and very focused on their owner, these cats are born performers and want to take an active part in your life.
Interestingly, only Siamese with Balinese heritage seem to have the potential to be hypoallergenic, despite the long-haired variant being a mutation of the short-haired breed.
While there are theories as to why that is, further research is still required.
So..let’s face it.
There is no easy solution or answer, as of yet.
That said, if you truly want a furry friend to share your life with, there are some things you can do.
Tips On Finding And Living With Your Kitty
- Provided your allergy isn’t life-threatening, ask the breeder or shelter if you can spend up to 30 minutes with the cat or kitten you’re looking to adopt. Rub them along your face, play with them, and pet them copiously. That way, you know just how strong a reaction you’re in for. And bring your supplies to deal with the possible aftermath!
- Given that the research is still in its early days, and every cat is different, some cats of the same breed may give you different levels of reactions, so do not lose hope after the first failure.
- Consider adopting a female cat, as they are likely the ones that are most hypoallergenic. If you do adopt a tom cat, make sure to have him neutered, as intact males produce the highest amount of allergen.
- Make sure you don’t only pick a cat based on looks and hypoallergenic level. This is an animal that will share your life as your roommate for up to 20 years. Compatibility in terms of lifestyle, vocality and temperament are vital in choosing your pet as well.
- Invest in cleaning supplies with HEPA filters and electrostatic air purifier systems and plan on using them frequently to remove any hair from your home.
- One of the things I have in my home at all times are over-the-counter medications for when my friend with a cat allergy comes to visit. Having these things on hand – just in case – just makes these situations easier to deal with.
- Some people may also benefit from a specific injection that is designed to suppress the body’s natural immune responses to the cat allergens.
- Train your kitten to enjoy baths. Bathing a cat with special anti-allergy shampoo – which is available at most pet stores – will remove the allergen on their body. While most cats are taught to fear water for a very good reason (hypothermia), it is absolutely possible to teach them to enjoy a regular bath, if done correctly.
- Brush your cat regularly, to remove any stray hairs they may deposit around the house otherwise.
- Provide your cat with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids to keep their coat in tip-top shape and minimize dander and loss of fur.
While it may be more work than some are willing to put in, these tips will help you make life for you and your pet a lot easier. They will help you manage the problem while enjoying your new family addition. And who knows? In the long run, exposure to your pet could very well lead to building up a tolerance to the allergens. You certainly wouldn’t be the first to report such a happy occurrence.
Meanwhile, the search for the Holy Grail of hypoallergenic cats continues.