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The Best Cats for People with Allergies
By: Brianna Gunter
If you have allergies to cats, can you still have one as a pet? Maybe! It’s up to you and your doctor to decide what’s best for your health. But the good news is that there are quite a few cat breeds out there that are a lot easier on allergies than others.
What causes allergies to cats?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessarily a cat’s fur that causes allergies. Rather, it’s because of what the fur can carry. Most people are allergic to certain proteins that a cat’s body produces, primarily identified as proteins Fel d 1 (found to cause about 95% of allergies) and Fel d 4. In addition to fur, these proteins can be present in a cat’s blood, sweat, urine, saliva, and dander.
For most people with cat allergies, dander is the biggest trigger. Composed of tiny bits of dried, dead skin that the cat naturally sheds, it is present in all domestic felines. But those who are allergic need not despair just yet. Different types of cats shed dander in varying levels, and some have also been found to naturally produce lower levels of Fel d 1 and Fel d 4.
If you have severe cat allergies, it’s always best to talk with your doctor first about whether or not it’s safe to live with any kind of kitty. That said, many people with mild or medically managed allergies do find cats that do not trigger them.
Top 10 hypoallergenic cat breeds
It’s important to know that no cat can be considered 100% hypoallergenic (although scientists are currently working on developing a breed that is). But as mentioned above, some cat breeds produce lower levels of allergens than others.
In addition to selecting a feline friend by breed, you’ll also want to take a look at gender. Female cats across the board produce lower levels of allergens than male cats. It’s also worth noting that neutered males will produce lower allergen quantities than non-neutered males, though they’ll still have higher levels than females.
Now, ready for the top 10 allergy-friendly cat breeds? We’ve done the research and narrowed them down.
Named after its distinctive white paws, the snowshoe cat also boasts an extra-short coat with dense fur. Compared to many other cat breeds, the snowshoe hardly sheds and may contain lower levels of cat dander. Just be forewarned—snowshoe cats tend to crave attention and may follow you around, regardless of how severe your allergies are.
9. Devon Rex
The Devon Rex is striking in appearance, with oversized ears, triangular face, and large, piercing eyes. It’s also a short-haired cat with fur that is slightly curly and sheds very little compared to other cats. This fur also absorbs the skin oils than contain Fel d 1 and Fel d 4, rather than letting it accumulate on the skin or be rubbed off on nearby surfaces. As a precaution, always wash your hands after petting, and consider bathing your cat on a regular basis.
8. Cornish Rex
Like the Devon Rex, the Cornish Rex is friendly to people with cat allergies thanks to its unique coat that doesn’t shed much or release allergen-filled oils easily. Routine bathing will also help keep this kitty from causing symptoms. But when directly compared to the Devon Rex, the Cornish Rex has a thinner and shorter coat that is considered even less maintenance.
The Siamese cat is thought to shed less thanks to its short, dense coat. In reality, they may shed less but it fluctuates with the seasons. Knowing what to expect may help people with allergies manage cat hair cleanups better. While more research is needed, it’s possible that Siamese cats also produce lower levels of Fel d 1.
Bengal cats are easily recognizable, thanks to short, pelt-like fur coats that come in a network of spots and stripes. If it weren’t for their small size, they’d look right at home out in the wild. But since Bengals are housecats, the good news is that their coats are easy to live with. A Bengal cat’s fur only comes in one layer and sheds in lower levels. Bengals also self-groom less often than other cats, meaning less allergen-filled saliva getting in their fur.
5. Russian blue
Russian blues are visually striking, all-gray (or “blue”) cats with eyes that range from vivid green to turquoise. They’re also a favorite of people with cat allergies thanks to dense, plush-looking fur that traps allergen-filled secretions down close to the skin rather than letting it go straight on your hands or furniture. This cat breed is also believed to produce less Fel d 1.
4. Oriental shorthair
Noted for its large ears, almond eyes, and elongated face, the oriental shorthair cat is a sight to behold. And while you’re staring, you’re less likely to have an allergic reaction thanks to this kitty’s lower dander quantities. The oriental shorthair is also noted for its short, sleek coat that doesn’t shed as much as other breeds.
Many people consider the recognizable sphynx a go-to cat for people with allergies. But it’s not because the cat naturally produces lower allergen levels. Instead, the sphynx is covered with a very fine, almost invisible layer of peach fuzz in lieu of fur, and this prevents it from shedding those allergens all over the house. Proteins Fel d 1 and Fel d 4 may still be present in oils secreted on the skin, but weekly baths will help prevent this from being an issue.
Looking at the Balinese, you might not think this cat could be anything close to hypoallergenic with its long, fluffy-looking fur. But with a single-layer soft coat, the Balinese cat sheds less than many other types of kitties. The breed also has been found to produce lower levels of Fel d 1 and Fel d 4, making it a valid option for allergic people who prefer the look (and cuddle appeal!) of long-haired cats.
Wait, can long-haired cats even be hypoallergenic? While no cat truly is allergen-free, the Siberian is a long-haired kitty that’s surprisingly easy on those who are sensitive. Aside from when they’re shedding their winter coats in spring, Siberians shed hair at a lower rate than other breeds.
Fascinatingly, research has shown that the Siberian may not have the genetic sequencing necessary to produce the Fel d 1 allergen, at least not in significant quantities. Other studies have shown that around 75% of people with cat allergies do not experience symptoms when in the presence of a Siberian cat.
Lower the chances of allergic reaction
It’s possible for you or a family member to still experience allergy symptoms even with cats that are closest to being hypoallergenic. However, you can take various steps to lower these chances:
- Vacuum and dust your home frequently
- Wear a face mask while cleaning
- Use an air purifier
- Clean your cat’s litter box daily
- Brush your cat regularly and always clean the hair out of the brush after use
- Talk to your doctor about taking an antihistamine or other medication that can help reduce the occurrence and severity of allergic reactions.
Did you know that cats can have allergic reactions too? Learn more about pet allergies on Barks & Mewsings, the Trupanion blog!
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This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.