According to The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, between 6 and 10 million Americans are allergic to cats or other pets. If you’re an allergy sufferer who also happens to be a cat lover, you may be interested in low-allergen cats. But what makes a cat hypoallergenic? Low-allergen, or hypoallergenic cats, are those that typically produce fewer allergens than “regular” cats. The operative word here is “fewer.” Hypoallergenic cats are not synonymous with non-allergenic, and no cat breed is completely non-allergenic.
A protein (Fel D1) is the allergen in the cat’s saliva is what causes problems for cat allergy sufferers. Once your cat licks her coat, the allergen-laden spit dries and becomes airborne, seeking a warm home in your nose and sinuses. Some cat breeds produce less of this protein than others, making them hypoallergenic.
Several Factors Affect Cats’ Allergen Production:
What factors play into how hypoallergenic a cat is? Photography by Tiplyashina Evgeniya / Shutterstock.
- Males produce more allergenic secretions than females
- Intact males produce more than neutered males
- Dark cats tend to produce more than light-colored ones (no one knows why)
- Kittens produce fewer allergens than adults
So, a light-colored female cat might work out better for people with cat allergies.
Hypoallergenic Cats Perfect for Allergy Sufferers
Although no cat breed is truly hypoallergenic — all cats produce at least some allergens— there are seven breeds that produce fewer allergens than others. This hypoallergenic cats list should not be the only thing you consider when researching which breed of cat to adopt, however. Be sure to consider all of each breed’s characteristics to determine which is the best fit for your household.
List of 7 Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds
Siberian cats might not look like hypoallergenic cats, but they actually are! Photography by uzhursky / Shutterstock.
Three of the seven hypoallergenic cat breeds are Oriental lines: the Balinese, Oriental Shorthair and Javanese. This provides several options for cat lovers who’d like a low-allergen cat with the characteristics of the popular Siamese.
- Balinese: Often referred to as the “long-haired Siamese,” the Balinese looks like an unlikely candidate for a hypoallergenic cat. But it is one of the few breeds that produces less of the Fel D1 protein than other cats, thus causing fewer allergic reactions in allergy sufferers.
- Oriental Shorthair: They’re hypoallergenic cats, but it’s still a good practice to groom your cats frequently (brushing as well as wiping her down) to keep dander to a minimum.
- Javanese: Like the Balinese, the Javanese sports a medium-long single coat that doesn’t mat. Because of the lack of undercoat, they have less fur which translates into fewer allergens.
Two “Rex” cats are on the list: the Devon and Cornish Rex. Both shed very little fur, which is good news for allergy sufferers:
- Devon Rex: Of the two, the Devon has both shorter fur and less fur. Your Devon Rex will need to have her paw pads and ears cleaned of oil build-up frequently, but doesn’t need frequent full baths like the Sphynx or Cornish Rex.
- Cornish Rex: The Cornish Rex requires more upkeep than the Devon because they require frequent baths to mitigate the oil buildup on their skin.
The last two hypoallergenic cats on the list offer you a choice of hairless or hairy:
- Sphynx: The hairless Sphynx is the cat most often associated with being hypoallergenic. Being hairless does not mean they’re maintenance-free, however. Your Sphynx will need frequent baths to remove the gummy buildup of oils on her skin, and her large ears will also require frequent cleanings.
- Siberian: Like the Balinese, the Siberian sports a moderately long coat, but still is hypoallergenic due to the lower-than-average enzyme levels in their saliva. Some claim that 75 percent of cat allergy sufferers have no reaction to the Siberian.
What to Know After You’ve Brought Your Hypoallergenic Cat Home
It’s important to understand that adopting a “hypoallergenic” cat may not be the panacea you’re expecting. Before you adopt a cat, spend some time with her or a cat of the same breed to see if your allergies remain in check.
If you’re getting your cat from a breeder, ask if you can return the cat if your allergies remain a problem (reputable breeders will allow you to do so). Even better, adopt from a rescue organization for the breed; they will always accept returns.
Once you have a cat, there are steps you can take to minimize allergens whether she’s a hypoallergenic breed or not:
- Reduce Allergens By Giving Your Cat Frequent Baths and Brushing. If you’re allergic, the process is best left to a groomer or family member. Research has proven that washing your cat 2 -3 times a week can remove up to 84 percent of existing allergens and reduce the future production of allergens. Some claim that using cool, distilled water in the bath may also reduce allergen levels. Frequent brushing will reduce the amount of hair and dander loose in your home.
- Wash Toys and Cat Bedding. Washing cat toys and bedding also reduces the number of allergens floating around your home. Do so at least once a week.
- Be Careful When Touching Your Cat. After touching your cat, wash your face and hands. Never touch your eyes or face before you’ve done so.
Learn More About Hypoallergenic Cats
If you’re an allergy sufferer who is serious about adding a cat to your household, read, The Sneeze-Free Cat Owner by Diane Morgan. It provides extensive information on allergy management including natural and homeopathic treatments for allergy sufferers.
Thumbnail: Photography by Art-Of-Photo / Thinkstock.
Plus, read up on how to effectively manage your nasal allergies >>
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