NEW: Are hypoallergenic cats for real? See the Catster video on the subject.
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 breed is completely non-allergenic.
A protein (Fel D1) is the allergen in the cat’s saliva is what causes problems for 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.
So, a light-colored female cat might work out better for people with cat allergies.
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.
Three of the seven hypoallergenic 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.
Two “Rex” cats are on the list: the Devon and Cornish Rex. Both shed very little fur, which is good news for allergy sufferers:
The last two hypoallergenic cats on the list offer you a choice of hairless or hairy:
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:
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.
Washing cat toys and bedding also reduces the number of allergens floating around your home. Do so at least once a week.
After touching your cat, wash your face and hands. Never touch your eyes or face before you’ve done so.
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.