Top Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds for People with Allergies
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.
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 is 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.
Several Factors Affect Cats' Allergen Production:
- 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.
Cats Good 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.
Hypoallergenic Cats List
Three of the seven hypo-allergenic 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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
Related Advice from Other Cat Owners
The Best Cat for Someone with Allergies
Cat allergies come from a protein made in the cat's saliva and skin but not the fur. When the cat sheds those skin cells (dander) are spread around. However there are two types of cats that naturally have lower levels of the protein. They are the Siberian (big with long hair) and the Russian Blue (smaller cat with low shedding short hair).
Sometimes a hairless or Rex cat might be tolerable, but only because those breeds require frequent bathing which removes some of the dander. I have family members that are allergic to cats but they have lived with a RB without any problems.
~Kate B., owner of Korat
A Sphynx isn't Always Good for People with Allergies
Many people think that the hairless cat, the Sphynx, is allergy-free. In some cases, this is true. If you are like most people, and are allergic to cat fur (like me!) then the Sphynx cat is a good choice for you. If you are one of the few people that is allergic to cat saliva instead of fur, then the Sphynx will make your allergies worse. If you are allergic to both, the Sphynx will not help, or make matters worse. A Russian Blue may be a better choice for someone allergic to saliva.
~Delilah Q., owner of Blue Cinnamon
Don't Overlook the Maine Coon
We have absolute incontrovertible proof that this breed is hypoallergenic. My wife is severely allergic, but has virtually zero reaction to our litter-mate Maine Coon Cat pair. Ditto for several other known cat-allergic people who have visited us.
~Brewster G. firstname.lastname@example.org, owner of a Maine Coon