Hypoallergenic cat breeds are sought by many in the United States as up to 30 percent of people have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. Unfortunately for cat lovers, feline allergies are about twice as common as canine ones.
The symptoms of cat allergies can be quite unpleasant and include a runny nose, sneezing, face pain from nasal congestion, coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Other symptoms include watery and itchy eyes, as well as skin rashes and hives.
Allergies are often triggered by exposure to flakes of dead skin—also known as dander—shed by the pet. Although any furry pet can cause a reaction, allergies are most associated with cats and dogs.
The proteins that cats secrete in their skin (Fel d1 protein) and that are present in the animal’s saliva (Fel d4 protein) cause most of the allergic reactions, meaning that it is not actually the fur people are allergic to. Cats often lick their fur too, spreading the Fel d4 protein.
Although there are no completely hypoallergenic cat breeds, there are types that are less likely to elicit severe reactions.
Professor Michael Rudenko, a Medical Director at the London Allergy & Immunology Centre, told Newsweek: “Despite common beliefs, there is no such a thing as a natural hypoallergenic cat or a dog. People who think that they are allergic to a pet should not get one without consulting a specialist and have a set of tests done.”
The scientist said that symptoms in different people vary not because of the type of cat but because of the allergen they are allergic to.
“Cats and dogs are made of many different proteins, most common are for cats Fel d 1 Uteroglobin, Fel d 2 Serum albumin, Fel d 4 Lipocalin, for dogs Can f 1, Can f 2, Can f 4, Can f 6 Lipocalin, Can f 3 Serum albumin, Can f 5 Arginine Esterase,” he said.
“For instance if someone is allergic only to Can f 5 Arginine Esterase — prostate specific antigen, but not to other allergens they will have no symptoms with female dogs and will only have symptoms with male dogs,” Rudenko said.
Rudenko said there is a method of treatment called “desensitization” that can help reduce or stopping the symptoms of allergy by taking treatment under the tongue of the allergen that the patient is allergic to on daily basis for the duration of at least three years.
“According to the evidence-based medicine approach allergen specific immunotherapy not only effectively alleviates allergy symptoms in clinical trials, but it has a long-term effect after conclusion of the treatment and can prevent the progression of allergic diseases into chronic condition,” the professor said.
He pointed out that Zurich University Hospital has developed an approach to treat cat allergy in humans by vaccinating cats with Fel-CuMV (HypoCatTM), a vaccine against the major cat allergen Fel d 1 based on virus-like particles derived from cucumber mosaic virus (CuMV-VLPs). When vaccinated, cats develop neutralizing antibodies against the allergen Fel d 1, which reduces the level of reactive allergen, thus lowering the symptoms or even preventing allergic reactions in humans.
“The approach is quite interesting, but as mentioned above Fel d1 is one of several proteins that makes cat allergen, this is why before vaccinating your cat or buying one that was already vaccinated it will make sense to do the test and check the sensitisation profile,” Rudenko said.
These are the cat breeds that are considered more hypoallergenic listed by veterinary advice website PetMD.
The website, which is written and reviewed by vets, considers the Cornish rex “hypoallergenic” as it sheds less hair than the average feline. The cat can come in a variety of colors, including black, grey and brown.
This cat, with its leopard-style spots, has a very soft coat and can be tamed easily, according to PetMD. They are also considered a hypoallergenic cat breed.
These medium-sized cats are also recommended because their wavy coats don’t tend to shed much, according to PetMD, minimizing the spread of dander in your home.
These Siamese hybrid cats are full of energy and enthusiasm, according to the vet website. They are also not considered to be highly allergenic because they keep dander to a minimum, according to Petfinder, a pet adoption website.
These long-haired cats with a single coat were developed from a foundation of Siamese, Colorpoint and Balinese cats. They produce less Fel d1 protein than other cats, according to the Hypoallergenic Homes website.
Despite having a beautiful long coat, this breed also produces less Fel d1 and therefore is considered hypoallergenic.
These large-eared cappuccino-colored cats shed less Fel d1, according to veterinary website PetKeen.
This hairless breed might be a good pet for people with allergies, since the proteins can’t get trapped in any fur. Sphynx cats come with their own special care requirements, however.
Russian blues’ coats are thicker than those of most cats, but they produce less Fel d1, according to Texas-based The Vet on 4th.
These cats, which are nearly identical to the Siamese breed, also produce less Fel d1, according to the Texas veterinary practice.
Other Tips to Avoid Allergies
Anita Kelsey, a feline behaviorist and author of the book Let’s Talk About Cats, told Newsweek: “Keeping on top of cleaning fur around the home can help but it will not stop a cat licking her fur and depositing saliva on her coat/skin. Grooming a cat’s coat can also help reduce the fur build-up, but it still won’t stop a cat licking themselves.”
The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine offers advice to allergy sufferers to keep flare-ups at bay, including keeping your pet out of your bedroom. Every few days it’s worth cleaning and hoovering your home to get rid of any cat hairs that may set you off.
Leave windows open to keep air fresh and well ventilated. You should also be keeping your cat healthy—it will shed less and produce less dander.
Bathe your cat regularly, removing allergens from the animal’s coat. If you can, get someone who is not allergic to cats to brush the cat regularly and discard hair straight away. Make sure to wash your hands consistently, especially after playing with the cat.