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 are allergic and also 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 normally produce fewer allergens than “normal” cats. the operative word here is “less.” hypoallergenic cats and hypoallergenic cat breeds are not synonymous with non-allergenic, and no cat breed is completely non-allergenic.
A protein (fel d1) is the allergen in cat saliva that causes problems for people who are allergic to cats. Once your cat licks her fur, the allergen-laden saliva dries and becomes airborne, seeking a warm home in her nose and sinuses. some breeds of cats produce less of this protein than others, making them hypoallergenic.
what factors make hypoallergenic cats hypoallergenic?
- males produce more allergenic secretions than females
- intact males produce more than castrated males
- dark cats tend to produce more than light colored cats (no one knows why)
- kittens produce fewer allergens than adults
- Balinese: Often referred to as the “longhaired Siamese,” the Balinese seems an unlikely candidate for a hypoallergenic cat. but it is one of the few breeds that produces less fel d1 protein than other cats, resulting in fewer allergic reactions in allergy sufferers.
- Oriental Shorthair: They are hypoallergenic cats, but it is still a good practice to groom your cats frequently (brushing and cleaning) to keep dander to a minimum.
- Javanese: Like the Balinese, the Javanese sports a simple, medium-length coat that doesn’t tangle. Due to the lack of an undercoat, they have less fur, which means fewer allergens.
- devon rex: Of the two, the devon has shorter fur and less fur. Your Devon Rex will need his paw pads and ears cleaned of oil buildup frequently, but he doesn’t need frequent full baths like the Sphynx or Cornish Rex.
- Cornish Rex: The Cornish Rex is more maintenance-friendly than the Devon because this breed requires frequent baths to mitigate oil buildup on its skin.
- Sphynx: The hairless sphinx is the cat that most often comes to mind when people think of hypoallergenic cats. however, being hairless does not mean they are maintenance free. your sphynx will need frequent baths to remove the gummy buildup of oils on his skin, and his large ears will require frequent cleanings as well.
- Siberian: Like the Balinese, the Siberian sports a moderately long coat, but is still hypoallergenic due to below-average enzyme levels in its saliva. some claim that 75 percent of people allergic to cats have no reaction to the Siberian.
- Reduce allergens by bathing and brushing your cat frequently. If you are allergic, it is best to leave the process to a hairdresser or family member. Research has shown that washing your cat 2 to 3 times per week can remove up to 84 percent of existing allergens and reduce future allergen production. some claim that using cold distilled water in the bath can also reduce allergen levels. frequent brushing will reduce the amount of loose hair and dander in your home.
- wash cat toys and bedding. Washing cat toys and bedding also reduces the amount of allergens floating around your home. do it at least once a week.
- Be careful when touching your cat. After handling your cat, wash your face and hands. never touch your eyes or face before doing this.
so a light-colored cat might work better for people with cat allergies.
what hypoallergenic cats are there?
As mentioned, while no breed of cat is truly hypoallergenic (all cats produce at least some allergens), there are some breeds that produce fewer allergens than others. However, this list of hypoallergenic cats shouldn’t be the only thing you should consider when researching which breed of cat to adopt. be sure to consider all the characteristics of each breed to determine the best fit for your home.
list of 7 hypoallergenic cats
three of the seven hypoallergenic cats are of oriental lines
The Balinese, Oriental Shorthair, and Javanese are considered hypoallergenic cats. this offers several options for cat lovers who want a low allergen cat with the characteristics of the popular Siamese.
two “rex” cats are on the list of hypoallergenic cats
The Devon and the Cornish Rex are listed as hypoallergenic cats. both shed very little fur, which is good news for allergy sufferers.
the last two hypoallergenic cats on the list offer you the option of hairless or furry
what to know after bringing home hypoallergenic cats
It’s important to understand that adopting hypoallergenic cats may not be the panacea you expect. Before adopting a cat, spend some time with him or a cat of the same breed to see if your allergies are still under control.
If you get your cat from a breeder, ask if you can return it if allergies are still a problem (reputable breeders will allow you to do so). better yet, adopt from a rescue organization for the breed; they will always accept returns.
how to minimize cat allergens, whether you have hypoallergenic cats or not
more information about hypoallergenic cats
If you’re allergic and serious about adding a cat to your home, read diane morgan’s no-sneeze cat owner. provides extensive information on allergy management, including natural and homeopathic treatments for people allergic to cats.
Also, read about how to effectively manage your nasal allergies >>
thumbnail: photo by art-of-photo / thinkstock.
This article was originally published in 2016.
about the authors
catster is a cat magazine and cat website where cat lovers come together and learn about everything from weird cat sounds to serious feline health issues. Subscribe to catster magazine at catster.com/subscribe. come here. or connect with us in the catster online community.
read more about hypoallergenic cats and living with cat allergies on catster.com:
- ask a cat lover: are hypoallergenic cats really real?
- Tips for Living with Cat Allergies
- Do hypoallergenic cats really exist?