hypoallergenic cats

Hypoallergenic Cats & Cat Allergies

November 30, 2014

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There are no complete hypoallergenic cats or cat breeds and with around 1 in 10 of the human population having oversensitive immune systems, it is quite a problem for a lot of cat owners. These allergic reactions in humans are twice as common in cats as they are for dogs.

What causes allergic reactions to cats?

Cat allergies in humans are an allergic reaction to allergens produced by cats. Most people assume that it’s the cat’s fur that causes the problem, but it’s actually an allergy to proteins in the cat’s saliva, urine and dander (dried skin) that is the real cause of the problem.

People with allergies have immune systems that mistake harmless things such as cat dander for invaders, and they attack them as they would a bacteria or a virus. Cat allergy reactions in humans are characterised by coughing, chest tightening, itching, skin redness, watery eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing and other similar symptoms, and are actually the side-effects of your immune systems’ assault on the allergen.

The two primary allergens that cause these reactions are:

  1. Fel d 1 – a protein produced in cat saliva and in the sebaceous glands. It is the primary allergen present on cats and kittens. Fel d 1 can also be produced and transmitted through cat skin when grooming.
  2. Fel d 4 – the product of a cat’s urinary protein gene. It is primarily expressed in the salivary gland and is deposited onto the skin cells as the cat grooms itself.

How will I know if I have a cat allergy?

There’s only one sure way to tell if it’s your cat and not something else that is causing your allergic reactions, and that is to get confirmation from your doctor. Although the symptoms of a cat allergy may seem obvious to you, it may not always be your cat that is causing them.

Your doctor can test your skin or your blood to see if you are allergic and, although these tests aren’t always 100% accurate, your doctor may want you to live apart from your cat for a couple of months to see how what affect it has on your symptoms.

Is there such a thing as hypoallergenic cats?

Some breeds are considered hypoallergenic and produce fewer allergens than others but all cats, regardless of their breed, produce dander which is a very common allergen. Dander is a vehicle for transmission of the Fel d 1 protein which is present in cat saliva and is estimated to be the cause of around 10% of cat allergies.

If you want to adopt a cat, the following breeds (in alphabetical order only) are least likely to cause you problems or to aggravate your allergies. Generally, these breeds maintain their coats with much less grooming than other breeds, leaving less saliva and so less dander.

  • Balinese
  • Bengal
  • Burmese
  • Colorpoint Shorthair
  • Cornish Rex
  • Devon Rex
  • Javanese
  • Ocicat
  • Oriental Shorthair
  • Russian Blue
  • Siamese
  • Siberian
  • Sphynx

Now you’ve got your cat, what’s next?

Adopting a hypoallergenic cat may not always be the panacea for a person susceptible to allergies. However there are steps you can take to minimise allergic reactions, whether your cat is a hypoallergenic breed or not:

  • Frequent bathing and brushing: For allergic cat-owners, this is best left to someone else! However research has proven that bathing your cat a couple of times a week can remove most of the dander and so reduce the production and transmission of the Fel d 1 protein.
  • Washing bedding and toys: Frequent washing of bedding and toys will also reduce the number of allergens around your cat’s environment and so reduce the likelihood of those allergens being transmitted.

Further information on hypoallergenic cats

Wikipedia – Hypoallergenic cats

Google Images – Hypoallergenic cats

Cat World – Do hypoallergenic cats exist?

PawNation – 10 hypoallergenic cat breeds

Youtube Video – Hypoallergenic cats facts

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