The Best Cat Breeds for Managing Allergies
About 10% of the population is considered highly-sensitive or allergic to cats. However, if you’re allergic, that doesn’t mean you have to swear off cats altogether. You can still adopt a cat, as long as you look for certain breeds or certain characteristics.
While no cat breed is completely non-allergenic (all cats produce some dander, which is what most people are allergic to), there are many breeds of hypoallergenic cats. Hypoallergenic means that these breeds create fewer allergens overall, making certain cats less likely to cause allergic reactions unless your pet allergies are very severe.
Like dogs, all cats produce dander. They also create a protein, Fel d 1, present in their saliva, that is suspected to be the root cause of many cat allergies. Since cats spend so much time licking and grooming their coats, it’s easy to see both how dander and this protein attach to the fur, creating big problems for those with allergies. Cats that are considered hypoallergenic either produce fewer allergens or shed less fur to carry the saliva and dander.
The good news is, whether you prefer a short and velvety coat, a long, fluffy coat, or no coat at all, there’s a hypoallergenic cat breed for you. There are even several hypoallergenic breeds that look similar to the popular siamese cat. Here are several breed categories to consider:
Breeds with Lower Fel d 1
There are a couple breeds considered hypoallergenic because they are known to produce less Fel d 1. The elegant Balinese is a stunning, longer-haired breed that has similar features to a Siamese cat, but produces far less Fel d 1. Likewise, the thick-coated Siberian (looks similar to the Persian, one of the worst breeds for allergy-sufferers), but produces less of the allergenic protein and also sheds very little, making it an ideal companion for people with allergies who prefer a fluffier cat. Some studies indicate that up to 75% of people with cat allergies experience zero response to the Siberian.
Several breeds that help reduce allergies are either short-coated or single-coated, which means they are less likely to shed. The Devon Rex and the Cornish Rex, for instance, both have soft, silky short coats that are virtually shed-free. While, of the two, the Cornish Rex has less fur and sheds less, it also needs more maintenance, requiring frequent, full baths to get rid of oil buildup on the skin. The Javanese, another breed that’s similar to a Siamese, has a medium single coat. The lack of an undercoat translates into less matting, less fur overall, and less shedding. Finally, the refined Russian Blue sports a velvety coat that’s low-shed, and they produce slightly less Fel d 1 than the average cat.
Only one cat breed is hairless: the Sphynx. This is the number one cat breed for allergy sufferers and the breed most often associated with being hypoallergenic. While some people don’t like the hairless look, the Sphynx is an affectionate, loyal breed that’s a lot of fun. Like the Cornish Rex, the Sphynx requires frequent bathing and grooming to remove oil buildup on the skin and keep its large ears clean.
Breeds to Avoid
As with dogs, people aren’t allergic to cat fur, but the dander and saliva attached to the fur and spread around the home as your pet sheds makes fluffier cats a problem for people with allergies. In general, longer-haired cats (other than the breeds listed) and heavy-shedders should be off limits to allergy-sufferers. This includes the Persian, the Maine Coon, the British Longhair, and the Norwegian Forest Cat. While not a breed, per se, it’s also best for allergy sufferers to avoid black cats and male cats, as both produce more Fel d 1 than lighter-colored female cats.
Frequent sweeping and dusting, washing toys and bedding at least once a week, limiting your exposure to cat dander by keeping your cat out of certain rooms, purchasing a HEPA filter or air purifier, frequent bathing and brushing, and bringing your cat in for regular, professional cat grooming can also help people with allergies have a happier, healthier home.
At Ambassador Animal Hospital, we understand how to keep your cat healthy and happy—and how to best help owners live comfortably with their pets. We’d love to counsel you on the best cat for your lifestyle, discuss the best way to introduce a new cat to your home, and help you care for your cat from the moment of adoption. Our veterinarians and vet techs can discuss the challenges and health concerns associated with specific breeds, provide breed-specific grooming to reduce allergens, and much more.