Dr. Chris Roth, DVM
Many people suffer from allergies and specific reactions to cat allergens occur in about 10% of the population worldwide. So, what can be done about this problem? Several types of treatment are available for people who suffer from cat allergies however, many who suffer wonder if there is another way instead of treating themselves. This leads many to ask, “Are there hypoallergenic cat breeds?” In this article we’ll discuss some potential answers to this question, why some cats can cause allergic reactions in people, and finally several ways to help reduce the effects of feline allergies.
Why Do Some Cats Give People More Allergies?
First, the bad news. There is no such thing as a “hypoallergenic cat.” All cats produce and emit allergens. Ten allergens have been identified in cats that cause reactions in humans, but the main offending allergen is Fel D1 which is secreted in cat’s saliva and from other secretory glands. Cats lick their fur and skin and then shed the impregnated fur and dander which is great at sticking to soft surfaces, clothes and furniture, which is in direct contact with people.
“Hypoallergenic” Cat Breeds
Now for the good news. There are a few breeds of cats that seem to be a little less allergenic to people. This is thought to be due to their short hair coat and the fact that they don’t have much of an undercoat. Therefore, they tend to shed less and emit less total allergen. Breeds in this category include:
Keep in mind that each individual cat will shed a differing amount of allergens and while these breeds are commonly thought to be less allergenic than most, allergic reactions or symptoms can vary based on the individual or the cat itself.
Solutions for Reducing Allergies to Cats
Efforts are also being made to try and reduce the quantity of allergens that cats emit with new cat diets and a “vaccine” that may help to reduce the amount of Fel D1 that cats can produce.
Let’s face it, cats can be awesome pets and the only option for pet ownership in some situations. So, what can you do if you want a cat in your life:
Clean to Reduce Allergens
Clean, clean, clean. Getting rid of the offending cat hair and dander and reducing the number of allergens is a good first step. Vacuum and sweep floors or furniture where your cat lounges regularly. Wash cat bedding frequently. Finally, replace HVAC filters at scheduled intervals and consider installing hypoallergenic filters for reducing allergens circulated in the air. Keeping up on tasks such as these can reduce allergy symptoms as well as keep your home free of cat hair or dander.
An often overlooked source of allergens is your cat’s litter box. Some people are allergic to perfumes in the cat’s litter which can be mistaken for a cat allergy. So, another good idea is to change to a litter that is free of perfumes to see if that helps.
Antihistamines May Reduce Symptoms
For many people the best option is to treat themselves. There are many good medications that help with signs and symptoms of allergies. Also, Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, is very effective in mitigating the effects of feline allergens.
While there truly is no hypoallergenic cat breed certain breeds can help reduce an owner’s allergic response. If you are already a proud cat parent, maintaining a regular cleaning schedule and treating allergy symptoms with antihistamines can help reduce the reaction to your feline friend. So while your cat might avoid you like a bad allergy, there’s no reason for you to avoid them now.