If you’re one of the 30% of people worldwide who suffer from allergies, then you might be one of the unlucky ones who suffer around cats – common symptoms include wheezing, sneezing, runny nose and red, itchy eyes. Whilst pet hair and dander (dried flakes of skin) is a common allergen you may surprised to discover that for those allergic to cats, it’s usually a protein (FelD1) found in the cat’s saliva and secreted skin that is the problem. When a cat washes themselves, the saliva dries on their fur and becomes airborne, causing an allergic reaction once the allergens reach your nose and sinuses.
You may have heard that there are certain breeds of cat considered purrfect for allergy sufferers, but unfortunately that’s not exactly true. Although certain breeds do seem to be hypoallergenic, meaning they have less of the troublesome allergens in their saliva and skin secretions, no cat will ever be completely non-allergenic.
Cat loving allergy sufferers will probably have to accept some minor level of discomfort (or control their symptoms with anti-histamine medications and nasal sprays) if they want to share their lives with cats.
The Best Cat Breeds for Allergy Sufferers
- Sphynx – The alien-like Sphynx is often thought to be hypoallergenic because of its lack of hair, which means the dander has nothing to cling to. Their suitability for people with allergies could also be due to regular bathing which keeps the Sphynx’s skin in top condition and any allergens under control.
- Cornish Rex or Devon Rex – Both Rex breeds have distinctive curly coats and shed very little. Devon Rex’s are slightly more suitable, being shorter haired, but there isn’t a huge difference in allergen production between the two breeds.
- Oriental Shorthair – Oriental Shorthairs are another breed that produce less dander in their saliva and skin secretions than many other breeds.
- Balinese or Javanese – Despite being long-haired, these Siamese cousins also produce less of the allergen that causes problems. The Javanese cat has a fine coat, with no undercoat which reduces the overall volume of hair and minimises allergens in the air.
- Russian Blue – The Russian Blue has a dense double coat, which traps allergens close to it’s own skin, so there are less airborne allergens floating around for allergy sufferers to breathe in and react to.
- Siberian – Siberian cats are known to have less FelD1 in their saliva too, but perhaps it’s also their triple layered coat designed to help them survive harsh Russian winters which also results in minimal shedding of allergens.
Ways to Reduce Allergens in Your Home
Whilst the above cat breeds are considered good choices for allergy sufferers, there is no cat breed that is 100% hypoallergenic. So, you’ll need to do a few additional things in your home to reduce the allergens and minimise allergic reactions.
- Bathe your cat as often as possible (or wipe them down with a damp cloth), and make sure you groom regularly to remove allergens from the fur. Note: If you are highly allergic, leave the cat grooming activities to someone else.
- Wash your cat’s bedding and toys regularly.
- Look for an air purifier to use in your home that has filters to filter out the allergens.
- Make sure allergy sufferers are sensible when it comes to contact with cats – washing their hands after touching cats, and not rubbing their face in the cat’s belly, despite how inviting it looks.
- Dust and vacuum your home regularly. Ensure your vacuum has a HEPA filter, designed to trap allergens in the air and on carpets.
- Restrict the cats to certain areas of the house. Keep all bedrooms cat-free zones.
Coping with cat allergies is an ongoing commitment, but it’s worth it for the joy that they bring into our lives.
Are you or someone in your family allergic to cats? How do you manage the situation?