The primary cause of allergies to cats is a glycoprotein known as Fel D1 which is produced by the sebaceous glands under the skin, and to a lesser degree is present in the cat’s saliva.
A cat is constantly shedding minute particles of dander (skin flakes) into the environment, and when he grooms, he transfers saliva onto the coat, which is then shed around the home producing allergies in those susceptible.
Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the allergy but may include:
Itchy, red, watery eyes
If you are not sure that you are suffering from an allergy to cats, you can request an allergy test. This involves either a skin patch test or a blood test.
As we discussed in our previous article hypoallergenic cats do they exist? There are no true hypoallergenic breeds of cat, there are however some breeds of cat who are believed to have less of an allergic reaction in people.
Which cat breeds are better for allergy sufferers?
It needs to be repeated, no breeds of cat are truly hypoallergenic. The cats below may be slightly less allergenic than other breeds.
A natural breed of cat from Russia, the Siberian is a large, longhaired cat who are very personable and love to spend time with their human companion. There is no concrete proof the Siberian is indeed a hypoallergenic breed, but many breeders have reported anecdotally that allergy sufferers have had success with Siberian cats.
The Devon Rex is a short coated breed of cat who arose from a spontaneous mutation. They are friendly, outgoing, active, and get along with absolutely everyone. They make a perfect family pet.
Another breed originating from England with a short, wavy coat, the Cornish Rex is similar to the Devon Rex in temperament. Active, outgoing, friendly, this breed is a wonderful cat who gets along with absolutely everybody.
Although they look bald, the Sphynx has a beautiful peach-like fuzz over his body which feels like soft chamois.
They are outgoing, friendly, and love to climb. They have been described as part cat, part dog, part monkey.
The Bengal originated as a hybrid between the Asian leopard cat and domestic cats. They still maintain their wild look but with the nature of a domestic cat.
They are extremely intelligent, energetic, love heights and they thrive on human companionship.
One of the oldest domestic breeds of cat, the Russian Blue is a quiet, devoted breed of cat who loves to be close to their human companion.
This breed is moderate in every way, they are not vocal, they are not highly active, nor are they lazy, they are affable and loyal.
The beautiful Balinese is a longhaired Siamese. They share common traits with their Siamese cousins, being intelligent, outgoing and people oriented. They love to play games and will follow you from room to room.
Why are these breeds more hypoallergenic?
Well, the Rex and Sphynx cats have less fur (yes, Sphynx cats do have a peach-like fuzz) and therefore less is shed into the environment. It should be noted however that while Rex and Sphynx cats shed less fur into the environment, they still shed dander (skin flakes) which contain the Fel d1 protein.
The other breeds are believed to produce less Fel d1 than other breeds of cat. This has yet to be proven, however, many cat owners and breeders substantiate this claim.
Most cats shed all year round, with a heavier shed around springtime. I recently spoke to a Siberian cat breeder who said that Siberian cats tend to shed less year around, but instead shed heavily twice a year. She reported that in her experience, the breed has been good for allergy sufferers. *
Are some coat colours less likely to cause allergies?
While not proven, it is speculated that darker coated cats produce more Fel d1 than light coloured cats. I have one family member who is allergic to cats and had problems going near my black male domestic cat, but she was fine with my lilac female Burmese.
Male vs female cat:
Entire male cats produce more Fel d1 than female cats (either entire or spayed).
* Unfortunately there really are no guarantees if you suffer from an allergy to cats. A leading cause of Rex cats being surrendered is that they were purchased with the belief they would be “allergy free” and the new owners still suffered from cat allergies. You can do your best to reduce your chances by adopting from the list of cats LESS LIKELY to cause allergies, choosing a lighter coated cat, a desexed male or female, but even with all of this, they still may trigger problems.
Go to cat shows and chat to cat breeders, ask them for their opinion on their chosen breed. If they claim their breed is hypoallergenic. See for yourself by spending time with the breed(s). Even if you visit a cat show or a cat breeder and experience no problems with allergies to a certain breed, sometimes you can have exposure to a cat for weeks or months before allergies become a problem.
If allergies do become a problem, speak to your doctor. There are many ways to relieve symptoms and ways you can reduce exposure to allergens within the home. We will cover this in more detail in our next article.