Are you one of those unfortunate cat lovers who sneezes at the mere thought of a cat?
You're not alone. Many would-be cat parents grapple with feline allergies, dreaming of a purring companion who doesn’t bring on the sniffles.
Which brings us to the world of hypoallergenic cats.
They may not be as plentiful or well-known as their canine counterparts, but they do indeed exist. Let’s explore what makes a cat hypoallergenic and which breeds are kindest to allergy-sufferers.
What makes a cat hypoallergenic?
Technically speaking, no cat is 100% hypoallergenic. Bummer!
The main culprit behind cat allergies is Fel d 1, a secretoglobin protein complex (whatever that is) found in cat saliva, skin, and fur. While no cat is completely allergen-free, hypoallergenic breeds produce less of this protein, making them more tolerable to allergy sufferers.
So when we use the phrase “hypoallergenic” to describe certain cats, we’re really just referring to cat breeds that tend to produce fewer allergens than others. That being said, these breeds often produce a LOT fewer allergens than others, to such an extent that allergy-sufferers can live with them.
What cat breeds are hypoallergenic?
Pining for a home where the sound of purring doesn’t compete with the sound of sneezing? Certain cat breeds might be the purr-fect match.
Known for their majestic, luxurious fluff, Siberian cats are a surprising ally for allergy sufferers. Despite their abundant fur, they produce significantly less Fel d 1 protein than most other breeds. This makes them an excellent choice for allergy-sufferers who nonetheless dream of owning a fluffy cat.
And not for nothing, but Siberians are also playful and affectionate. They’re a great choice, even if you’re not an allergy sufferer.
Their distinctive leopard-like spots aren't the only things that set Bengals apart. These cats have a unique coat that produces less allergen-containing dander than many other breeds.
With that striking blue-gray coat and shimmering green eyes, the Russian Blue is as gorgeous as it is allergen-free.
These cats are fairly gentle and reserved, but they can form deep bonds with their owners—including the allergy-prone ones.
The Oriental Shorthair is another great option for reducing allergic reactions. Their short, fine coat doesn’t shed much, which can help minimize the spread of allergens.
These cats tend to thrive in social environments and often seek attention and interaction from their human companions. Fortunately, allergy-sufferers can meet their needs.
Devon Rex and Cornish Rex
Both of these breeds are notable for their unique, curly coats. Their less dense fur translates to fewer allergens floating around. The Devon Rex and Cornish Rex are often described as dog-like for their loyalty and playful behavior. (Though if you’re looking for an actual hypoallergenic dog, you might consider a poodle mix.)
Balinese cats don’t actually come from the Indonesian island of Bali; they just reminded a breeder of Balinese dancers. Wherever they come from, they’re a decent choice for allergy-sufferers.
These kitties are often mistaken for their non-hypoallergenic cousin, the Siamese. (Strangely enough, they actually have longer hair than the Siamese!)
Balinese cats are known for being sociable, highly intelligent, and sometimes a bit vocal. If you’re looking for a friendly hypoallergenic cat with absolutely no connection to Bali, the Balinese is (oddly enough!) a solid choice.
Unlike those “Balinese” pretenders, these friendly felines actually do originate from Burma (now Myanmar). Elegant and sleek, Burmese cats stand out for producing less Fel d 1 than many other breeds.
They thrive on human interaction and are often described as 'people-oriented' cats, even when those people tend to sneeze in the presence of whiskers.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. These bald wonders don’t leave dander-filled hair around the house because they don’t have any hair to shed.
Small amounts of allergens can still be found in their skin and saliva, but they’re as hypoallergenic as cats can be.
Ultimately, each of these breeds brings its own unique charm—and, mercifully, very few achoos.
Factors to consider when choosing a hypoallergenic cat
Choosing a cat is a big decision, and even more so when allergies are in play. Here are some key factors to consider:
Allergen levels: Even among hypoallergenic breeds, the level of allergens can vary. Do your research, consult a vet or other expert, and, if possible, spend time with the breed to assess your reaction.
Lifestyle fit: Don’t get so fixated on the allergy factor that you forget to choose the cat that’s right for you. Consider the cat's temperament and energy levels! Some hypoallergenic breeds are more active and require more engagement, while others are more laid-back.
Grooming needs: Different hypoallergenic cats have different grooming needs, and the ones that shed more tend to produce a higher number of allergens. (Have we mentioned that no cat is 100% hypoallergenic?)
Health and longevity: You should research the most common cat health issues in the breeds you're considering. Healthy cats—in particular, those with good skin and coat health—often produce fewer allergens.
Remember, finding the right hypoallergenic cat isn’t just about managing allergies. You need to find a feline friend who’s right for your needs and lifestyle.
Managing allergies with hypoallergenic cats
Owning a hypoallergenic cat doesn't just mean you can throw caution to the wind.
First and foremost, regular grooming is absolutely essential. Even low-shedding cats need to be brushed about once or twice a week to improve skin health. (If your kitty is suffering from some specific skin issue, like fleas, you’ll need to consult a vet and use a more aggressive treatment.)
You can also try:
HEPA filters: Use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in your home to trap allergens
Allergen-reducing products: Consider using allergen-reducing sprays or wipes on your cat, as recommended by your vet.
Creating allergy-free zones: Designate certain areas of your home, like bedrooms, as cat-free zones to create a respite from allergens.
And remember, cleanliness is next to catliness.
You should regularly clean your home to reduce the accumulation of pet allergens. This includes vacuuming carpets and washing bedding. (Let’s be honest, you should have been doing this anyway.)
Myths about hypoallergenic cats
When it comes to hypoallergenic cats, there's a litter box full of misconceptions. Let’s run through them, shall we?
“Hypoallergenic cats are allergen-free": We’ve already busted this one a few times, but let’s do it again: No cat is truly hypoallergenic. Some just produce fewer allergens than others, but none are completely allergen-free. As a result, some individuals with severe allergies may struggle to live with any type of cat. It’s sad, but true.
"Hairless cats are the best option for allergy sufferers'': Ah, the sphynx. Feline baldness MUST lead to a sniffle-free home, right? Look, it’s true that hairless cats are extremely hypoallergenic compared to other breeds, but they still produce the Fel d 1 protein. Did we mention that no cat is truly hypoallergenic?
“Short-haired cats are better for allergies than long-haired cats": There’s even less truth to this one. It's not the length of the hair that matters, but the amount of Fel d 1 protein the cat produces. Some fluffy or long-haired breeds don’t produce many allergens, including the ones we’ve discussed in this article, like the Balinese or the Siberian.
"You can build immunity to cat allergies": Don’t count on it. While some people may develop tolerance over time, this is hardly a guaranteed outcome for everyone.
Separating myth from reality can help you set the right expectations when you choose a (mostly) hypoallergenic cat.
How cat insurance and wellness can help
If you’re a chronic allergy sufferer, you may be more concerned with your own health insurance than your pet’s.
But cat insurance can ease the financial burden of life-saving care, helping you pursue any treatment your cat needs when they need it. Even as you’re taking care of your own health, you should never forget about theirs.
In the meantime, be sure to keep up with your cat’s regular vet appointments. Preventative care is crucial for your cat’s skin and coat health, which means it can help you maintain an allergen-free home. The optional, non-insurance ManyPets Wellness Plan can help reimburse you for routine care, including regular vet check-ups.