Are There ‘Hypoallergenic’ Cats?

There is hope for the allergic cat lover.

Are you teary-eyed every time kitty snuggles you? Do you get head congestion, stuffiness, sneezes or sniffles? You may be developing an allergy to your cat. Or you may have had an allergy in childhood and have been told you can’t have cats, yet you love them. Is there a solution?

Yes! Although there are no completely ‘hypoallergenic’ cats, there are some breeds who are less likely to cause an allergic reaction, and some ways to get around the issue with the snuggly feline living with you now.

The major cause of cat allergies is not the fur itself, but a protein called Fel d1 in the cat’s oil glands and salivary glands, that can deposit on the coat and can cause a reaction. 

Researchers note that there has been a 30% increase in allergies to cats. It’s not because of a change in cats, but because there are more allergenic substances in the environment now. A person’s system can only fend off so much, and then their ‘cup runs over,’ producing allergies to things that weren’t a problem before. General allergy prescriptions and over-the-counter medications for allergies can prove helpful. 

Studies have been somewhat confusing. They show that if someone has a lot of close contact with a cat as a child, then they will be desensitized to cats as an adult. Yet, if the child has only casual once-in-a-while contact with cats, such as when visiting a relative’s house, the adult will be even more at risk for cat allergy than one who had no childhood cats around. 

As your cat sheds, this Fel d1 protein spreads around the house through the air. Even if the cat is no longer there, their dander often remains in crevices everywhere, and microparticles can be inhaled. 

Then what are the solutions?

Treat the person.  Over-the-counter or prescription allergy medications are available to treat symptoms. It’s also possible to take allergy-specific immunotherapy. 

Treat The Home. Vacuum with a HEPA filter, and get one for your HVAC or a separate HEPA air purifier. Spray sofas and carpets with substances that break down allergens. Wash bedding frequently or make the bedroom a no-go zone for your kitty. Remove carpeting, which can hold 13-15 times more dander and other allergens than smooth flooring. Also consider removing any draperies, for the same reason. Try replacing drapes with simple white fabric shower curtains on hooks which can easily be taken down and washed frequently.

Get a (somewhat) hypoallergenic cat. If you are bringing a new cat into the family, there are some breeds that are less likely to cause allergies. Either they are known to make less of this protein, or they have less fur – sometimes no fur! Look for breeds such as Siberian, Russian Blue, Siamese, Bengal, Balinese, Javanese, Oriental shorthair, Sphinx or Rex. 

Studies show, too, that females of any breed make less of this protein than males, and spayed or neutered cats make less than unspayed or un-neutered ones. 

Treat your cat’s fur. Studies have also shown that the length of the fur doesn’t really matter. There is no point in trimming your long-haired cat. Washing your kitty with a hypoallergenic shampoo can slow down protein deposits by 84% for about a week at a time, according to an Ohio State University study – but you might end up with a very mad cat. A mutually agreeable solution would be a daily wipe-down with a damp towel.

The big breakthrough is in diet. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), it has been discovered that eggs from chickens that have been exposed to cats will contain a natural anti-Fel d1 component. This component in a cat’s diet can then bind and neutralize the cat’s allergy-causing proteins, reducing the cat’s allergy-causing effects. Specialty cat food with this type of egg as an ingredient will be labeled as allergy-reducing, for example. 

Heron’s Crossing provides end-of-life care for pets in the Metro Atlanta area. In-home appointments with compassionate vets are available. If you’d prefer a home-like setting away from your home, our Decatur office is also available by appointment.