If you or a family member are allergic to cats, but still desire some feline companionship, consider looking into a hypoallergenic breed. While hypoallergenic cats are not completely allergen free, they typically have lower amounts of the FEL D-1 proteins that cause allergic reactions. Depending on the severity of your allergies, you may be able to live with one of these breeds comfortably.
Examples of Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds
There are five main cat breeds that are considered hypoallergenic. Each has different qualities and characteristics. When choosing a hypoallergenic cat, or any pet, spend some time with the animal before you take it home. Having a pet is a lifelong commitment, and it is better to find out that you don't like the temperament or are allergic to the cat before it comes home with you.
Remember, there is no cat that is completely non-allergenic. Any of these cats may work in your home, you may have allergies to one and not the other, or you may have severe allergies and be allergic to all of them.
The Sphynx is a nearly hairless breed of cat. It may have a fine down covering its body. Since it has so little hair, it does not shed much, nor does it have a lot of dander. These are both materials that the FEL D-1 proteins stick to, so the Sphynx may not cause discomfort for allergy sufferers. Due to their lack of hair, the Sphynx appears to have multiple wrinkles covering their bodies; people usually either love the way these cats look or they think they are the ugliest cat ever. In addition to being hypoallergenic the Sphynx is also:
- Friendly and good for families
- Robust and healthy
- Well muscled
- Cold, due to their lack of fur; they like warm beds to snuggle in
The Devon Rex
The Devon Rex is hypoallergenic due to its curled coat. There is less shedding and therefore less allergens floating around your home.The Devon Rex is a people-oriented cat that likes to snuggle. If you don't like cats that jump up on furniture and counters, you may want to look for another breed because the Devon Rex likes to jump. Additional characteristics of the breed include:
- Small size
- Robust health
- Intelligence and curiosity
The Cornish Rex
The Cornish Rex is not related to the Devon Rex. It does have a fine coat of curly hair, but the Cornish Rex has a much leaner, more elongated body profile. Due to the fineness of the hair, it sheds very little.The Cornish Rex is an active, playful breed. It retains its kitten-like playfulness for a lifetime. Characteristics of the breed include:
- Loyalty and affection for humans
- Even temperament
- Quiet voice
The Siberian is a long haired cat, but it has been found to have only a fraction of the FEL D-1 that other cats have. Due to the lack of this allergen in its body, the Siberian is often the best cat of all for allergy sufferers despite its long hair. Siberians are friendly and dog-like. They often follow their owners around the house and meet them at the door after they have been gone. This breed is very loyal. Other characteristics include:
- Loud voice
- Love of the outdoors
- Friendliness; this breed tolerates young children well
- Strong jumpers
Allerca Lifestyle Pets released a statement in 2006 that they had developed the first truly hypoallergenic cat. The company states on their site that their cats and dogs are the only scientifically proven hypoallergenic pets. This company has stirred up a storm of controversy among breeders. Not only are the cats prohibitively expensive, they are genetically engineered. There are also questions in the scientific community as to the truth of the claim.
Allerca GD cats can be very expensive - up to $6,500 in price. The company does claim to socialize all their kittens so they are sweet tempered and affectionate but there are few other known characteristics about the breed.
Hypoallergenic Does Not Mean Non-Allergenic
It is important to understand the differences in the words hypoallergenic and non-allergenic. There is no such thing as a cat that will never cause an allergy in anyone. Therefore, there is no such thing as a non-allergenic cat.
Hypoallergenic means that the cat is less likely to cause allergic reactions in most people. Certain cats are less likely to create the sneezing, wheezing and itching than others. While you may think that the fur is what causes the allergy, this is not the case. FEL D-1 is found both in the saliva and the sebaceous glands (oil secreting glands in the skin) of cats. When cats groom themselves, the FEL D-1 attaches to the hair and the fur can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive people. The allergen is spread through:
- Airborne molecules
- Having a cat lick you
Therefore, some of the hypoallergenic cat breeds actually have thick, fluffy fur, but they just do not produce as much of the FEL D-1 protein as other cats. Other hypoallergenic cats shed less than average cats, so not as much of the allergen is spread around.
Spend Some Time with a Hypoallergenic Cat
Be sure to spend some time around a specific breed before bringing them home to ensure no allergies are triggered. With so many different breeds to choose from, you're sure to find a cat that is a good fit for your family and lifestyle.