Cats are the best. Sure, tail-waggin’ pups are man’s best friend and bunnies are cuddly softies, but when it comes to household pets, furry felines can’t be beat. Unless, of course, cat allergens make you sneeze, wheeze, itch, and break out in hives.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), up to 30 percent of allergy sufferers have an allergic reaction to cats or dogs, with cat allergies twice as common as dog allergies. The symptoms of these allergies range from sneezing, stuffiness, and a scratchy throat to rashes, hives, and dry, itchy skin. Fortunately, there are hypoallergenic breeds for those whose allergy symptoms prevent them from owning a sweet kitty. A hypoallergenic breed is less irritating to allergies than other breeds, which means that cat allergy sufferers can live harmoniously with a feline friend. So, which hypoallergenic cat breeds are best for folks with allergies? Here’s the list.
What causes allergies to cats, anyway?
Despite what many people think, it’s not the cat’s fur that causes allergy sufferers to sneeze and feel itchy; it’s actually certain proteins that are present in a cat’s skin, saliva, and urine. When a feline licks its fur, cat saliva containing the Fel D1 protein dries into lightweight particles that are carried through the environment, where they infiltrate the air you breathe.
Thus, what’s happening when cat allergies flare is actually an overactive immune system responding to harmless proteins as if they were dangerous foreign bodies (think a bacteria or virus), and attempting to flush them from the system. This is why allergy sufferers experience sneezing, wheezing, coughing, irritated skin, and watery or itchy eyes after contact with a cat.
What does it mean when a breed is hypoallergenic?
While no kitty is truly free of allergens, breeds referred to as “hypoallergenic” are cats that naturally produce fewer allergens than others — the Fel D1 protein being one of these common allergens. This is good news if you have allergies to cats but have always dreamed of owning one. A hypoallergenic breed with fewer allergens are less likely to cause allergy symptoms.
Which hypoallergenic cat breeds are best?
Now that you understand what causes a cat allergy, let’s explore the many different kinds of cats that are hypoallergenic. While there are many, the below are the best cat breeds for those with allergies.
Although these sweet, friendly kitties are commonly described as “hairless,” they do have a thin, downy fuzz that feels similar to suede. With this in mind — and like all feline friends — Sphynx cats do produce dander that can cause allergies to flare. However, if bathed frequently, this shouldn’t be a problem. Regular baths also help to control the gummy build-up of oils that can coat a Sphynx’s skin. Additionally, their large ears require regular cleanings. The Sphynx is a loyal and devoted kitty companion that has a whole lot of love to give. They like to relax in the warmth by a window and will keep you entertained performing aerialist feats from the bookshelves, countertops, and doorways.
The Devon rex is an adorable cat breed that has an elf-like appearance to match its spunky personality. Like many hypoallergenic cats, this kitty is a short-haired breed that doesn’t shed a lot, making it a great choice for allergy sufferers. Known for its curly coat, the Devon rex is intelligent, curious, playful, and eager to snuggle.
The Cornish rex has a beautiful curly coat that sheds very little. That said, this energetic breed needs more TLC than the Devon rex because they require regular baths to keep the oil on their skin in check. Often referred to as the greyhound of the cat world, this unique-looking breed is loving, playful, and affectionate towards their human companions, and their warm, suede-like fur makes them irresistible to touch.
Don’t let the long coat of a Balinese fool you, as this adorable breed produces fewer allergy-causing proteins than other cats — plus, they experience minimal shedding. These sweet, social creatures are especially loving and known for being chatty. In fact, Balinese cats are said to be aware of moods, so in addition to keeping your allergy symptoms down, they will also keep your mood up.
Russian Blue Cat
Known far and wide for their beautiful coats, Russian blues are incredibly gentle, undeniably affectionate, and always happy to spend quiet time alone with their loved ones. These kitties are adaptable, empathetic, and often even a little reserved and independent. They have a short but dense coat that sheds a tad more than some of the other breeds on this list, but as long as it’s brushed weekly, those with mild allergies should be fine.
Oriental cats have short, fine coats that shed very little, making them especially great for people with cat allergies. As with all breeds, these tiny purr monsters require weekly brushing to keep dander in check. That said, the personality of the Oriental kitty is as distinctive as its silky coat. They are natural and extremely social entertainers who need exercise and activity to keep them occupied. Perfect for families and folks with other pets, these kitties are extroverted to the core and have no problem playing from sun-up to sun-down.
If you’re looking for an exotic feline friend that loves to play and won’t wreak havoc on your allergies, consider the Bengal. These stunning cats are said to produce less Fel D1 than many other breeds, and allergy sufferers report that they rarely trigger symptoms. Plus, their short coats don’t shed too much, making them easy to clean up after.
Although the Siberian cat’s glamorous long, lush coat requires frequent brushing and sheds more than other breeds, you won’t have to worry too much about sneezing, wheezing, or itching. Why? Because this long-haired breed has low levels of the allergen Fel D1 in its saliva. Siberians are not only great for allergy sufferers but fantastic for families, as these feline friends are playful, sweet-natured, and snuggly.
Last on the list, but certainly not least, is the Siamese cat. This popular kitty is believed to be a low-allergen cat breed, though there’s little definitive scientific evidence to back this claim. That said, they do have a short, non-shedding coat, so you can expect less dander if you adopt a Siamese cat. Known for being extremely vocal, mischievous, and intelligent, this breed is affectionate and loves to be around their favorite humans.
The Final Word
Think of this short list of the best cat breeds for folks with allergies as a starting point (as it is not comprehensive). Other hypoallergenic breeds include the Javanese, Korat, LaPerm, Colorpoint shorthair, and Selkirk Rex. On the flip side, cats to be avoided by allergy sufferers include the Persian, Maine coon, Himalayan, Manx, and Cymric, as these breeds are typically high-shedders and, therefore, produce allergens in large quantities. Remember, it’s not the cat’s fur that causes allergies to flare in cat allergy sufferers, but dander and proteins like Fel D1. That’s why even if you opt for a hypoallergenic kitty from a reputable breeder, it’s still of the utmost importance to regularly care for their coat, as no cat is 100 percent allergen-free.