Allergies to Cats and Hypoallergenic Cats
Does cat hair cause my allergy?
It is commonly thought that cat hair causes an allergy to cats
but this is not true. The allergen responsible for the cat allergy is a protein
which is found in the dander and saliva of cats. The cat allergens become
airborne as microscopic particles and these are breathed in by the allergy
sufferer. These cat allergen particles are very small and can remain airborne
for long periods of time.
Scientists have named the protein in the feline saliva FEL D-1
What is an Allergen?
An Allergen is a particle of foreign material such as cat dander,
pollen grain, dust particles and enzymes from dust mite droppings. Allergic
people often have a sensitivity to more than one substance.
Allergic reactions are determined by the amount of allergens in
the environment and the person's individual sensitivity to those allergens.
What is Dander on a cat?
Dander is minute flakes of skin.
These skin cells contain oils (sebum) which are made by the cat's sebaceous
glands and aid in keeping the cat's skin and coat in good condition. These skin
cell particles become airborne and can be breathed in and also will adhere to
most things including carpets, curtains and furnishings. It also adheres to
clothing and can be spread on people's clothing to areas where no cat exists.
What are the Symptoms of Cat Allergy?
Hay Fever. Sneezing, the most common, may be
accompanied by a runny or clogged nose
Itching eyes, nose, and throat
Contact Urticaria (itchy skin)
Is there a hypoallergenic
Hypo means 'less
than' not 'none' indicating that some breeds of cats may
produce fewer allergens which cause an allergy to cats in
All cats have skin and all cats groom themselves with cat saliva.
Cornish Rex, Devon Rex and Sphinx are claimed to be hypoallergenic
some people with cat allergies can tolerate them
The two Rex breeds have very fine, short, wavy hair. Sphinx have
almost no hair
For a reason not fully understood, some people with a cat allergy
can tolerate the rex breed of cat although this is not the case for all cat
It is a theory that the Devon Rex, Cornish Rex and Sphinx coats do not hold as
much saliva as other cat breeds. It is also a theory that less hair in the air
means less saliva and dander allergens.
It is generally believed that the Rex breed of cat (Devon Rex and
Cornish Rex) do not shed hair. However this is not entirely true. Some moult so
gradually as to be virtually unnoticeable others shed their coats all at once
and go through a period of temporary baldness until their new coat emerges in
Are Siberian Cats Hypoallergenic?
There Are claims that the Siberian Cat produces less
allergens than other breeds. The claim is that the Siberian has less of the FEL
D1 protein. As with the Rexes
some people with allergies can tolerate the Siberian breed but that does not
apply to every cat allergy sufferer.
At right, a Siberian Cat.
Siberian Cat Breed Profile
See also: Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds with Pictures
Should I visit a Devon or Cornish Rex Breeder to test if I am
allergic to these cats?
One visit to a rex cattery is not always sufficient to test if
you will have an allergic reaction to these cats. Often it can take months or
years for an allergy to build up. Several exposures are often necessary.
Allergies are cumulative. In other words, they build up. Every allergic person
has a tolerance level above which an acute reaction takes place.
Should I try handling a kitten to see if
I'm allergic to it?
Often handling a kitten will not trigger an allergy. The kitten's
skin is more supple than an older cat and produces less oils (sebum). As the
kitten ages it will produce more sebum and therefore more allergens.
People can acquire a new kitten and not experience any allergy
symptoms until much later. It can take anywhere from a few months to a number of years
for a person to build up the antibodies which cause allergies.
How can I reduce cat allergens?
Interestingly a spayed or neutered cat produces less allergens.
Male cats produce more allergens than female cats. It has been found that the
sebum produced by a cat is highest in unaltered males and lowest in neutered
Have your cat neutered or spayed.
Washing your cat in plain water can be useful to remove the Fel
d-1 from the cat's coat.
Consult your veterinarian about products that you can bathe your
cat in to help reduce the allergens
Ensure your cat does not have fleas as this causes the cat to
scratch and to throw more dander into the air.
Limit your cat to certain areas of the house. Do NOT allow it in
Keep your cat outside for part of the time.
enclosure can be built to keep your cat safe outside
An air filtration system will reduce the amount of allergens
Ventilate your house. Opening windows and using exhaust fans can
help increase air exchange and decrease air borne allergens.
Vacuum carpets with a HEPA equipped vacuum cleaner. This will
reduce the allergens. Cat dander settles onto carpets and soft furnishings,
which act as a reservoir for the allergen, releasing it back into the air when
touched. Remove the carpeting, if possible
Wool attracts allergens. Try to avoid wearing it.
Reduce your other allergies. Few individuals are allergic only to
Keep the litter tray in a well ventilated area.
I'm having terrible cat allergy symptoms. Should I re-home my
Before taking the drastic measure of re-homing your cat first
make sure that it is a cat allergy that you are suffering from. Your doctor can
perform an allergy test to determine which allergens affect you.
Also remember that allergens from a cat can remain in your home
for a long period of time after the cat has been removed and you may still
suffer from symptoms.