Hypoallergenic Cats

| December 3, 2015 | 17 Comments

Hypoallergenic Cats

Ashley and HalstonAs many of you know, my Aunt Nicky was the first person in our family to have a Ragdoll cat. As my interest in Ragdolls grew, my questions to my Aunt increased. I wanted to know if her friends had Ragdolls, etc. She told me that one of her friends, Missy, had been allergic to cats her entire life, but that now she was able to have 7 Ragdolls! I was amazed – I couldn’t believe having that many Ragdoll cats. I knew a little about allergies given my age (I was 8 years old and no one in my family had allergies towards cats), and didn’t understand how Ragdolls were different than other cats. My Aunt told me that Ragdolls were more or less hypoallergenic.

And that’s what the Internet can report as well. However, it’s not true. The deal is that people are allergic to two things when it comes to being allergic to cats:

  1. Their dried saliva
  2. Their undercoat

The majority of people are allergic to cat saliva – and therefore can be allergic to almost any cat, even hairless ones because a hairless cat still licks their entire body. And, of course, cats with hair can be even worse for people who are allergic to cats because cat hair has dried saliva on it.  And cat hair can be on a cat’s body and also on all the furniture, beds and more.

Ragdolls do not have undercoats, so people that are allergic to a cat’s undercoat tend not to be allergic to Ragdolls. I think Missy, my Aunt’s friend, must have been allergic to undercoats and therefore, Ragdolls were not an issue for her.

My parents moved recently, and during the move, their cats were locked in the master bedroom until the majority of the house had been packed in the moving trucks. When the movers were ready to tackle the last room in the house (the master bedroom), I went into the room with them and said, “I just need to grab my parents’ cats who will be under this bed.” And one of the movers said, “WOW! Your parents have cats? I have moved nearly this entire house and have not sneezed once.  I am really allergic to cats. What kind of cats are they?”

My parents have two Ragdoll cats, Caymus and Murphy.  My parents are also incredibly clean people, so that might be it too – cat hair doesn’t last long in their house, unless it’s on the cat.

What Makes Cats Hypoallergenic

A large percentage of the population is allergic to a protein called FEL d 1 that is typically found in cat saliva. This allergen can be spread through a lick, a scratch, or even just flakes of skin that come off when a cat grooms itself and can be found around a cat owner’s home.

Unfortunately, the idea of a 100% hypoallergenic cat is a myth, since people can be allergic to dander, saliva and even urine—and it is impossible to find a cat without any of these! However, depending on a person’s allergy, they might be able to find hypoallergenic cats that work for them. For example, some cats have less dander, produce less of the FEL d 1 protein, or secrete less saliva, so depending on what exactly a person is allergic to it might be possible to find a compatible breed.

Other factors can affect the level of allergens a cat produces as well: male cats, dark-coated cats, and non-neutered males tend to be higher producers of allergens, and kittens produce less allergens than adults—so not having a reaction to a new kitten is not necessarily a guarantee that you’ve avoided the allergies completely.

Ragdolls Are Not Hypoallergenic

Ragdoll cats can trigger an allergic reaction just like any other cat. The misconception that Ragdoll cats are hypoallergenic originated from the fact that Ragdolls do not have an undercoat, so it is possible that people who are only allergic to pet dander might not have a reaction to them, saliva also triggers the most common allergies, so Ragdolls are definitely not hypoallergenic for everyone. For cat lovers with an allergy only to cat dander, they might be a great option, but the only way to tell you won’t have a reaction is to first get tested with an allergist and then to spend some time with a friend or a breeder’s Ragdoll cat before adopting one of your own.

Hypoallergenic Cats

If you have a cat allergy and you are working with an allergist to find out what exactly you are allergic to so that you can adopt a kitty, there are some guidelines for finding a cat breed compatible with your allergies. Below is a list of hypoallergenic cats to look into if you are considering hypoallergenic cats for adoption:

  • Siberian – While these cats have long coats, they have lower levels of the FEL d 1 protein in their saliva.
  • Balinese – These cats also have long hair, but have been tested and shown to produce lower levels of the allergy causing protein.
  • Javanese – This is another medium to long haired member of the oriental cat line. Javanese have a coat that doesn’t mat, and because they don’t have an undercoat they produce less dander allergens.
  • Oriental Shorthair – Yet another member of the oriental line, they also produce less dandruff, but still need regular grooming to keep allergens to a minimum.
  • Sphynx – This cat is well known for being a hypoallergenic option because it is hairless. However, it still needs regular grooming to keep the skin free of dander and prevent oil build-up in its large ears.
  • Devon and Cornish Rex – Both of these Rex cats produce less dandruff, but the Devon Rex has less and shorter fur. While it does still need to be regularly groomed to reduce oil build-up, the Cornish Rex needs to be bathed more frequently to reduce the allergens on their skin and fur.

These are some of the most common “hypoallergenic” cat breeds. If you are wondering about other options—for example, are Siamese cats hypoallergenic—there are more extensive lists of hypoallergenic cat breeds available, but the bottom line is that these cats might be only hypoallergenic for some people as allergies differ. Always visit an allergist to determine exactly what is causing your allergic reactions before attempting to adopt any hypoallergenic cats.

If you or a family member are having an allergic reaction to a cat that you already own, there are some natural solutions to mitigate allergies before resorting to rehoming your cat, including Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET), substituting Vitamin C for antihistamines or other forms of homeopathy. Pet owners have also successfully overcome allergies by working with an allergist to receive immunotherapy treatments, and more and more treatments are becoming available these days for pet allergies. You can also reduce the amount of allergens floating around your home by having your cat regularly bathed and groomed, as well as washing toys and bedding on a weekly basis.

What stories do you have about experiences with hypoallergenic cats? Any recommendations for treating cat allergies? How do you keep allergens in your home to a minimum?

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About the Author ()

Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

Comments (17)

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  1. Patti Johnson says:

    Great post, Jenny! Thank you so much for all of this wonderful information. I really learned a lot! (One of the many reasons I just lurve me some Floppycats.com!)

    Luckily, my hubby and I have no allergies and neither does our son. However, our future DIL does have allergies (don’t know if it’s to cat dander or saliva, though) so whenever they visit I clean like a madwoman to remove as much cat hair from the walls, the furniture, the floor, our clothes, the toys, etc… before they arrive. Plus, Jessica doses up with Benadryl before the visit. 🙂 <3

    It must be just awful to have allergies to kittehs and doggies!

    Big hugs & Happy Holidays!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle (aka Queen Of The Fluff) 🙂 <3

  2. Teresa Reid says:

    Wonderful, informative article Jenny! I learned a lot just as Patti said. Thank you so much for making all that information available. So very important for those who really want a kitty but feel they can’t have one. Was considering a Siberian along with a Ragdoll when Gracie became available. Am so thankful she did!!
    I had pretty severe allergies in my 20’s-30’s to cats and bunnies along with about 20 other things. Refused to give up any of them and took allergy shots until those became toxic to me. Still refused to give up having my animals and finally in my 40’s they began to taper off. Now hardly have any problems with cat allergies at all and honestly believe that it was the constant exposure that finally built up my immunity. Fully believe in allowing children to be around pets because it also builds up their immunity to pet danger allergens.♥♥♥

    • Jenny says:

      I had a neighbor across the street that had a Ragdoll cat – and he had cat allergies – he said eventually his system accepted her…interesting? But you are no stranger to the wonders of the human body.

      • Teresa Reid says:

        Am so glad he didn’t give up either. Can’t imagine a life without our precious angels even if having the sniffles all the time and an occasional asthma flare are the consequence. The unconditional joy and love out kitties provide far outweighs anything else in my opinion. ♥♥♥

  3. ABarletta says:

    I was told by my allergist that the ONLY allergies I have is to cats, dogs. I was devastated, but I didn’t let that stop me. I have had up to three cats at one time. I do suffer from time to time, but the price is worth paying. I took years of allergy shots which did seem to help. I also groom my cats as often as they let me. No one who enters my home knows I have cats unless they see them or their beds or toys. Keeping the house clean is imperative. We have three litter boxes for one cat and I change the litter every time I think of it. I do find that if I pet Gracie Ann and rub my eyes they will blow up, so I try to remember not to rub my eyes!! I also feel that exposure to the cats over time has lessened my susceptibility or my body just got used to the contact with the allergen. And, of course, there is always Benadryl!!

    • Jenny says:

      =) thanks for sharing, annette – i didn’t know you had cat allergies!

    • LoveThe4Seasons says:

      I am supposedly allergic to cats as well. My doctor ordered allergy blood work for chronic headaches, and an allergy to cats came back. Fortunately, this was not the cause of my headaches – a low functioning thyroid was. I would never part with our sweet kitties no matter what!

  4. Becca says:

    I would be on meds for certain for any cat allergies. I can’t imagine my life without cats.
    Great article!

  5. Patrikey Helen says:

    TBO, i still sneezing and scratching because of a cat.
    even tho she is hypoallergenic or smth..
    its not her fault, so i just keep petting her and scratch myself

  6. Vanessa E Peay says:

    I have a Siberian Cat and I can vouch about them being hypoallergenic due to severe allergies.

    When I was a child my allergies to cats were so bad I would get a rash, sneeze, cough, and sometimes break out in hives. When I was older I tested myself around cats because I had always wanted one. My allergies were not as bad as before. The breeder I got in contact with allowed me to visit her cattery to test myself around the parents to see if I was able to tolerate being around them myself.

    I know have a Siberian Cat, a shiba inu and a Siberian Husky.

  7. LoveThe4Seasons says:

    My ex-husband is allergic to cats and I wanted a cat. So, I set about finding a cat with a low allergy response. This is how I ended up with my first cat – a beautiful seal mitted male named Honeybear. He was precious. Honeybear died in 2014 and he had 5 brothers and sisters. Not Ragdolls, but the ex learned to live with the allergies, which turned out not to be all that bad after all. Fortunately, my new husband is not allergic and absolutely loves our cats!

  8. Lyn Johnson says:

    I had cat and dog allergies when I was tested 15 years ago. Then last year, I had allergy tests again, and found out I no longer have dog and cat allergies. The allergist said sometimes people “grow out of their allergies”. I still investigated hypoallergenic breeds, and found the Siberian has the least amount of allergens. I considered the Siberian, but I really like the Ragdoll breed.

    I visited a cat show over the weekend, and spent some time with a Ragdoll kitten (I loved her, but she is being kept for a breeder’s program). She was so sweet and loving, even though she didn’t know me. She allowed me to pet her.

    I also visited breeders with other types of cats. I didn’t have any allergy reactions at all while I was at the cat show. So I don’t think I’d have a problem with a Ragdoll cat or kitten.

    • Teresa Reid says:

      So wonderful you got to visit with the Ragdoll kitten and affirmed that you really like the Ragdoll traits. Sorry the little girl was already taken for the breeding program, but there will be others that will become available I’m sure. Just keep watch and you will find one meant just for you. Your patient waiting will be rewarded when you bring your little angel home.♥♥♥

      • Lyn Johnson says:

        Hi Teresa,

        I just got an email from one of the Ragdoll breeders (who came highly recommended) at the cat show. She wondered if I might be interested in a petite 2-year-old female Ragdoll. She was going to keep her for the breeding program, but she is cutting back on her breeding cats. Since I’ve been concerned about the size of Ragdolls, a petite female might be just right for me. Plus a 2-year-old will have gone through the kitten stage. I emailed the breeder to get more information and pictures. I have to also ask if she thought the cat she has would be happy in a home without another cat companion. I’ll be home most of the time (except for maybe 4 hours during the day once in awhile when I go shopping, to a movie and out to lunch. Or maybe to a retiree event during the day or evening. However, I don’t travel, so I wouldn’t be gone for extended periods of time. Wish me luck!!

        • Teresa Reid says:

          Oh how exciting Lyn! A little petite two year old will be great for you! Sounds like a match made in heaven. Can feel your excitement and hope that you share some photos with us! Wishing you and your sweet girl all the best!♥♥♥

  9. Michael Matalis says:

    I ended up with my two current cats because of allergies. Smoke and Bert were rescued as kittens (they were two weeks old) by a friend up in Wisconsin who went thru a lot of effort to keep them going. However his wife is terribly allergic to cats, so after they got on their feet it was time to find a home. I had a feeling that I was on their radar (I was a cat person without a cat) so it was not a big surprise when they came down to Chicago for a wedding that they made me an offer that I could not refuse. Definitely a win-win situation.

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