Hypoallergenic Cats

Ashley and Halston

As 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.

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cropped-Rags-Ragdoll-Cat-in-a-Sink.jpg

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?”

Trigg and Charlie cuddling in a cat bed best age to neuter a cat

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.

Blue Lynx Mitted Ragdoll cat Trigg on Bed Red Stripes upside down laying tummy up

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. Here is a fantastic overview of Fel d 1.

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

Are ragdolls 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.

Seal bicolor ragdoll cat addie in profile example of ragdoll genetics

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.

Seal Mitted with a Blaze Ragdoll Cat Murphy 16 years old on dining table by flowers

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.

Seal Mitted with a Blaze Ragdoll Cat Charlie loaf sitting with profile how to buy a ragdoll cat

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 pet hair resistant 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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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,

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21 Comments

  1. I know this is an old post now, but I’ve been reading a whole bunch of your site as I’m in the “obsessive research” stage of hopefully soon getting a cat of my own, and I definitely have things to say about cat allergies, which might be useful to someone!

    I discovered I was very allergic to cats only after our family got our first cats when I was a kid… doh! We all-too-briefly had a beautiful cream (doll-faced) pedigree Persian boy named Joss, who was heartbreakingly run over by a car in the quiet back lanes behind our house when he was only 1 year old

    Despite my allergies (because I am a fool… but a fool who loves cats), we adopted two boy-kittens a few months later – I think they were described as dollface Himalayan colourpoint cross (though crossed with what? ). In reality they were both largely single coloured cats – one grey (Mizzy), one black (Tiggy), though both with a rusty tinge to their fur in places, especially as they got older – but the black one in particular did show slight signs of his colourpoint heritage, with this huge ruff that was definitely paler than the rest of him, so his face and paws and tail stood out as definitely being darker.

    They both had these thick dense coats, with easily mattable fine hair, even with frequent grooming. Also, it was hard to tell as they were often together, but I think Tiggy did trigger more allergy symptoms in me, as per your post! He was this huge beautiful lump of a cat, and his favourite thing was to jump up onto my back and shoulders (whether I liked it or not – whenever I leaned forwards he took it as an opportunity and would leap, and firmly plant himself with his talons in my shoulder!), then purr and dribble right into my ear

    If anything, my allergies to them just got worse over time (which I know is the opposite of what is said to usually happen, with desensitisation happening and the allergy gradually decreasing). Even when I was taking various hardcore prescription medications for my hayfever/seasonal allergies, there was just nothing I could do to make it tolerable. My mum was a cleaning-fiend and kept the house as clean as it’s possible to be! We had to develop “safe zones” in the house like my bedroom, where the cats were never allowed to go (except for when I made bad decisions and had them in my room, then paid the price later! ), and have things like cat blankets/shirts to put on/over me so they could sit on my lap (which we both loved), I would then have to go and “decontaminate” myself by changing clothes and taking showers when the symptoms really started to set in, and then avoid them for any meaningful contact for many hours (sometimes days ) afterwards until it died down. I wasn’t very good at “de-catting” myself when it flared up, because I loved them and wanted to be around them so much, and it would often turn into what I termed “allergy attacks”, where I’d spend the next 12-24 hrs congested and constantly sneezing, with itchy streaming eyes and scratchy throat (luckily my asthma hadn’t really set in back then). These cats did both go outside on a regular basis, so were probably coming back in covered in various pollens, which I’m sure didn’t help.

    After all of this, and many sneezy encounters with friends’ cats (long and short haired alike), I was trying to reconcile my life being devoid of cats… but then my ex acquired a MagicCat! He’s part Ragdoll (father unknown) and white with about 40% ginger patches, and I adore him . And I’m not allergic to him AT ALL! Hallelujah, it’s a miracle! For me at least, Ragdolls are magic I don’t know if that means that I’m allergic to the undercoat rather than saliva, or that maybe Ragdolls produce less of the FEL d1 protein (it’s definitely not because “Ragdolls don’t shed”, because that’s a total myth! I find so many white cat hairs at home, even long after I’ve been to see him and everything has long since been washed!), but after knowing him for 7 years and still being resolutely non-allergic, I’m so happy with this discovery He also goes outside, and despite rolling around in all manner of pollen-y things, I’m still definitely not allergic to the cat underneath all that

    I don’t know if specific allergy-testing is just less common in the UK, or if I just haven’t pursued it far enough down the right track, but I’ve never had allergy testing, despite my fairly severe allergies to a whole bunch of stuff (pollen, dust, mould, cats… and nickel, though this one’s a bit different as I’m not inhaling it! ). However, for the past 13 years I’ve also had my severe hayfever/inhaled allergen treatment reasonably under control, thanks to a seemingly miraculous medication intended for asthma treatment that works absolute wonders for my hayfever – montelukast/Singulair, for anyone taking notes 🙂

    I’ve confirmed I do still have my cat allergy though – my ex’s parents had a flame lynx point Siamese old boy, and I remained super allergic to him, even after meeting the MagicCat! Definitely still an issue in the summer involving limited time with him and the standard decontamination rituals, but much much worse during a visit in the winter, when I wasn’t taking my full prescription hayfever stack of meds (to the point where we thought we’d have to drive the several hours back home in the middle of the night), and I even developed a visible rash everywhere his fur had touched my skin. I absolutely dispute the notion in some corners of the internet that Siamese cats are “hypoallergenic”, because for me that couldn’t be further from the truth! It also makes sense that if I was super-allergic to my lovely Himalayan and Persian kitties growing up, that I’d also be allergic to Siamese cats in general, since they’re closely related. (though I was shocked to recently discover that Ragdolls are also related to Persians on some level, which doesn’t fit in with my mental model at all! Unless it really is all about that undercoat)

    I’ve also cat-sitted (cat-sat?!) for my neighbours’ purebreed Ragdoll kitties on several occasions now, and I thankfully remain completely non-allergic to them My ex has also added two additional cats to his cat-family – both Ragdoll/Maine Coon kitties with the same set of parents, and I’m so relieved that they too are made of magic. I also have another couple of friends with bad cat allergies, both of whom have got purebred Maine Coons specifically bred to be hypoallergenic, after long waiting lists (and much expense) – I’ve met one of the cats, and can confirm, not allergic 🙂 It’s so curious to see Maine Coons being called out as being particularly bad for allergies, in some places online, seemingly because of their dense fur, with the undercoat layer Ragdolls typically don’t have. I guess there’s no substitute for going and testing a particular breed of cat against your own particular allergic response, and figuring out what works for you (before taking one home! It’s so sad to see the posts online of cats being re-sold due to allergies as much as I obviously understand that pain!).

    End result – I’m now looking for the right Ragdoll kitten for me to add to my own family Either Ragdoll, or Ragdoll Maine Coon, as I now know these are my “magic cats” I would really love a stripy-cat (or stripy-and-white), so the Maine Coon element definitely appeals… though a lynx pointed Ragdoll is definitely an option!

    Also – I’m so sorry, I think my comment might be longer than your post I could absolutely talk about cats for days, and I seem to have got a whole load of cat-talk off my chest at once! Thank you both for sharing the information, and for the opportunity for me to add my cat-life-story Hopefully it’s not entirely self-indulgent, and contains some useful things for others here and there!

    1. Thank you for sharing – and I love long comments – will definitely help others in the same boat!

      Lynx is a stripy cat =).

  2. Again, such a very IMPORTANT & SUPER RELEVANT re-post, Jenny hon! TYSVM! 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle (who just turned 7 yesterday!!!) 🙂 <3 <3 <3

  3. Always a great post to read again, Jenny! This information is so very important to prospective cat buyers who believe that Ragdolls are hypoallergenic and don’t shed. 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle (who remains "Queen Of The Fluff") 🙂 <3

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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.♥♥♥

      1. 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!!

        1. 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!♥♥♥

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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

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

  10. 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!!

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

    2. 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!

  11. 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.♥♥♥

    1. 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.

      1. 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. ♥♥♥

  12. 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

    1. Glad you guys don’t have allergies and too bad Ms. Jessica does. Yes, must be horrible to have allergies like that.

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