Hypoallergenic Cats - Real or Myth?
Giving up a pet is devastating not only for the owner but also for the cat who has to leave its environment and adjust to a new home and family.
Unfortunately, being allergic to cats doesn’t stop you wanting one, but how can you have one in the house if they’re causing you to have reactions?
That's where hypoallergenic cats come in. While owning a hypoallergenic cat won't eliminate your allergies entirely, you'll likely be able to live with a hypoallergenic cat without suffering from allergies too much.
Hypoallergenic cats are the perfect way to keep you safe with your allergies and reduce the likelihood of you needing to rehome your cat.
But, are hypoallergenic cats as perfect as they seem? Let's dig into everything you need to know about hypoallergenic cats to decide if they're the right fit for your family.
What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?
Before getting into the details of hypoallergenic cats, it's important to understand exactly what hypoallergenic means.
Hypoallergenic is defined as something that is "designed to reduce or minimize the possibility of an allergic response, as by containing relatively few or no potentially irritating substances".
The important thing to note about this definition when it comes to hypoallergenic cats is that they minimize the possibility of an allergic response, they do not eliminate the possibility altogether.
What Causes People to be Allergic to Cats?
Many assume that people are allergic to cat hair, but that's a myth.
In fact, people are allergic to cat dander. Specifically, they're allergic to the Fel D 1 protein found in cat's saliva, skin, and urine. The Fel D 1 protein becomes airborne after your cat licks itself, and you breathe it in.
It's you breathing in the Fel D 1 protein that causes the allergic reaction.
Are Cats Truly Fully Hypoallergenic?
Despite popular belief (and good marketing), there is no such thing as a fully hypoallergenic cat.
The protein you're allergic to is found in your cat's saliva, skin, and urine. Every single cat has all three of those things, and you can't remove any of them through genetic modification.
No matter what type of cat you have, they will always produce some level of Fel D 1 protein that you're allergic to.
Some cats and cat breeds create less Fel D 1 protein than others, but there is no way to completely eliminate the protein from cats.
Can I Reduce the Amount of Fel D 1 Protein My Cat Produces?
There is preliminary evidence that suggests the amount of Fel D 1 protein a cat produces can be reduced.
The research involves using a natural allergen-antibody found in chicken eggs to neutralise the Fel D 1 protein cats make.
The shortcoming of this research is that chicken eggs don't naturally have the IgY antibody required to neutralise Fel D 1 protein, and scientists had to expose the chicken to the antibody before it would lay an egg containing IgY.
This means you can't go to the store, buy some eggs, somehow convince your cat to eat them, and solve your allergy problems.
It appears that scientists aren't going to perfect the neutralisation of Fel D 1 protein anytime soon, and you shouldn't get your hopes up that this will be your solution if you're allergic to cats.
What Cat Breeds are Best for Someone with Cat Allergies?
As mentioned previously, there are some cats that naturally create less Fel D 1 protein than others. These are the cats widely considered as hypoallergenic and are the best option for people with allergies.
The top 10 hypoallergic cats are:
- Devon Rex
- Cornish Rex
- Oriental Shorthair
- Russian Blue
- Colorpoint Shorthair
It's important to remember that even these cat breeds create Fel D 1 protein, so there is no guarantee you won't experience allergy symptoms even if you have one of these breeds.
If you're not sure whether or not you'll experience an allergic reaction with a hypoallergenic breed, try to find a friend, family member, or adoption society that'll let you spend time with one of these breeds to see if they trigger your allergies before committing to
getting one. Even then, remember that every cat is different, even if they’re the same breed.
Is There a Difference between Male and Female Cats?
There is evidence that female cats naturally produce less of the Fel D 1 protein than male cats.
While this theory isn't 100% confirmed, if you're allergic to cats, getting a female may reduce your likelihood of experiencing allergy symptoms.
How to Reduce Allergy Symptoms
If you're allergic to cats and have one in your home, there are a few simple things you can do to reduce the likelihood of you experiencing symptoms.
It includes things like:
- Using HEPA air filters
- Keeping your cat out of your bedroom
- Having your cat groomed and bathed on a regular basis
- Regularly vacuuming your home to reduce the volume of loose cat hair.
Taking these measures will help reduce your allergy symptoms, so you can live comfortably with your cat.
Unfortunately for allergy sufferers, there is no such things as a fully hypoallergenic cat. At least not until scientists find an effective way to neutralise the Fel D 1 protein.
Until then, every cat you come in contact with will produce the protein you're allergic to. Even cats labeled as hypoallergenic.
Hypoallergenic cats simply create less of the Fel D 1 protein you're allergic to.
However, if your allergies will allow it, a hypoallergenic cat breed can be a good choice for you. Since they create less of the protein, it's possible they won't produce enough to bother your allergies.
A hypoallergenic cat breed combined with proper air filtration in your home may result in you being able to welcome a cat into your home without experiencing any allergy symptoms.