Is there a hypoallergenic breed of cat?
The prefix ‘hypo’ in the word hypoallergenic means ‘less than usual. Therefore the term hypoallergenic does not mean non-allergenic. A hypoallergenic cat is less likely than other cats to produce allergic reactions in some people.
What is causing cat allergy?
It is commonly thought that cat hair is the cause of cat allergy, but this is not strictly true. The most common allergen responsible for cat allergy symptoms is a protein named FEL D-1.
This protein is produced by the sebaceous glands and is released into cat saliva. Special oils produced by sebaceous glands–called sebum–aid in keeping the cat’s skin and coat in good condition. Because cats groom themselves using saliva, the protein is transferred to their hair. Then these Allergens become airborne in via microscopic particles of cat skin, shedding cat hair or dander. These cat allergen particles are tiny and can remain airborne for long periods. This way, they can be breathed in and 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 cats exist.
Why are some breeds less allergenic than others?
Devon and Cornish Rex have a reduced number of hairs in their coat. This provides less surface area to trap allergenic proteins from the saliva or the skin. Rexes only have an undercoat and lose only a few very fine hairs at once. They do not shed like other cats.
Claims have been made that the Siberian Cat produces less
FEL D-1 than other breeds.
What controls the severity of the allergy?
There appears to be a sex difference in FEL D-1 allergen production. Female cats produce less of the allergen. Male cats that have not been neutered tend to secrete more protein than un-neutered male cats.
It has been claimed that different cat breeds have different levels of the FEL D-1 protein.
Practical tips to reduce cat allergy
- Have your male cat neutered.
Washing your cat in plain water can help 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, which causes the cat to scratch and throw more dander into the air.
- Limit your cat to certain areas of the house. Do NOT allow it in bedrooms.
- Keep your cat outside for part of the time. A cat enclosure can be built to keep your cat safe outside.
- An air filtration system will reduce the number of allergens circulated.
- Ventilate your house. Opening windows and using exhaust fans can help increase air exchange and decrease airborne 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 cats
- Keep the litter tray in a well-ventilated area.