If you’re an animal lover that suffers from pet allergies, you’re not alone. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, as many as three out of every ten people in the U.S. suffer from pet allergies. Of those, allergic reactions to cats are some of the most common. In fact, it’s estimated that cat allergies are about twice as common as those caused by dogs.
What causes cat allergies?
Allergies are the immune system’s abnormal response to otherwise harmless substances called allergens. A person with cat allergies has a hypersensitive immune system that triggers a reaction when the body comes in contact with, or proximity to, cats.
While many people think that a cat’s fur is the primary allergen, it’s actually a widespread misconception. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, the allergic potential of cats is not driven by their fur, but rather by the presence of a protein (Fel d 1) found in the animal’s saliva, dander, and urine. Although the fur itself is not an allergen, it can collect saliva, dander, and urine, in addition to other allergens like dust and pollen, which means that cats with less fur may be less likely to collect allergens and easier to keep clean.
One of the reasons cat allergies are so common is that the size and shape of the Fel d 1 protein molecule is conducive to remaining airborne for long periods of time and subsequently sticking to fur, carpets, fabrics, and other surfaces. This is why highly-sensitive people can experience cat allergies even when an animal isn’t present. Research has shown that cat allergens can even be found in relatively high concentrations in public places without cats, such as schools and libraries.
Is there such thing as a hypoallergenic cat?
Based on what scientists know today, all cats produce Fel d 1, meaning that at present, there are no truly non-allergenic cats. However, researchers at NomNomNow, a fresh pet food delivery company, compiled a list of breeds that purportedly cause fewer allergy symptoms than others. Additionally, there are a number of things any cat owner can do to lessen the allergic effects caused by their pets. For example, keeping surfaces in the home clean, bathing and brushing your cat regularly, installing a HEPA air purifier, and steam cleaning carpets can all help reduce exposure to allergens.
While no cat will be a great fit for people with severe allergies, here are the cats that may cause fewer allergy symptoms than others.