What are some symptoms?
More people are allergic to cats than to any other animal. In fact, an estimated one in five people worldwide experiences allergy symptoms ranging from sneezing and itchy eyes to coughing, wheezing, and hives when exposed to cats. Many people mistakenly believe that their allergic response depends on how much fur the cat has. But studies have found that the amount of fur is irrelevant and that some of the most hypoallergenic cats actually have lush, long hair.
What causes allergies to cats?
When people develop allergy symptoms around felines, they are reacting to a protein called Fel d 1, which is present in cats’ skin, saliva, and urine. When a cat licks its fur, the saliva containing the Fel d 1 dries into lightweight particles that are carried through the air. Eventually, they land on human hair, clothing and furniture, and can linger for weeks or months, says veterinarian, Dr Kelly St Denis.
The amount of Fel d 1 varies widely among cats, and even within cats at different times of year. “There are not really cats that are 100 percent hypoallergenic,” explains Dr St Denis. “There are some breeds that are thought to produce less of the allergen. Some of the other breeds just shed less hair or dander. So cats might have reduced allergen because they make less or they shed less of their coat into the environment.”
Typically, female cats produce less of the protein than male cats, and neutered males produce less than those who haven’t been fixed. In general, though, the following cute kitties are commonly considered to be the most hypoallergenic cat breeds.
This elegant breed of cats was named after the graceful dancers of Bali but actually originated in the United States after a spontaneous genetic variant of Siamese cats resulted in kittens with long hair. Unlike most longhaired cats with two or three layers of fur, Balinese cats have only one coat of their lush, silky mane, so it usually doesn’t mat or tangle. What’s more, they are believed to produce less Fel d 1 than most other breeds. They tend to be vocal, alert and affectionate, as well as extremely intelligent. The closely related Javanese cat also seems to trigger less of an allergic response.