If you're allergic to cats, you're not alone. In fact, cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies. If you're a cat lover, though, you're probably hoping to find a cat you can live with comfortably. While people with asthma and cat allergies should really avoid cats altogether, it is possible that someone with mild cat allergies will be able to find a suitable feline companion.
Although no cat breed has been scientifically proven to be hypoallergenic, anecdotal... reports claim a few breeds may be less allergenic, either because of their coats or because they produce less of the protein (Fel d 1) which creates dander.
If you have serious allergies, be sure to check with your family practitioner or allergist before entertaining the idea of having a cat in your home. Then, if you get the all-clear, you can visit breeders to spend time with some of these cats.
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Owners and breeders of the Rex cats claim that these cats rarely cause allergy attacks. The cited reason is their short, very fine coats which tend not to hold dander as much as long-haired cats, and other cats with multiple coat layers, especially cats with dense undercoats. Rex cats have no top coat at all, and only a very fine undercoat.
There are three recognized breeds of Rex cats: the Cornish Rex (pictured here), the Devon Rex, the Selkirk Rex, and a related breed, called the LaPerm.... Another breed, the German Rex is well-known in that country,
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Although Sphynx cats are commonly described as "hairless," they do have hair: very fine down, which feels almost suede-like when stroked. Sphynx cats produce dander, as do all cats, but if rubbed down frequently, its presence can be minimized.
Other "nearly nude" cat breeds include the Peterbald, pictured here, and the Don Hairless.
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Unlike the Rex and Sphynx cat breeds, the Siberian cat's claim to fame in the allergenic department stems from the belief that Siberian cats produce either none or relatively little of the Fel d1 allergen, compared to other cats. There is little scientific proof of this, although an independent lab analysis in 1999 revealed surprising results.
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The gorgeous Russian Blue is a famously even-tempered cat that is believed to be relatively hypoallergenic. According to the PetMD website: "As the name suggests, this breed is believed to have originated in Russia. It is widely believed that British sailors, fascinated by this breed of cat, brought them home from the White Sea port town of Archangel (Arkhangelsk) in northern Russia. The presence of a warm, thick coat suggests that they were long accustomed to surviving in a cold... climate."
What Causes Cat Allergies?
While it may seem logical to believe that cat hair or fur is the cause of allergies, the reality is a bit different. In fact, cat allergies are caused by proteins found in cats' saliva, urine, and dander (dried flakes of skin). Dander is actually the most likely culprit because cats transfer the dander to their coats when they clean themselves. Pet or touch a cat (or even a piece of clothing that a cat rubbed against) and you may find yourself sneezing, coughing, or rubbing your eyes. If you have a cat you can't live without, and you're suffering from allergies, your best options are to clean your cat's litter box and vacuum often. An air purifier can sometimes reduce allergens as well. Consider washing your cat with cat shampoo at least once a month. And, odd though it sounds, you may want to think about wearing gloves as often as possible to reduce exposure to cat dander. Finally, a visit to the allergist may result in medication that can lessen your allergic reactions, or could even help you determine that you're allergic, not to cats, but rather to dust mites or other common household allergens.