Updated - Jan 26th, 2023
Hives, sneezing, swollen and itchy eyes – anyone with a cat allergy dreads these symptoms. But for some, the idea of never cuddling a cute kitty of their own seems even worse.
If this sounds like you, you may be asking yourself, “What is the best cat for someone with allergies?” After all, there’s always talk about hypoallergenic dog breeds – what about hypoallergenic cat breeds?
Although no cat breed is truly hypoallergenic, some are said to produce fewer allergens than others. But what causes cat allergies in the first place? Is it just cat hair or something more? Before we get into the best hypoallergenic breeds, let’s get to the bottom of these questions.
What causes cat allergies?
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), as many as three in 10 people with allergies in the U.S. are allergic to cats or dogs. In fact, cat allergies, the AAFA reports, are about twice as common as dog allergies.
A common misconception is that cat allergies are mainly caused by cat fur, but the real culprit is a protein all cats produce called Fel d 1. This protein originates in a cat’s saliva and spreads when they groom themselves. Fel d 1 is also spread through dander aka dead skin that comes through when cats shed.
Thus, an allergic reaction occurs not from coming into contact with the cat’s fur itself, but from the protein on the fur. This is why less fur does not always mean less of a reaction. This also explains why even sitting in the home of someone who has a cat may trigger a reaction – cat allergens can exist on furniture and clothing once shed from the body.
Give it to me straight – Do hypoallergenic cat breeds exist?
So, if all cats produce the Fel d 1 protein, is there really such a thing as a hypoallergenic cat breed? To the dismay of itchy cat lovers everywhere, the answer is no.
However, according to a study in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the Fel d 1 production can vary greatly among different cats. It notes that male cats have been shown to produce three to five times less Fel d 1 after they’ve been neutered and female cats are known to produce less of the protein than males.
In short, while there’s no such thing as allergen-free or hypoallergenic cats, those that are considered “hypoallergenic” are often thought to produce less of the Fel d 1 protein; therefore, they cause fewer allergy symptoms.
The 10 best hypoallergenic cat breeds
Now that you have a better understanding of cat allergies, let’s talk about some of the best “hypoallergenic” cat breeds. Some of these felines shed less or have less hair, making them less likely to spread allergens while others are said to produce less of the Fel d 1 protein in general.
Balinese cats sometimes referred to as the “long-haired Siamese”, are known to be smart, adaptable, and social. These are cats that get along well with children and other pets, and appreciate a good balance of play and relaxation. It’s thought that the Balinese emerged as a result of a spontaneous mutation when long-haired kittens were born to a Siamese cat.
Despite their long coats, these Balinese are not frequent shedders and require minimal cat grooming. Balinese cats are said to have less of the Fel d 1 protein, making them great for people with allergies.
These beautiful cats have a triple coat, which can be maintained with weekly brushing. Siberian cats do shed seasonally, during which time daily brushing can help keep their coats healthy, (especially the undercoat) and minimize allergens.
But don’t let the Siberian’s long coat intimidate you! Research has shown that Siberians may produce less of the Fel d 1 protein compared to other cat breeds.
In terms of personality, these cats are intelligent and curious. They are gentle around children, other pets, and visitors, and are happy to have an audience for their antics.
3. Oriental Shorthair
Although the Oriental breed comes in both a shorthair and longhair variety, Oriental Shorthairs are considered to be more suitable for cat allergy sufferers due to their short coats.
These cats have silky coats that are easy to care for and don’t shed too much. Regular brushing can help cut down on shedding and keep their coat shiny.
Oriental Shorthairs have adorable, large ears and are known to be very talkative, active, and outgoing. These cats will need lots of exercise and engagement to keep them happy. Oriental Shorthairs love to create close friendships with their family members and other pets in the home.
4. Devon Rex
The Devon Rex has thin, fine hair and sheds less than many other cat breeds. You can wipe down the coat of this cat to encourage the spread of natural oils, but generally, Devon Rex cats won’t require much grooming care to keep them clean.
These cats have a lot of energy and like to use it. They love to be involved in whatever you’re doing and are known for purring loudly when happy. Devon Rexes are also said to be a little mischievous, so you’ll want to keep an eye out to make sure they’re not getting into any trouble.
5. Cornish Rex
Cornish Rexes have curly coats that sit close to their bodies. Similar to the Devon Rex, these short, thin coats are low shedding – often making them more tolerable to those with allergies. The Cornish Rex is pre-disposed to oil buildup due to the nature of their coat, so they’ll need to be bathed more than other breeds.
These cats are fun, energetic, and love to play. The breed is curious, athletic, and unlike many cats, loves to be picked up. Cornish Rex cats will follow you around from one place to the next and thrive on attention.
Originating from a cross between a Balinese and a Colorpoint Shorthair, Javanese are Siamese-like cats known for their vocalness. These chatty cats might talk back when spoken to or start chatting for no reason.
Javanese cats are smart and athletic – they’re excellent jumpers and love to make good use of their curiosity, exploring cabinets or drawers if they’re able to. These cats have short, low-maintenance coats with no undercoat.
The Javanese are known to be one of the lowest-shedding cat breeds and regular brushing will help minimize any allergens.
Although the hairless Sphynx cat is often one of the first breeds that comes to mind for allergy sufferers due to their lack of hair, these cats are not as hypoallergenic as you’d think. Like all cats, Sphynx do produce dander, but it can be minimized by frequent bathing – which also helps prevent a buildup of oil on their skin.
Sphynx cats are friendly, outgoing, and playfully mischievous. This breed is also intelligent, curious, and loves attention. These cats are willing to follow you around, showing dog-like loyalty and devotion.
The Burmese is an energetic, talkative, and sometimes stubborn cat that loves to spend time with their family, even other cats and dogs. These cats are smart and enjoy playing – they won’t be thrilled being left home alone, especially without something to keep them busy.
Burmese cats have short, silky coats, and although they may not be quite as low shedding as some of the other breeds on our list, they’re still on the lower end of the spectrum. These cats have minimal grooming needs, but like many other cats, daily brushing will help keep their coats healthy and clean.
Looking like a miniature version of an Ocelot, the Ocicat is a smart, athletic, and high-energy breed. These cats can be a little demanding – they’re outgoing, chatty, and want to play all the time. In fact, this cat may do well having another cat or dog in the house to keep them busy. I
Unlike many other cat breeds, some Ocicats actually don’t mind water and may enjoy taking a bath from time to time. Ocicats are low-shedders, but using a grooming cloth on a regular basis to remove dead hair can be helpful.
10. Russian Blue
Recognizable by the color of their coats, Russian Blues are gentle, affectionate, and happy to spend quiet time alone and with their families. These cats are adaptable, empathetic, and sometimes a little shy.
Russian Blues have a short but dense coat, and they may shed a little more than some of the breeds on our list – so they may not be the best choice if you have serious allergies. Generally, however, these cats keep their coats well-maintained and regular brushing can help minimize shedding and allergens.
Ways to reduce cat allergens in your home
Even if you get a hypoallergenic cat, it’s probably a good idea to take extra precautions to reduce cat allergens in your home. Here are a few research-backed methods to reduce environmental allergens:
- If you can help it, keep your cat out of your bedroom
- Use pillow and mattress covers
- Place covers over your couch or other upholstered furniture
- Remove or reduce the number of carpets in your home
- Create extra ventilation by opening windows or using HEPA filters
- Clean your house weekly to reduce dander/fur buildup
Choosing a hypoallergenic cat for your family
Looking into cat breeds with minimal shedding and low grooming needs is a great place to start if you or someone in your family has cat allergies. Remember, all cats are different and it’s difficult to say for sure if a certain breed will or won’t cause a reaction – you know yourself best!
It can also be helpful to talk to breeders, veterinarians, and your doctor about your specific situation. If you decide it’s in your best interest to not adopt a cat right now, don’t lose hope – research surrounding cat allergies is ongoing, and there are even reports of biotechnology on the horizon that can produce cats that make little to no Fel d 1.
If you do decide to welcome a feline friend into your family, you want to give them the best care possible should accidents and illnesses arise. Pumpkin Cat Insurance plans pay 90% back on eligible vet bills – so you can focus less on cost, and more on care.