Q: My daughter would love to have a cat. The problem is I am allergic to them. Do you know if there are any breeds of cats that do not cause allergic reactions in people. I have heard there are certain dogs people with allergies can own without a problem.
A: There is no specific breed of cat (or dog) that will not cause an allergic reaction in 100 percent of allergy sufferers. There just is no such thing as a non-allergic cat.
However, there are cats that are considered by many cat owners and breeders to be hypoallergenic and less likely to trigger allergies in people who are prone to suffering from them. The word hypo means less, meaning these hypoallergenic cats produce less of a pet allergy-producing protein called allergens.
A common misconception is that the allergen is caused by cat hair. But the culprit is a protein cats produce in their saliva that contains the allergens. When a cat grooms itself the saliva containing the protein ends up on the coat and dries, creating dander.
When a feline scratches or shakes, these small particles leave the cat’s body and can become airborne for hours. These airborne particles are sticky and adhere to surfaces.
Hypoallergenic cats are supposed to produce fewer allergens but the truth is people with allergies can be sensitive to virtually any dog or cat. With that caution in mind, below is a list of cat breeds from petMD considered to be hypoallergenic, and it may be a good idea to consider one of them.
Depending how severe your allergies are and how well controlled they can be working with an allergist, it may be possible to minimize your reaction to living with a cat. Here are some strategies that may help.
- Keep your bedroom pet free. Since the cat will be your daughter’s, it should be easy to keep the cat completely out of your room.
- Wash your hands after handling the cat and refrain from touching your face or eyes.
- Use high efficiency air filters.
- Keep the house as clean as possible by washing floors often with hot water to eliminate the allergens.
- Carpet is more likely to hold allergens, so if you can, remove it in favor of wood, vinyl or tile floors.
- Wash clothes frequently.
- The use of allergy wipes such as Allerpet have proved to effectively reduce cat allergens on the cat, and thus your home, by 50 percent with weekly use.
- Choose washable pet bedding and throws for any furniture the cat may be on. Weekly washing will minimize allergen buildup.
I would recommend researching the different breeds and talking with some breeders about their hypoallergenic cats, and hopefully your daughter can have the kitty she desires.
Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].