If you’re one of the millions of people who have an allergy to cats, the good news is you’re not alone. But, if you’re an allergy sufferer who happens to love cats, we have even better news for you: There are a handful of hairless cat breeds and cat breeds that don’t shed as frequently as others that may help alleviate your itchy eyes and runny nose—or at least save you money on lint rollers.
Are There Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds?
Unfortunately, there are no hypoallergenic cat breeds. That’s because two allergenic proteins—Fel d1 and Fel d4—are actually created in cats’ saliva and submandibular salivary glands as well as in the sebaceous glands in the skin. Since all cats have saliva and these glands, they all produce these proteins.
Chris Menges, DVM, MPH, chief veterinary officer of Basepaws, in El Segundo, California, says that these proteins are commonly deposited on a cat’s hair during grooming.
“We blame the hair, but the real culprit lies in the saliva itself,” says Dr. Menges. “This is why we don’t see any truly hypoallergenic cats. Even hairless cat breeds create allergens in their saliva and skin.”
These allergens also collect on carpets, walls and clothes, adds Estee Vogel, PA-C, an ear, nose and throat specialist with South Florida ENT Associates.
While Vogel says that even the tiniest amount of this protein can cause a reaction in some allergy sufferers, others may experience fewer allergy symptoms around cats that don’t shed or shed less, since they aren’t able to spread as many allergens throughout a home via saliva-contaminated hair.
So if you have a history of allergic reactions to cats but still wish to have one in your home, it might be worth looking into hairless cat breeds or cat breeds that don’t shed as frequently.
To get started, consider the breeds below. Whether you don’t wish to accessorize your all-black outfits with cat hair or suffer from allergies, they may be the perfect pet for you.
Cats That Don’t Shed (Or, At Least, Shed Less)
The Sphynx is a naturally hairless cat thanks to a genetic mutation and a first choice for many people hoping to lessen their cat allergies.
“The Sphynx only has a bit of fur on the nose and perhaps a bit of peach fuzz-like fur [on the body],” says Teresa Keiger with The Cat Fanciers’ Association. “However, don’t take this as being ‘no maintenance.’”
Keiger explains that all cats’ skin excretes oil just like yours, but since the Sphynx doesn’t have a coat to absorb this oil, pet parents may find it where their cat likes to lounge.
“A gentle wiping of their body will help reduce this oil,” Keiger says, adding that these kitties make great snuggle partners.
With a sparse coat that’s affectionally compared to that of a werewolf, the Lykoi is considered partially hairless. This fun-loving and intelligent breed can be bare in areas such as the face, but Keiger says it’s important to note that Lykois do molt their coats a few times a year.
“However, overall, [the Lykoi] sheds less than other cats,” she says.
While the Cornish Rex has hair, this cat’s coat is curly, very short and lies close to the body, so they shed less than other breeds, Keiger says. The Cornish Rex is also a very playful breed, so they could be the perfect choice for someone who wants an active playmate for themselves or their other pets.
The Devon Rex is another curly-haired breed with a short coat.
“[The Devon Rex] will develop a very tight bond with their owner and loves attention,” Keiger says. “Actually, they insist on attention—and it’s not difficult to give it to them.”
Of course, all that love will mean more hair, salvia and allergens on your clothes, so if you’re especially sensitive, be careful and consult your doctor.
The Burmese is a small cat with a short, fine coat that naturally touts less hair than other breeds. According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association, they have a lot of affection for their people, wanting to be by their side as much as they can—but without being overly demanding. Some Burmese will even play fetch with a toy!
While this breed’s fabulously fluffy coat probably has you envisioning it covering every clingy surface in your home, Hope Gonano, a Cat Fanciers’ Association allbreed judge, deems the breed to be relatively low-shedding. According to Gonano, the Birman’s non-matting coat requires a minimal amount of grooming. Additionally, Birmans are gentle and affectionate by nature. Intelligent and curious, they respond well to training and can adapt easily to living with children and other pets in the home.
Another minimal shedder, Russian Blues generally shed over a two- to three-week period just once or twice a year, Gonano says, and are easy to groom. The hair of the Russian Blue also notably stands out at a 45-dgree angle that you can literally trace patterns into, where they’ll remain until you smooth them out with your hand. A compact breed with a graceful, muscular build, the Russian Blue has a gentle temperament and is known for being easy to train.
Often described as a short-haired Persian, the Exotic Shorthair’s thick and dense coat is minimally-shedding, says Gonano, although they do require some combing to properly remove any dead hair. A calm, relaxed breed, Exotic Shorthairs are affectionate and can adapt easily to an apartment setting or country living.
Siamese cats have low-maintenance coats, according to Gonano, that can be cared for by brushing with a fine-tooth comb. Once their dead hair is removed, they’ll shed minimally. With large ears, distinctive blue eyes and a sleek, slim figure, the Siamese comes in seal, chocolate, blue and lilac point, and loves being around and chatting with their people.
Because of their connection to the Siamese family, Oriental Shorthairs are similarly easy to groom, says Gonano. Long and slender like the Siamese, Oriental Shorthairs differ in their coloring, which can range in over 300 colors and patterns that include ebony, pure white, bi-color and tabby. A loving, entertaining breed, these kitties like to be the center of attention and can become sensitive if ignored or left alone too often.
Managing Your Cat Allergies
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says that avoiding cats is the best way to manage an allergy to the species, but if you just can’t stay away from these sweet and snuggly animals, there are things you can do to help with the side effects.
“Cat allergy treatment is readily available in the form of antihistamines, [such as] Claritin and Zyrtec, intranasal steroid sprays, [such as] Flonase and Nasonex, or any over-the counter oral and spray decongestant,” Vogel says. “You should check with an allergist to determine which would be best for you. According to the National institute of Health, the herb butterbur, taken as a supplement, may [also] help.”
To lessen the effects of allergies in themselves and other others, pet parents should also:
- Wash their hands after petting or playing with their cat
- Use a lint roller to remove excess hair from clothes
- Vacuum and dust their home often to help remove excess hair and consider using a HEPA (or high-efficiency particulate air) grade filter in their vacuum, which are designed to capture and filter especially fine particles.
- Keep their cat groomed and bathed regularly to lessen loose hair and dander
While no cat is truly hypoallergenic, people who both love and are allergic to cats might still be able to have one in their home by choosing a low-shedding breed. Of course, consider the severity of your allergies and consult your doctor before getting a cat.
Here’s hoping you’ll be able to snuggle up soon to one of these minimally shedding kitties!