Hypoallergenic cat breeds could be the solution for cat lovers with allergies. But is there such a thing as a hypoallergenic cat? I'm a cat person, and I'd love to have one (okay, maybe two), but my husband's allergic.
There are plenty of hypoallergenic dog breeds—just about anything crossed with a poodle ends up causing fewer allergy issues, but for cat lovers, there doesn't seem to be that kind of magic bullet.
So I decided to roll up my sleeves and do a little digging into what causes cat allergies and what breeds are the most hypoallergenic.
It turns out there are quite a few! So if you, or someone you live with, has allergies but wants a cat, here are 13 options you ought to consider.
About Cat Allergies and Hypoallergenic Cats
What causes cat allergies?
Cat allergies are incredibly common (twice as common as dog allergies!) and can range from mild—like itchy, watery eyes and sneezing—to downright dangerous, like asthma attacks.
Despite what most people think, it's not a cat's hair that causes these symptoms.
The trigger for most cat allergies is a protein named Fel D1 that cats produce in their skin, saliva, and urine.
When cats groom themselves, the protein in their saliva dries on their fur.
This dried saliva, plus tiny flakes of dander, fall off and stick to every surface the cat comes into contact with, which is why people with cat allergies can still have reactions long after the cat has left the building, so to speak.
These allergens are so small they can also remain airborne for extended periods of time, making it easy to inhale them, or for them to get swept around the house on air currents.
The actual symptoms of a cat allergy are caused by your body's immune system acting as if it were under attack by these harmless proteins.
This causes the inflammation that leads to itchy, watery eyes, nasal congestion and sneezing, and, in more severe cases, asthma attacks.
While medications like antihistamines and decongestants can help treat the symptoms, and allergy shots might be able to lessen your body's reaction to allergens, the only sure way to prevent a reaction is to avoid coming into contact with the allergen in the first place.
Frequently vacuuming, dusting, and washing any blankets or bedding where your cat commonly sleeps can help lower the amount of allergen in your house, but as long as there's a cat around, it won't go away entirely.
So are allergic cat lovers just out of luck? Maybe not. This is where hypoallergenic cat breeds come in.
What makes a cat hypoallergenic?
This one is a tricky question. No cat 's 100% hypoallergenic. Several companies are attempting to breed or genetically engineer a cat that doesn't produce the allergen protein, and though some have claimed success, tests have shown that their cats aren't completely hypoallergenic either.
There are, however, breeds that fit the bill better than others.
Hypoallergenic cat breeds produce less of the problematic allergen protein in their skin and saliva. Less protein typically means less chance of a reaction.
Other factors contribute to how well someone with allergies can tolerate a breed or even a particular cat.
Short-haired cats that don't shed as much leave less of the allergen around the house, while the frequent brushing that long-haired cats require can also reduce the amount of dander and dried saliva in their fur (though the actual brushing is probably best left to someone without allergies).
There also seems to be some X-factor that scientists don't understand. Some people report that they can handle being around, for example, white cats, but cats of other colors cause a reaction.
Scientists haven't worked out why color would make a difference, but it might have something to do with a person's individual immune system.
Males also tend to produce more allergen compared to females. And kittens has less of the allergen than adult cats.
This means it might take some trial and error to find the right hypoallergenic cat breed for you.
How can I find hypoallergenic cat breeds?
In general, I'm all for the adopt-don't-shop approach when it comes to finding a pet.
There are lots of animals in shelters who would love to find a "furever" home, but it gets tough when you need to find a particular breed.
Lots of cat breeds (especially mixed breeds) look alike, so it's hard to tell if that gorgeous kitty at the shelter is one of the hypoallergenic varieties.
This isn't to say you shouldn't look at local shelters.
It's almost impossible to know the breed of a stray cat, but sometimes cats surrendered by their owners come with enough backstory to know the breed.
Your odds go up if you're okay with adopting an adult or senior cat instead of just a kitten since adult cats are often overlooked and are more likely to be surrendered than kittens.
If you don't luck out at a shelter though, look for a breeder that specializes in hypoallergenic breeds.
Do your research and, if you can, talk to other people who've gotten cats from the same place. You want to make sure your chosen breeder is reputable before picking out your new pet.
Things to consider before getting a hypoallergenic cat
Just like with any pet, it's important to consider whether a cat is right for you before opting to get one.
While cats are independent and don't need the regimented schedules that dogs thrive on, they do still need love, attention, and a safe and healthy environment.
That means the basics, like making sure your cat has access to clean water, a healthy diet, and clean litter box, but it also means paying attention to the little things.
Are there children in your home that will need to be taught how to treat a cat?
Are there any houseplants that can be toxic to curious cats who love to chew on leaves?
Cats also like to climb, so unanchored shelves or other furniture could become a tipping hazard if your cat decides to use them as a jungle gym.
And don't forget the proper grooming, vet care, and toys and activities to keep Kitty fit and healthy that are all part of being a cat-owner.
It is a significant commitment. Be sure you're ready to take the plunge before you bring a cat into your home.
There are also some important considerations unique to hypoallergenic cats. If you're buying a cat from a breeder, keep in mind that it's likely going to be a purebred, pedigreed animal and therefore quite expensive.
Some cat breeds also have particular health issues, including some hypoallergenic varieties.
Burmese cats, for example, can be carriers of a congenital deformity which, while it doesn't affect the parents, would mean that their kittens would not develop properly and likely would die before birth.
Devon Rex myopathy, which also affects Sphynx cats, is an untreatable genetic disease that causes some internal deformities as well as muscle degeneration.
There is now a genetic test available for this disease, but it persists because not all breeders test their animals.
This is why, if you choose to get your pet from a breeder, it is crucial to find someone reputable and responsible. You'll need to meet your cat before bringing it home.
Since even hypoallergenic breeds can sometimes cause reactions, it's important to make sure your new cat isn't one of them!
If the first in-person meeting goes well, try to arrange for a trial period where your cat can visit your home for a few days.
This will help you determine whether prolonged exposure will cause reactions, and also help you get to know your cat's personality.
If you're looking for a laid-back couch companion, but your potential new cat turns out to be a rambunctious furniture climber, you may want to keep looking.
With so many hypoallergenic breeds to choose from and so many different personality traits in play, it's worth it to put in a little extra effort to make sure you and your new cat are a perfect match.
13 Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds
#1 Meet the Siberian Sweethearts
You might think a long-haired cat like the Siberian wouldn't be a likely candidate as a hypoallergenic breed, but in fact, Siberians and Siberian crosses are among the best-tolerated cats for those with allergies since they produce less of the allergenic protein in their saliva.
They're a medium-to-large cat with dense fur meant to withstand harsh Russian winters.
Now that they no longer have to work keeping Siberian granaries mouse-free, they're fluffy, affectionate house cats with a lifelong love of play and a few personality quirks, like their fondness for playing in the water.
There are some that don't even mind getting a full bath!
#2 And the Beautiful Balinese
These beautiful cousins of the Siamese cat are absolute showstoppers.
Their markings are "colorpoint," meaning they're white or cream-colored except for their faces, feet, and tails, and their eyes are usually a beautiful crystal blue.
The Balinese is a long-haired breed, but unlike the Siberian with its triple-thick, waterproof coat, the Balinese sports fine, silky hair that would make a supermodel jealous.
It's especially noticeable on their long, plumed tails, which, compared to their slender bodies, looks enormous!
They're not quite as chatty as their Siamese cousins, but they're still quite vocal and curious. Make sure they have plenty of toys to play with to keep them out of trouble!
#3 The Bengal Walks on the Wild Side...
The Bengal cat is the only breed with leopard-like "rosette" markings that make it look like a tiny jungle cat living in your house.
There's a good reason for that wild appearance. Though today Bengal cats are 100% domestic, the breed was created in the 1980s by crossing housecats with the Asian Leopard Cat, a small, beautifully patterned wildcat from Asia.
Now, Bengal cats come in a wide variety of colors, from silvery white to tortoiseshell brown, all featuring the distinctive rosette markings, or a softer version called "marbling."
They're playful and athletic, but just a little bit klutzy. Don't be surprised if this is one cat that doesn't always land on its feet!
Bengals are also considered of the the larger cat breeds in the world today.
#4 But the Burmese are a People-Person
If you've always thought of yourself as a dog person, the Burmese might be the cat that changes your mind. They're incredibly people-oriented, with a fondness for cuddling, playing, and just being with you.
They'll follow you from room to room, and love to sleep in your bed at night. They're great with kids, and most will even get along with dogs!
Their fur is short and dense, with minimal shedding, which likely contributes to their hypoallergenic status.
Make sure they stay indoors, however! These cats are very trusting and curious, traits which can get them into serious trouble if they're allowed to wander outside.
#5 Colorpoint Shorthair: A Colorful Cutie!
With 16 different show-quality colorations and even more that aren't considered showable, the Colorpoint Shorthair has plenty of variety in its appearance.
They were originally bred for color—breeders wished the Siamese cat came in more varieties, so they crossed the Siamese with a red tabby, and voila: a cat with the coat patterns and build of a Siamese, but with many more color options.
Since their fur is very short, Colorpoints are serious snugglers. They love to bask in the sun, curl up under blankets, and in general soak up heat wherever they can find it.
#6 Cornish Rex—Yes, That Curl is Natural
The Cornish Rex is one of the more unusual looking cat breeds. It's very slender, with a barrel chest, long thin tail, and enormous ears and eyes. Think Puss-in-Boots from Shrek enormous eyes.
Oh, and did I mention they have curly fur? According to the breed standard, the ideal is a coat that falls in waves, but the curl varies from cat to cat.
They do shed, but minimally, which might contribute to their reputation as a cat that those with allergies can tolerate.
#7 Devon Rex: Another Curly-Coated Kitty
Like the Cornish Rex, the Devon Rex has short, curly fur that leads to minimal shedding but that's where the resemblance ends.
The Devon Rex looks like a cat from another world, with a small, roundish head sporting oversized ears perched on a long skinny neck.
They're smallish cats, and incredibly social. They love to lounge in your lap or cuddle with other cats (or even dogs!).
They're also total chow hounds, and will employ a wide variety of chirps and coos (because why would a cat that looks this odd just meow?) to coax you into giving extra treats.
#8 The Elegant Long-Haired Javanese
Like the Colorpoint Shorthair, the Javanese breed traces its ancestry back to the Siamese, and also like the Colorpoint, the Javanese is a result of humans breeding for more stylish cats.
Essentially, the Javanese is a long-haired cousin of the Colorpoint Shorthair, meaning it has the same svelte build, colorpoint markings, blue eyes, and energetic personality as a Siamese cat, but with more color variation and a long silky coat instead of short fur.
Like some other hypoallergenic long-haired breeds, the Javanese has a single-layered coat, making it sleek and silky rather than fluffy and minimizing the issues of shedding.
#9 And the Goof-Ball Ocicat
These fearsome looking kitties might look like something you'd find in the jungle, but unlike the Bengal cat, there's no wild ancestry responsible for the Ocicat's spots.
They were specifically bred for their coat patterns from Abyssinian, Siamese, and American Shorthair cats.
They also lack any ferocious wild personality traits. In fact, many people say they're more like dogs than cats!
They're affectionate and love to be part of what's going on, even if it gets them into trouble sometimes. They love games and toys and make great family pets.
#10 The [Not So] Oriental Shorthair
Though they share much in common with their Siamese ancestors, the Oriental Shorthair isn't Oriental at all!
In fact, the breed originated in England, where it was created by breeders looking to explore the full range of possible coat colors. And boy, did they ever succeed!
Tabby and bicolor, smoke and silver, tortoiseshell and white and red and everything in between!
There are over 600 different color patterns recognized by breeders, so even if you're picky, you're going to find an Oriental Shorthair you think is just gorgeous.
#11 Russian Blue: The Cat of Czars
For a cat with history, look no further than the Russian Blue. Though most cat fanciers agree the breed originated in Russia, there's some disagreement over exactly where.
Some argue that the Russian Blue's dense, plush coat that seldom sheds is a trait it inherited from Wildcats in the Archangelsk Islands of far northern Russia.
Others say that the cats were kept by Russian Czars as royal pets since their smoky, silver-blue coloring and wide, emerald green eyes make them so striking in appearance.
Whatever their origin, today Russian Blues make excellent pets.
They love games and will even learn to play fetch, but they're not high-maintenance.
A little affection and attention every day will go a long way to keeping them happy and healthy.
#12 We Are Siamese If You Please!
With so many related breeds on this list, it's probably no surprise to find the original here as well! Siamese cats are one of the most unique breeds. They are also one of the smaller cat breeds.
With their slender bodies, wedge-shaped heads, large ears, and classic colorpoint markings, they're immediately recognizable on sight...but you'll probably hear them first!
Siamese cats are among the most talkative breeds, and they don't limit themselves to your typical "meow."
With a full vocabulary of chitters, growls, squeaks, yowls, and purrs, they don't hesitate to make their opinions known, so be prepared for conversation if you decide to adopt a Siamese cat!
#13 Sphynx—No Hair, Don't Care
When people think of hypoallergenic cats, the first one they tend to bring up is the Sphynx. Since people assume hair is the issue, the hairless Sphynx seems an obvious solution.
In truth, though, the Sphynx's hypoallergenic nature comes from the fact that they must be regularly bathed to remove the excess oils that fur would usually absorb.
This also removes the dander and dried saliva that would cause a problem for people with allergies.
Because of their unusual look and loving, attentive personalities, they've been growing in popularity as both show animals and family pets.
They do need a little extra attention because of their hairlessness—they're indoor-only cats since they risk frostbite, sunburn, and other exposure-related issues if they were to go outside.
They also need plenty of warm places to snuggle during the day. It's risky to put sweaters on cats because they may get caught and injure themselves trying to get free. A blanket in the sun will do just fine.
What do you think? Have you found your next cat breed? I love how they all have such unique personality traits in addition to looking so different.
I'd like to find a playful cat, so I think we'll look into getting an Ocicat...or maybe a Russian Blue...or maybe both!
We'll have to see which breed works best for us, check out the nearby shelters, and see if there are any breeders nearby.
With so many hypoallergenic cats to choose from, hopefully, more allergic cat lovers can welcome a new feline family member into their homes.
Do you have a favorite hypoallergenic breed? Let us know which in the comments below, and don't forget to share this article with your friends!