Those soft, fluffy creatures may make your smile-o-meter skyrocket, but snuggling – or even being around them – likely results in a paroxysm of sneezing, watery eyes and coughing.
The answer for many people is to adopt a cat less likely to cause such reactions. While you won’t find a 100 percent allergy-proof feline, there are a number of breeds considered to be hypoallergenic. That’s because they have less of the Fel d 1 glycoprotein, which is present in cat saliva, urine and skin excretions (dander). The latter remain airborne for long periods, making them easy to inhale. Because dander and saliva stick to the animal’s hair, a feline with a penchant for shedding can create misery for the allergy sufferer.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some feline breeds, rated according to the Airmega sneeze scale, originally developed for dog breeds.
The hairless Sphynx is a breed often associated with being hypoallergenic, since it doesn’t have much allergy-laden fur to shed, though it does require a weekly sponge bath.
Fun fact: The high-energy and monkey-like Sphynx excels at such acrobatic feats as balancing and climbing atop doors.
Honorable mention: The LaPerm. Though not hairless, it has an unusual curly coat that sheds less than most cats, while its curls stop dander from spreading.
At first glance, these longer-haired pussycats don’t seem like potential candidates for allergy avoidance. But, in fact, this breed produces less of the Fel d1 protein than most of its feline comrades, thus causing fewer allergic reactions.
Fun Fact: The Balinese is often seen as a low-key, quiet version of the very vocal Siamese.
Honorable mention: The Russian Blue, which also produce less of Fel d 1.
These critters have short, fine coats that don’t hold as much dander as longer-haired cats, or those with dense undercoats. Plus, they’re light shedders. And because they have less fur than some other breeds, they don’t need to clean themselves as frequently, so their fur has a smaller amount of saliva.
Fun Fact: The Devon Rex originated from the accidental mating of a curly-coated male and a straight-haired female in England.
Honorable mention: The Cornish Rex, which shares many of the same characteristics as the Devon.
The Chartreux has a unique dense and thick wooly textured undercoat, but its shedding habits are problematic. While it generally sheds heavily only once or twice a year, those short double coat hairs often spread dander through the air any time of year – not good for most allergy sufferers.
Fun fact: Known for their dog-like behavior, these cats become so attached to their human family, they’re known to follow you from room to room.
Honorable mention: The Toyger, for its plush, dense coats that also sheds moderately.
You get a double whammy with this breed: Not only does its high-maintenance fur require frequent grooming, thus putting you in constant contact with saliva and dander, but it sheds a lot.
Fun fact: Today Persians are known for their flat faces, but they originally had much longer noses.
Honorable mention: The Oriental Longhair also sports long, frequently shedding hair.
With any cat, keeping your home surfaces and air clean calls for vigilance. That means regular sweeping, vacuuming, dusting and cleaning the litter box. In addition, a smart air purifier with a HEPA air filter can automatically sense and remove cat allergens and other airborne contaminants, capturing 99.97 percent of particulate matter.
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