Are Domestic Shorthair Cats Hypoallergenic? The Science Behind Cat Allergies

Being a cat lover with cat allergies is a difficult situation. Staying away from cats or not owning one can be impossible for some people. The search for hypoallergenic cats is what usually follows because people feel they can have the best of both worlds: a cat that doesn’t trigger their allergies.

Are domestic short haired cats a hypoallergenic option? No, but a truly hypoallergenic cat does not exist – there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat or dog. However, some breeds may be more hypoallergenic than others. For this to make sense, let’s take a closer look at cat allergies and the science behind them.

What are cat allergies?

a domestic short-haired cat sitting outdoors
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Pixabay

Around 10% of the population in the United States has some kind of pet allergy, and cat allergies are the most common. In fact they are twice as common than dog allergies. But when someone is allergic to cats, what are they actually allergic to?

It’s not cat hair that causes allergic reactions, although it’s widely believed to be the case. Fel d 1 is a thermostable protein which is found in the saliva, skin, sebaceous glands and hair of cats. This protein is the major allergen of domestic cats. A common trigger is dander. Flakes of dead skin fall off the cat and get stuck in its hair. It’s called dander, and it’s spread around the house by cats when they lose their hair. It is not the hair itself that causes allergies, but the dander on it. It contains the Fel d 1 protein from the skin glands.

When the Fel d 1 protein enters a person’s body, either through skin contact or inhalation, the the body reacts like a foreign substance. In people with allergies, this protein is considered an invader. The immune system will then send them antibodies to protect themselves from it, considering it harmful when it is not. Antibodies can cause inflammation of the nasal passages and lungs. In severe cases, allergic reactions may trigger sinus infections and asthma.

Domestic short-haired and dander cats

Domestic short-haired cats are not a specific breed. It is a term used to describe short-haired cats of varying ancestry. They all produce dander, so they all produce allergens that can make allergy sufferers miserable. However, depending on the lineage of the cat, some may produce fewer allergens than others.

Even hairless cats, like the Sphynx, produce dander and carry the Fel d 1 protein. But you may notice that your allergies act less around hairless cats. Since they don’t shed hair and dander spreads around the house shedding hair, there’s less of it around.

All cats produce dander, but not everyone is allergic to it. Domestic short-haired cats are not hypoallergenic, but not everyone will have allergic reactions.

The most hypoallergenic cats

Devon rex tabby cat lying on gray blanket
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Shutterstock

If you are allergic to cats and are looking to adopt the most hypoallergenic cat possible, here is a list recommended by PetMD. Remember that no cat is truly hypoallergenic and your allergies can still be triggered. But if your cat allergy is minor, you may be less affected by the following breeds:

  • Devon Rex
  • Cornish Rex
  • Javanese
  • Sphynx
  • Balinese
  • Oriental Shorthair
  • Russian Blue
  • Bengal
  • Colorpoint short hair
  • Siberian

Symptoms of Cat Allergies

Many people with cat allergy suffer from coughing, sneezing, runny nose, eye irritation, itchy skin and rashes on the body. Asthma attacks can be triggered in people with asthma. Some people are so allergic to cats that they go into anaphylaxis, which can make breathing difficult or impossible and can send the body into shock.

Allergic reactions to cats can be life-threatening if severe enough. If you plan to share your home with a cat and you are allergic to it, make sure your symptoms are mild and won’t put you at risk.

Even if you visit a home that has cats and you don’t come into contact with them, the dander and allergens will be in the carpets, sheets, furniture, clothing, and surfaces you come into contact with. . Allergic reactions are always possible even if you are not near the cat.

Owning a domestic short-haired cat

close-up of a domestic short-haired cat
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Pixabay

If you have cat allergies and want to own a domestic short-haired cat, that’s completely understandable. Sometimes it’s hard to resist this cute kitten! Here are some steps you can take to make your life situation manageable and easier for both of you.

First, if you have severe allergic reactions, talk to your doctor about what you can do to help manage them. Medicines, injections against allergies or epinephrine pen injector may be necessary for you to live with a cat.

Your home should not have carpets or rugs as they trap dander and allergens. Your furniture and floor should be vacuumed daily, preferably by someone without a cat allergy.

Always wash your hands after petting or playing with your cat. You should also wash them after feeding your cat and cleaning out their litter box. Whenever you might come in contact with their dander, wash it off!

Bathe your cat once a month to limit the buildup of dander and allergens. Consider using an air purifier to trap allergens floating in the air before you can breathe them in.

Brush your cat regularly to remove dead hair and reduce the amount of fur shedding around the house.

Final Thoughts

Domestic short-haired cats are not hypoallergenic, but no cat really is. If you would like to have a cat even if you are allergic, certain breeds may trigger your allergies less. There are also ways to lessen the spread of dander and allergens so you don’t have to suffer as much.

Featured image credit: Pixabay

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