12 Feline Companions for Allergy-Prone Individuals

Author: K. Marie Altoby K Marie Alto Updated 8 min read

12 Feline Companions for Allergy-Prone Individuals

Cats are incredibly adorable, rambunctious, and a joy to have around, but there's one significant roadblock keeping far too many people from enjoying their company: allergies. Allergies to cats are tiring, stressful, and miserable, especially if your allergy is bad enough, and nobody wants to have to take a daily antihistamine just to live their lives.

This leads many people to wonder: are there cats that are better for allergy sufferers? Can our allergic friends still enjoy the company of a cat or two in the right way? The answer may be yes, so let's talk about it.

How Cat Allergies Work

Whenever a substance that isn't part of your body enters your body, there's a pretty good chance that your body will react in some way to it. Usually, this occurs by mobilizing the immune system.

The immune system reacting to something can lead to a wide range of different consequences, from the simplest runny nose and itchy eyes to anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal reaction. When the foreign body isn't a disease – that is, a bacteria, virus, fungus, or other foreign invader – we call the resulting reaction an allergy.

Your body can be sensitive to a wide range of different substances. Some are dietary, with common examples being peanut allergies, allergies to things like chocolate, oats, or onions/garlic, and allergies to shellfish. Some allergies are environmental, like dust, pollen, and similar allergies.

Sometimes, you're allergic to the products of an entire tree, so you can be allergic to the sap it produces, the pollen it sheds in the air, and the nuts or seeds we commonly eat from it. In some cases, you can even be allergic to parts of your own body, which is usually known as an autoimmune disease.

One of the more common types of allergies is allergies to pets. However, the allergy isn't to the pet directly or even to the pet's dander (or shed skin cells); it's actually a reaction to a protein found in their body.

An Allergic Reaction Image by Toe Beans

Cats, in particular, tend to shed these proteins a lot. This is because, ironically, those same cats are fastidious in grooming themselves. To do so, they use their tongues, and that means they spread their own saliva throughout their fur and skin.

That saliva contains proteins produced in their fuzzy little bodies. In fact, it's not even one protein, but seven different proteins – named Fel d 1 through Fel d 7 – that can trigger allergic reactions. The majority of cat allergies are to Fel d 1, but sensitivities can develop to any of them.

Fun fact: cats aren't the only creatures that produce Fel d 1! In fact, it's present in many animals in the Theriiformes group, which includes everything from the sloth and slow loris to shrews, elephants, mice, squirrels, and many more. Not all of them produce it in saliva or shed it the same way, though. And, since most of these other animals aren't kept as pets, we don't think as much about being allergic to them.

So, you're allergic to these proteins, but the proteins are carried on shed skin and fur, which is why so many people feel like it's the fur that they're allergic to.

Because of this quirk, it's not actually fur that causes allergies, which means hairless breeds aren't the only cats you can have when you're allergic to cats. Some of the best low-allergy cat breeds, in fact, are actually long hairs!

The Best Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds

So, what are the best cat breeds for people with cat allergies? In general, you want a breed that produces less of the Fel d proteins, usually Fel d 1. Fortunately, there are a bunch of options available to you. Broadly, they're known as hypoallergenic or low-allergen breeds.

Note: there's no such thing as a completely allergen-free cat. Unfortunately, the protein is inherent in all cat breeds. Hypoallergenic cats are cats that either produce less than average or have another reason why they don't shed it as much, such as not having as much fur to shed or not changing fur coats seasonally.

What are the best cat breeds you can try out if you're allergic to cats but really, really want one?

1: Siberians

Siberians are a mid-long-haired breed originally hailing from, you guessed it, Siberia. They have thick triple coats and can come in many different colors and patterns.

A Siberian Cat Image by Toe Beans

As a pure breed, they're relatively expensive, and there isn't actually a ton of evidence to suggest that they have lower Fel d 1 than other breeds, though many Siberian pet parents swear they do. They're also loving, active, and healthy cats, so that's another bonus for anyone looking into the breed.

2: Siamese

One of the more iconic cat breeds, Siamese, have shorter, denser coats than average and have the breed-specific kind of color-point coat patterns that make them stand out from the crowd. Their bright blue eyes are also iconic to the breed.

Siamese Cats Image by Toe Beans

Like Siberians, there's not a ton of scientific evidence that they produce less Fel d 1 than other cats, but they may tend to shed less, which could contribute to the breed's hypoallergenic reputation. On the other hand, they love to be lap cats, which can mean they worsen allergies through their presence, whereas a more aloof cat might not.

3: Bengals

Bengal cats are large and, as many would agree, in charge. Tall, sleek, and lithe, Bengals have an iconic spotted coat and an affectionate attitude that means they love to be hanging out and playing with you, pretty much no matter what you'd rather be doing.

A Bengal Cat Image by Toe Beans

They produce roughly the same amount of Fel d 1 as other cat breeds, but since they have low-shed, low-maintenance fur coats, they don't spread as much of the protein as some other varieties of feline. Plus, who doesn't want a cat that looks like a miniature leopard hanging out with them all the time?

4: Russian Blue

Russian Blues are one of the most frequently misidentified cat breeds in the world. Why? They're simply a smoky gray color, which is also one of the most common colors of the plain old everyday domestic shorthair.

A Woman Holding a Russian Blue Cat Image by Toe Beans

They're even-tempered and mild, they don't shed very much, and they're very calm and gentle felines to have around. Again, they likely have the same levels of Fel d 1 as other cats but don't shed as much, so it doesn't get everywhere.

5: Sphynx

Sphynx are usually one of the first cats to come to mind when you think hypoallergenic.

A Sphynx Cat Image by Toe Beans

As "hairless" cats (which actually have a super-short, fine fur coat that is virtually invisible), they still produce dander and still have Fel d 1 in their systems. However, when they take frequent baths, which they need to keep their skin healthy as it is, that dander is nearly eliminated, making them a very good cat for allergy sufferers. Of course, not everyone likes a sphynx, so they can be a bit of an acquired taste.

6: Devon Rex

Devon rex cats are one of the most interesting breeds because they have short, slightly wavy, and curly fur, which makes them look almost more like small poodles than cats until you get to their faces.

A Devon Rex Cat Image by Toe Beans

They're very playful and tend to be happy meeting anyone new, spending time with their humans, and hanging out to be involved in everything. They also don't shed very much, so the Fel d 1 in their systems is relatively contained. That said, they're definitely high-maintenance cats, so if you can't spend most of your time at home, they probably aren't the right breed for you.

7: Javanese

The Javanese is a crossbreed between a colorpoint shorthair and a Balinese, resulting in a very cool hybrid cat that has a Siamese-like coloration, with a wider variety of colors and styles in their longer coats. They're relatively unique among cat breeds in that they don't have an undercoat, which is where most cat shedding comes from.

A Javanese Cat
Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:JAV_%D0%92%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B8%D0%BD_%D0%91%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%B8_%D0%9B%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B4_(11319060913).jpg

Since they still shed and still have Fel d 1, they're better for people who have relatively mild allergies. They're also very talkative and playful felines, so they make great companions.

8: Balinese

Many lists of the most hypoallergenic cat breeds start with the Balinese, likely as a quirk of alphabetical ordering more than anything. They're in many ways identical to Siamese cats, except instead of a shorter fur coat, they have long hair and a bushy plume tail.

A Balinese Cat Image by Toe Beans

They don't shed much despite that, and it's easy to control their dander, so they can be a good option. Some studies have even indicated that Balinese cats, in general, may actually have less Fel d 1 genetically than other cats, so they're one of the better options.

9: Korat

Korats are a cat breed native to Thailand, and they're still relatively rare in the States, so they can be difficult to get ahold of.

A Korat Cat Image by Toe Beans

They're relatively low on shedding, but they're also very social lap cats and develop very strong bonds with their families, so inevitably, they'll pick the person with the worst allergies to hang out with all the time. Still, they're an incredible breed once you get to know them.

10: LaPerm

LaPerm cats are named after their coats, which are genetically curly and wavy, giving them a distinctive disheveled look that can be hilarious when they're kittens.

A LaPerm Cat Image by Toe Beans

Experienced cat parents might feel like they're doing something wrong when their cat looks like it needs a good brushing, but that's just how they are. Fortunately, they're also a low-shed breed, so they won't leave that nasty Fel d 1 everywhere.

11: Oriental Shorthair

Another of the relatively short-furred cats, Orientals are silky-smooth and don't shed much, plus they love a good brushing.

An Oriental Shorthair Cat Image by Toe Beans

They're also very distinctive and adorable cats, with a long nose and humongous ears, making them a perfect breed for the social media sites you frequent. It's a two-for-one deal!

12: Ocicat

Ocicats are named after ocelots because they have some resemblance to wildcats with their spotted fur and sleek frame, but they don't actually have any wildcat DNA in their recent ancestry.

An Ocicat Image by Toe Beans

The breed was created in the 60s from an attempt to crossbreed Abyssinian and Siamese cats to create something a little different. They're energetic and very intelligent and can even be taught tricks!

Other Ways to Reduce Cat Allergies

One thing you may have noticed from the list of hypoallergenic breeds is that none of them, with the one possible exception of the Balinese, are actually lower than normal in Fel d 1. The truth is, it's an individual difference.

You can have your cat tested for Fel d 1 levels, and when you're considering adopting, you can ask to have the cat tested ahead of time. Otherwise, you just need to do what you can to minimize shedding and dander.

A Cat Being Brushed Image by Toe Beans

How can you reduce cat allergies? There are a few good options.

  • Keep your home clean. The less you let dust, dander, and fur build up, the better off you'll be.
  • Brush your cat frequently. Most cats need a good brushing on a weekly basis, but the more you brush them, the more you keep their shedding hair from ending up everywhere.
  • Try a diet. Some cat foods are purported to reduce the cat's ability to produce Fel d 1. It's unclear how effective they are, but it might be a good option.
  • Consider baths. Cats aren't always afraid of water, and if you give them baths starting when they're young, you can keep them clean and reduce Fel d 1 throughout your home. Just make sure it's a good experience for them!
  • Avoid high-allergy breeds. Some breeds, like Maine Coons, Norwegian Forests, Himalayans, Manx, and Persians, are all considered to be higher-allergy breeds because they produce just as much Fel d 1, but they also shed a lot.

There are also potential ways to treat your own allergies that don't involve a daily subscription to the Antihistamine Digest. Allergy shots can be a series of immunotherapy boosters that can lessen or even eliminate pet allergies, and there are experimental sublingual tablets that do the same thing, though they aren't approved for widespread use yet. Talk to an allergist if you're interested in these options, and then you can enjoy any cat you like!

Now, I'd love to hear from you, the readers! Are any of you cat owners allergic to your furry children? If so, what has your experience been like? Be sure to share all your stories in the comments section below. I can't wait to read them!

K Marie Alto
K Marie Alto

K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 50K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-). Read more

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