6 Cat Breeds for People With Allergies (And Why There’s No Such Thing As Hypoallergenic Cats)

updated Jun 8, 2020
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If you’ve ever Googled around for hypoallergenic cat breeds and come up with exactly zero results, that’s because hypoallergenic cats don’t really exist—at least not breeds that are totally hypoallergenic. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some breeds that are better for people with allergies than others.

No matter what type of pet you’re thinking of getting, though, consulting professionals when it comes to different breeds and allergies is a responsible and important step that will only make your and your future furry friend’s lives easier and happier. 

Are Cats Really Hypoallergenic?

Dr. Shelly Zacharias, DVM, MS, VPM, BCMAS is Vice President of Medical Affairs for Gallant, a biotech company that banks stem cells and develops regenerative therapies using a pet’s natural biology to treat future diseases. Dr. Zacharias says that though there is no such thing as a 100-percent-hypoallergenic cat, there are some important things people should know when it comes to cats and allergies. For example, there’s the fact that cat hair isn’t really what causes reactions in people who are allergic to cats—it’s their spit (yes, really).

“The primary cause is an allergen produced in a cat’s saliva, called the Fel d 1 protein. This protein is spread to cats’ hair through grooming and is then shed into the environment, which makes people believe they are allergic to cat hair,” Dr. Zacharias says. 

Credit: Emma Fiala

Are Hairless Cats Hypoallergenic?

If you think that a totally hairless cat means zero allergic reaction whatsoever… think again. Since the primary thing that makes humans allergic to cats is in their saliva (see above), owning a hairless cat isn’t going to keep you completely protected from a potential reaction. “Many people believe there are different cats with different types of hair, or no hair at all, which make them ‘hypoallergenic,'” Dr. Zacharias warns. “This is not the case since all cats produce allergens.”

But since cats can easily transfer their saliva to their hair when they groom, avoiding cat hair does help, and a hairless cat helps you avoid that problem. “Not all hope is lost though because there are some breeds who shed less, or not at all, which makes it easier for people who are allergic to share a home,” she says.

6 Cats That Shed Less (And Therefore Shed Less Allergens)

In any case, if you’re allergic to cats and set on bringing one into your home, it’s worth considering a breed that sheds as few allergens as possible. Not sure which breeds of cats fall into this category? Consult the below list. 

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1. Sphynx

Dr. Zacharias describes this breed as a “loving.. wonderful, hairless companion” that sheds few allergens due to its lack of hair.

Credit: Viv Yapp

2. Siberian

Siberian cats have a double coat of fur (which may sound counter-intuitive for allergy suffers), but their fur “is notable for having a lower level of the protein found in saliva (Fel d 1) which is responsible for causing allergies in most people,” Dr. Zacharias explains.

Credit: Angela Emanuelsson/EyeEm/Getty Images

3. Cornish Rex

“Bat-eared, big-eyed and wavy-coated, the Cornish Rex has a distinctive look and exceptionally silky coat due to not having guard hairs, or an outer coat, like other breeds,” says Kurt Venator DVM, PhD, Chief Veterinary Officer at Purina.

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4. Devon Rex

“Similar to the Cornish Rex, the Devon Rex only has one undercoat. This breed is sometimes called a poodle that purrs, due to her curly coat and wagging tail when she is happy,” Venator says.

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5. Russian Blue

“The Russian Blue is gentle, quiet and loyal, and unlike other breeds, Russian Blues do not shed constantly. Simply comb her coat a couple times a week to keep it soft and shiny,” Venator explains.

6. Balinese

“Also known as a long-haired Siamese, the Balinese is one of the few breeds that produces less Fel d 1 than other breeds,” says Venator.

Can You Build Immunity To Cat Allergies? Or Grow Out Of Them?

In terms of whether or not someone can build immunity to cat allergens or grow out of them, you can find anecdotal evidence that says that this is possible to varying degrees—but it’s also certainly not something to count on. If you want to reduce your cat allergies, another option to consider is something that lessens the allergens that your cat produces, according to Kurt Venator DVM, PhD, Chief Veterinary Officer at Purina.

“Regardless of your cat’s breed, there are tools out there that can help manage cat allergens, helping cat owners be closer together with the cats they love,” he says. Venator explains that Purina has developed a cat food—Pro Plan LiveClear—that includes a protein that binds to the allergy-causing protein in cats’ saliva and neutralizes its effects. “By reducing active Fel d 1 in the cat’s saliva, it reduces the allergen that is transferred to the cat’s hair and dander when they groom, ultimately reducing the allergen in the environment,” Venator says. “In fact, in a published study, feeding Pro Plan LiveClear was shown to reduce the allergens in cat hair and dander by an average of 47 percent, starting in the third week of daily feeding.”