It’s estimated that a whopping ten percent of Americans live with pet allergies. Cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies, a fact that can cause distress to allergic cat lovers. Many people want a feline friend in their life, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of their health. So they find themselves asking: Where can you find a hypoallergenic cat breed? Are Siamese cats hypoallergenic?
The answer is: It’s complicated.
“Hypoallergenic” isn’t the right term. Technically, no cats are completely hypoallergenic — even hairless ones! But the Siamese breed may be a good pick for allergy sufferers for a few reasons.
To understand the benefits of Siamese cats for people with cat allergies, it’s important to understand how cat allergies work.
Fur and Dander Aren’t the Main Problem
People have been trying to “breed out” allergens for decades. There’s never been a complete success with any cat or dog breeds. But many individuals still believe completely hypoallergenic cats exist. This tends to be because of a misconception about what causes cat allergies.
One common misconception is that cat fur causes allergies. This then leads people to assume that hairless cats are hypoallergenic. But cat fur itself isn’t the problem. Neither are skin flakes. Instead, the culprit is a unique protein found in cat skin, urine, and saliva.
This protein, called Fel d 1, is the reason more people are allergic to cats than dogs. The protein is distributed throughout the cat’s living environment through simple day-to-day actions.
It gets stuck to the fur when the cat grooms itself, and the fur is then shed in the human’s space. Cats shed skin flakes that become part of the household dust. Urine contains the protein as well, so the litter box is a breeding ground for allergic reactions.
And that’s just how the protein is introduced to the environment. Every time you touch your cat or the pet bed, you get it on your hands. Every time you clean furniture and litter boxes, you introduce the protein to your person. There’s no way to avoid coming into contact with Fel d 1 if you own a cat.
Since it’s impossible to separate cat allergens from cats, the next step is limiting your exposure. Some cats introduce less Fel d 1 to their environments than others. Choosing a breed that sheds less will help you keep your home happy.
Siamese Cats and Shedding
Thanks to the DNA of the Siamese breed, these cats shed significantly less than many other breeds. You might be surprised that the long, silky coat of the Siamese cat is good for allergy sufferers. But these kitties shed less than many shorter-haired breeds, and that’s what matters most.
Many people assume that short-haired cats are more hypoallergenic than long-haired cats. After all, there’s less fur to trap allergens, right?
But scientists say the reverse tends to be truer.
If a cat has a long coat, their Fel d 1 protein will be held close to the skin. The long fur helps trap the protein against the cat’s body, keeping it from being released into the environment. With short-haired cats, the protein migrates to the surface of the fur and into the environment immediately.
According to immunologists, the best cat for allergy sufferers is a long-haired, light-colored, low-shedding female.
Cat Breeds with Low Shedding
Immunologists and veterinarians have worked together to make a list of the cats that shed the least. In addition to Siamese cats, these breeds are worth considering if you’re an allergy sufferer.
Three of the breeds are Oriental lines that are closely linked to the Siamese. If you want a cat that shares many physical traits with Siamese cats, one of these breeds may be for you.
Balinese cats are often called “long-haired Siamese cats.” Their coats are longer, thicker, and silkier than a traditional Siamese coat. You might think this means more trapped allergens, but Balinese cats actually produce less Fel d 1 than many other breeds. They’re not totally hypoallergenic, but they come close.
Oriental Shorthair cats don’t shed very much. As long as you brush and wipe the kitty down on a regular basis to remove dander, you should have an environment that’s low in allergens.
The Javanese is the last of the Oriental breeds. It has a long, lustrous coat that never mats. There isn’t an undercoat, so they have less fur caked with proteins. This in turn means that fewer allergens are emitted into the environment.
Keeping Your Environment Free of Allergens
Since all cats produce allergens, finding a low-shedding cat is just the first part of protecting your health. You’ll also need to take other steps to keep your environment allergen-free.
First, establish no-cat zones. Your bedroom should be one of them, since that’s where you spend the most time. If possible, keep the cat out of the living room, too.
You should regularly brush and wipe down your cat’s coat — outside, so the dander doesn’t get into the dust in the home. If you tend to have skin reactions to allergens, wear gloves.
Make sure you do a thorough vacuuming and sweeping of your home at least once a week. You should also dust your surfaces two to three times a week. Use a duster designed to trap dirt, rather than releasing it into the air.
Your doctor may recommend anti-allergy medication to manage the symptoms. Another option is immunotherapy, which can greatly lessen or even cure allergies. However, this process takes 3 to 5 years and involves nearly 100 injections.
While no cat breed is truly hypoallergenic, some are better for allergy sufferers than others. Siamese cats are a good choice thanks to their lustrous fur and low shedding. As long as you take care of your environment, it’s definitely possible to coexist with a cat.