Ask Dr. Jenn: How Can I Live with My Cats if I'm Allergic to them?
My daughter is begging for a kitten, but my husband is allergic to cats. Are there any hypoallergenic breeds?
The short answer is no; there are no hypoallergenic cat breeds. However, many people with allergies to cats are able to find a way to live with them happily and comfortably.
It is a common misconception that people are allergic to a cat’s fur. In truth, people react to proteins produced by the cat. The most common protein, Fel d 1, is secreted in the saliva, oil glands, anal glands, and tears of cats. Some cats produce less of this protein than others causing them to be less reactive. However, scientists have not yet been able to identify why some cats produce less of this protein than others, and it does not seem to be related to any specific breed of cat. At this point, it seems to be just luck to find that hypoallergenic cat.
Although there is no hypoallergenic cat breed, there are ways to reduce your cat’s allergens. The Fel d 1 protein is mostly found in the saliva. Cats groom themselves and spread the protein throughout the fur. The proteins can be reduced by weekly bathing with a gentle shampoo. If your cat is one of the many that will not tolerate weekly bathing, wiping down the fur with a damp cloth every one to two days can also be effective. AllerPet C is a commercially available solution that claims to bind cat dander and thereby reduce the allergen load. It works best when used every three to four days.
The Fel d 1 protein can last in the environment for long periods, even after a cat no longer resides in a place. Frequent vacuuming is recommended to reduce the allergens in the environment. A HEPA air filter is also effective in removing cat dander from the air. Keeping cats out of your bedroom is recommended as the bed linens, and blankets often harbor allergens.
Science has also stepped up to help solve the cat allergy problem. The Purina food company has recently released a special diet called Purina LiveClear. Purina LiveClear contains antibodies that bond with the Fel d 1 protein in the saliva to deactivate it. LiveClear has just recently become available, but initial reports are promising.
Scientists are also working on a vaccine for cat allergies. The vaccine would be given to the cat to reduce the Fel d 1 protein production. Currently, this vaccine is still in the study phase and is not yet available.
Approximately 10% of the human population is allergic to cats. Many of these allergic people have found ways to live with cats. Depending on how severe the allergy is, it may require a combined effort of working with your veterinary team to reduce your cat’s allergen load and your physician to reduce your reaction to cat allergens.