If you find yourself wheezing, coughing, sneezing, experiencing itchy eyes or a runny nose, or even breaking out in hives or rashes, chances are that you’re allergic to something in your environment. Unfortunately, for some pet parents, that allergen can sometimes be their cat. Cat allergies are all too common, but just because someone in your home has cat allergies doesn’t mean that you have to go without a cat. Instead, you can use techniques like allergy treatments and bathing your cat to limit the allergens, and can carefully select a cat that’s less likely to prompt those allergic reactions in the first place. Best of all, you may be able to find this cat in a shelter.
If you’re allergic to cats, it’s important to understand just what is prompting an allergic reaction. NBC10 Boston explains that while many people believe that cat hair creates an allergic reaction, they’re actually more likely reacting to cat dander, saliva, tears, and urine. Your cat releases an allergen called “Fel d 1” every time he grooms himself or uses the litter box. That allergen gets sent into the air, and it also lands on your cat’s skin and hair. When you breathe that air or touch the hair or dander that contains that allergen, you may have an allergic reaction.
The bad news? All cats produce this allergen, so no cat breeds are truly hypoallergenic. The good news is that some cats tend to produce less of the allergen than others. Unneutered males produce lots of Fel d 1, as do cats with dark-colored coats. Shorthaired cats don’t hold the allergen against their skin, and longhaired cats tend to keep the allergen more constrained. The best cat for allergy sufferers? You’ll want to look for a female or a neutered male, longhaired cat with a light-colored coat.
Finding a hypoallergenic cat to adopt can take some time. Again, realize that no cats are truly hypoallergenic. NBC10 Boston explains that some breeds, like the Balinese, Bengal, Burmese, and Siberian, tend to produce less of the Fel d 1 allergen than other breeds, but they can still prompt allergic reactions.
These breeds are rarer, but you can occasionally find them in rescues. You’ll need to be patient and vigilant, and chances are you may need to travel a good distance to adopt one of these rarer cats. Look for breed-specific rescues and contact them to see if they have any cats available for adoption or if they can put you on a waiting list. For example, there are several Bengal rescue groups throughout the US. Connecting with these groups, following their social media listings, and checking their websites regularly might help you find a cat in need of a good home.
Since no cat is hypoallergenic, rather than buying a purebred cat, you might find that the cheapest option is to adopt a cat from a shelter. A longhaired female or neutered male cat with a light-colored coat will produce fewer allergens than other cats, which might help to ease your allergies.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends that you work to control your allergies by keeping your cat out of your bedroom, washing your hands immediately after patting your cat, frequently vacuuming your home to reduce allergen levels, and continuously running a HEPA cleaner in your bedroom or living room. If your cat will tolerate it, bathing him once or twice a week will help to reduce the amount of allergen that he can release in your home.
Living with allergies doesn’t mean that you have to live without a cat, but you do need to be strategic in how you adopt and care for a cat. Be sure to talk to your doctor about treatments, such as allergy medications or even allergy shots, that can make it easier to share a life with your cat. When it comes to adopting a cat, be upfront with the shelter about what you’re looking for in a cat and the importance of a cat that releases lower amounts of allergens. Most shelters will be happy to work with you to ensure that your new cat is a great match for your needs — and that you’re a great fit for the cat’s needs too.
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