Norwegian Forest cats are a beauty to behold and make excellent family pets due to their friendly, affectionate, and easy-going personalities. If you already have a Norwegian Forest cat or you’re considering getting one, you may be wondering if this bushy breed will trigger allergic reactions in you or your family members.
Cat allergies are quite common, and they can range from mild to severe. Unfortunately, some breeds are worse for allergy sufferers than others. And that’s a huge letdown if you’re a feline fanatic and have your sights set on a certain breed. Some hypoallergenic cat breeds could be a good choice for your family. But you don’t necessarily need to restrict your breed choice based solely on the most hypoallergenic breeds.
If kitty ownership is a must for you, there are several ways to minimize cat allergies even for non-hypoallergenic breeds. As a moderate cat allergy sufferer, I can attest to the fact that you can make it work if you’re willing to make some lifestyle changes. We’ll shed light on whether Norwegian Forest cats are considered hypoallergenic and if this breed could be a good fit for your family.
The Scoop On Cat Allergies
Cats are the second major source of indoor inhalant allergens in humans after house dust mites. While researchers have identified 10 different cat allergens, one is responsible for most allergy symptoms. The major culprit is a protein called Fel d 1, which is produced in the salivary, sebaceous (skin), and anal glands of cats. Fel d 1 is excreted into cats’ skin, producing allergy-causing dander. And when cats groom themselves, their fur and skin get covered in their Fel d 1-containing saliva.
Allergic reactions to cats can vary a great deal from one person to the next. Some people have mild symptoms occasionally, while others can start wheezing and sneezing as soon as they enter a house with cats. The most common symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Coughing, shortness of breath
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy skin
What Are Hypoallergenic Cats?
Although you’ll see the term “hypoallergenic cat,” no cat is 100% hypoallergenic. All cats produce allergens, some more than others. Therefore, the term “hypoallergenic cat” means that they’re less likely to trigger allergic reactions. The main factors that make a cat more allergy-friendly or unfriendly include whether your cat produces low or high levels of Fel d 1 (this is largely due to genetics) and the amount of shedding. Despite what many believe, coat length doesn’t affect cat allergen levels, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).
About Norwegian Forest Cats
Norwegian Forest cats are called skogkatt in their native Norway and nicknamed “wegies” in the U.S. Although this strikingly beautiful breed has only been in the U.S. since 1979, it dates back to ancient times in Norway. It’s possible that the large, long-haired cats mentioned in Norse mythology were wegies. And Viking explorers likely used skogkatts to rid their ships of rodents.
These large, stately-looking felines have long, glossy top coats that repel water, thick undercoats, shaggy manes, long bushy tails, and furry ears often with lynx tips (tufts of fur on the top of the ears). Coloring and coat patterns vary a great deal. They resemble Main Coon cats and some other longer-haired breeds.
Despite their formidable size and rugged appearance, Norwegian Forest cats are gentle giants. They have a sweet, friendly nature and are affectionate and fiercely loyal to their owners. Their mellow personalities jive well with other pets and children, making them excellent family pets. Their activity level is fairly low compared to many other breeds, but they’re still playful and love to climb.
Are Norwegian Forest Cats Hypoallergenic?
Unfortunately, part of what makes Norwegian Forest cats so beautifully wild-looking (all that fur!) means that they’re not considered hypoallergenic. Does this mean you should avoid this breed at all costs if you have an allergy sufferer in your home? Not necessarily. It depends on the severity of allergies and how much you’re willing to do to keep symptoms to a minimum in your home.
Norwegian Forest Cat Allergies
While you can often find Norwegian Forest cats on random online lists of the worst breeds for cat allergy sufferers, we’re a bit skeptical about these lists because most don’t take some factors into account (and seem to rely on coat length as a factor, which has no bearing on cat allergens).
In reality, Norwegian Forest cats produce low levels of Fel d 1 (the protein that triggers 95% of cat allergies). That’s a big plus. They’re also medium shedders for most of the year. However, the downsides are that wegies have a lot of fur with long guard hairs that cover a shorter thick undercoat, and, once a year, they molt (super heavy shedding). And their large size means more dander, fur, etc.
So ultimately, what does this mean for allergy sufferers? If someone in your family has severe cat allergies, this is not the ideal breed for you. But those with mild to moderate allergies may be able to live with a wegie as long as they take steps to manage symptoms, which can involve regular intensive cleaning, allergy medication, and other measures.
Grooming Tips For Wegies
In general, Norwegian Forest cats require less grooming than many other long-haired breeds, although they do mat if you neglect regular brushing. Most of the year, you only need to brush a wegie once or twice a week. But while they’re molting their winter coat, you’ll probably need to kick it up to everyday brushing. You can use a stainless steel comb or a wire slicker brush for their outer coat. (Combs are great for tackling tangles and working out mats.)
A de-shedding tool can help you reach deep into a wegie’s thick undercoat to help significantly reduce undercoat shedding and matting. Bathing a Norwegian Forest cat isn’t necessary. It’s pretty difficult to get a wegie wet enough for a bath due to its water-resistant top coat.
How Can I Manage Cat Allergies?
While you may need to discuss allergy medications with your doctor, there are other very effective ways to keep allergies at bay so you can live harmoniously with your purr baby.
Vacuuming And Air Purification
Germ Guardian Air Purifier
- HEPA air filtration system.
- Charcoal filters for pet dander, dust, pollen, and other allergens.
- Pre-filter traps pet hair.
- UV-C light technology kills bacteria and germs.
- Energy efficient certified.
- CADR (clean air delivery rate) of 100+.
Placing HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) air purifiers in your home can help significantly reduce allergy symptoms. HEPA filtering systems capture 99.97% of airborne particles (as small as 0.3 microns), including pet dander, dust, mold spores, and other allergens. They can also help trap shedded fur, reduce odors, and kill germs in your home.
While HEPA filter systems keep your home’s air cleaner, you still need to tackle the cat fur and dander on surfaces and flooring. Using a high-quality vacuum nearly every day is a must to manage allergy symptoms. The Bissel CleanView Swivel Pet vacuum has special features to remove stubborn pet hair deep in carpeting. And it has a powerful turbo hose tool to vacuum your furniture and stairs.
Allergy-Friendly Cat Food
Purina Pro Plan LiveClear Cat Food
- Significantly reduces allergens in cat dander and fur.
- Scientifically developed and tested for 10 years.
- Available in 7 formulas for kittens, adults, and senior cats.
- Formulas for sensitive skin & stomach and weight management.
- All blends contain probiotics for gut health.
You may want to consider feeding your cat Purina Pro Plan LiveClear, a relatively new cat food formula that can help reduce allergens in your cat’s hair and dander. This scientifically formulated diet works by neutralizing the allergy-causing Fel d 1 that cats produce with a natural antibody researchers discovered. And based on promising research findings in 2019 and feedback from pet owners who have switched their cats to this diet, LiveClear appears to be a game-changer for many cat allergy sufferers.
In the study, researchers discovered they could neutralize Fel d 1 by binding it to key protein antibodies found in chicken eggs, thereby reducing the levels of Fel d1 that cats’ bodies normally produce. After cats were fed the diet that included the special antibody (called polyclonal egg IgY), 97% of the cats showed decreased levels of active Fel d1 on their fur and dander, with an average reduction of 47% after three weeks.
Other Ways To Reduce Allergies
- Regular brushing can significantly reduce the amount of fur shed and keep your cat’s skin healthy.
- Make bedrooms or other areas off-limits to your cat.
- Use lint rollers on your clothes and furniture to remove stray hair and dander.
- Clean out the litter box at least once a day.
- Frequently wash blankets, cat beds, and other items to keep them dander and fur-free.
- Don’t let your kitty go outside. Cats, particularly long-haired ones, can bring in a lot of pollen, dust, and other allergens that can exacerbate cat allergies.
Which Cat Breeds Are Most Hypoallergenic?
These 10 breeds are considered the most hypoallergenic compared to the dozens of other breeds.
Norwegian Forest cats could be a challenge for severe allergy sufferers or people with asthma, but they have a lot going for them even though they’re large furry felines. Their production of the major kitty allergen, Fel d 1, is low compared to many cat breeds, including some short-haired breeds. And they’re average shedders during most of the year. If you have your sights set on this amazingly beautiful breed, you could make it work in your home.
Both of my daughters and I have moderate cat allergies, and we’re all major kitty lovers. We’ve made it manageable to live with our two beloved indoor fur babies, who are sisters we adopted from a rescue shelter. It takes extra work for sure, but if you’re a cat lover, it’s totally worth it.