In the United States, cat allergies affect 12.1 percent of the population over the age of six. While some data suggest that exposure to cats during the first year of life may decrease the risk of developing asthma and allergies, patients diagnosed with allergies are advised to avoid the allergy-causing animal. Although avoiding cats may be recommended, it’s often more challenging in practice. Thus, the interest in hypoallergenic cats was born.
The Oriental Shorthair breed developed from breeders exploring all possible coat varieties for the Siamese cat. Today, the modern Siamese and Oriental Shorthair hold almost identical physical traits, aside from the vast color and pattern combinations found in the Oriental Shorthair. For those that love the physical variety that the Oriental Shorthair offers—plus a colorful personality to match—you may be curious if this breed fits your lifestyle needs.
You’ve likely already learned that some cats affect your allergies more than others. Maybe you’ve visited a friend’s house and had zero reactions to their cat, but one step into a pet rescue has you wanting to scratch your eyes out. For some, choosing the right cat breed means the possibility of a life full of kitty cuddles without a runny nose and itchy eyes. But do hypoallergenic cats exist? Are Oriental Shorthair cats hypoallergenic? Read on to learn about cat allergies and discover if the Oriental Shorthair is an allergy-friendly breed.
The Oriental Shorthair Cat
Bred from Siamese, the Oriental Shorthair shares many similarities to the beloved “meezer.” These cats are very slender, with tubular bodies and long legs. They have super large ears and almond-shaped eyes. Unlike the Siamese, the Oriental Shorthair comes in a range of different coat colors and doesn’t always have the colorpoint coat that is trademark for the Siamese breed.
The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) accepted the Oriental Shorthair for championship status in 1977. As the breed’s popularity grew, so did the selection of coat varieties. Today, the Oriental cat has over 600 color, pattern, and coat length combinations, giving prospective owners lots to love.
The Oriental Shorthair tends to be friendly, outdoing, and curious about their surroundings. These are playful kitties that will act kitten-like well into adulthood. Like the Siamese, the Oriental Shorthair is a chatty breed and enjoys having “conversations” with their family throughout the day. They will happily follow you from room to room, making them a fantastic companion pet.
Are Oriental Shorthair Cats Hypoallergenic?
First off, unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a completely non-allergenic cat. Breeds are considered “hypoallergenic” when they produce fewer allergens, thus reducing the potential for an allergic reaction. You may notice that you have less of a response around certain breeds, which may very well be the case with the Oriental Shorthair. Oriental Shorthairs have a very short, fine coat. These cats are low-shedders, which helps prevent allergens from spreading around the home. If you suffer from cat allergies but long for a furry companion, consider the Oriental Shorthair. While Oriental Shorthair cats are considered hypoallergenic, regular brushing is recommended to keep dander to a minimum.
What Are Cat Allergies?
A common misconception among those suffering from feline allergies is that a cat’s fur is causing the allergic reaction. In reality, allergy sufferers react to the proteins in a cat’s saliva, dander (skin flakes, similar to dandruff), and urine. The symptoms of cat allergies vary depending on the protein the sufferer is allergic to and their exposure to that protein. Common symptoms of cat allergies include:
- asthma attacks in people who have asthma
- irritated, red eyes
- itchy skin
- a rash on areas that come in contact with allergens
- respiratory irritation causing coughing, sneezing, or a stuffy nose
While rare, people with cat allergies may also experience anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that makes breathing difficult and can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. Anaphylaxis can send the body into shock and requires immediate emergency care.
Researchers do not fully understand why some people develop cat allergies while others avoid this health condition. Most people with cat allergies experience mild to moderate symptoms. Depending on the severity of your allergies, you may be able to live comfortably with cats. Others may only be able to tolerate specific breeds or must avoid cats entirely.
Multiple factors classify a cat as hypoallergenic. First, some cats produce less of the Fel d 1 protein that causes most allergic reactions in humans. According to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, up to 95 percent of patients with cat allergies react to Fel d 1. The following cats may have lower levels of Fel d 1 protein:
Alternatively, some cats are considered hypoallergenic because they experience little shedding and require infrequent grooming. The Fel d 1 in cat saliva can trigger an allergic reaction, so the less grooming your cat does, the less likely you will experience allergies. Plus, limited shedding translates to less Fel d 1 in the air. Low-shedding cat breeds include:
While the Oriental Shorthair still produces Fel d 1, its coat minimizes shedding and dander. For those with mild to moderate allergies, a low-shedding breed combined with a routine to manage allergies may allow for the addition of a feline into your home.
10 Tips To Reduce Allergic Reactions
If you’re allergic to cats but want to bring a furry feline into your home, use the following tips to manage your allergies:
- Comb or brush your cat regularly to catch hair and dander. Better yet, have someone else that’s less allergic do the grooming. Regular coat maintenance means fewer allergens in your home. If possible, brush your cat outside to ensure the excess hair and dander don’t accumulate inside.
- Schedule regular bathtimes to remove saliva from your cat’s fur while also removing dander.
- Alternatively, apply a dander remover to your cat’s coat weekly.
- Wash your hands after handling your cat, even if you have a hypoallergenic cat breed. Avoid touching your face and eyes after petting your feline friend.
- Clean your home regularly, paying particular attention to carpets and soft furnishings. The ChomChom is fantastic for removing hair from blankets, pillows, and soft surfaces. Bissell also makes a great hand vacuum specifically designed for removing pet hair. Use an anti-allergen spray in the air or on surfaces to remove allergens.
- Keep your cat away from your clothes or anything you will be near for long periods.
- Keep your cat out of your bedroom. While it’s tempting to let your kitty sleep in bed with you, keeping your bedroom door closed eliminates allergy triggers while you’re sleeping. If you let your cat sleep with you, be prepared to clean your bedding often.
- Use air purifiers to remove allergens and other particles from the air. I’ve had success with the Winix C535 3-Stage True HEPA Air Purifier with PlasmaWave® Technology. The mesh pre-filter pulls in loose hair that’s made its way onto the floor; the HEPA filter captures 99.999% of airborne allergens, including pet dander, pollen, dust, and smoke; and the activated carbon filter reduces odors from pets, cooking, and smoke. I keep one filter in my bedroom and another by the litterbox for odor-reducing benefits.
- Clean the litter box as often as possible to remove the allergy-causing protein in your cat’s urine. If possible, assign someone else to litter box duty.
- Use antihistamines and decongestants to reduce allergy symptoms, and consider allergy shots. This immunotherapy introduces a small amount of an allergen into your body to eventually eliminate your allergy response.
Health Factors That Affect Shedding
Shedding is a completely natural process for cats; however, excessive shedding may indicate a health problem. Pay attention to your cat’s “regular” shedding to know when something is wrong. If you notice bare patches on your cat’s skin, it’s time to call the vet.
Based on the history you provide to your veterinarian, along with a physical examination and lab tests, your vet will determine the cause of the shedding. The following health issues may affect your cat’s shedding frequency:
- Allergies: Cats can have allergies too. An allergic reaction to food or the environment can cause skin inflammation and hair loss.
- Diseases: Hair loss could signal various health conditions, including kidney, liver, and thyroid disease.
- Infections: Bacterial and fungal infections inflame the skin and can lead to hair loss.
- Parasites: Cats with fleas or mites may chew or scratch their skin, causing excess shedding.
If your vet determines that your cat is shedding due to a medical problem, they will prescribe a treatment plan for recovery. Follow the plan closely; once the underlying condition is controlled, your cat’s shedding should return to an average level.
Other Factors That Affect Shedding
Most cats have two major sheds during the year, which occur in spring and fall. Cats that spend most of their time indoors will likely shed year around if their home has temperature control. Other factors that increase shedding include:
- Age: As cats age, they typically groom less often. As a result, your cat may experience additional shedding or matted fur.
- Nutrition: A poor diet affects all aspects of health. Hair loss could signify that your cat isn’t getting enough necessary nutrients.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant and lactating cats experience hormonal shifts that can increase shedding.
How Do I Groom My Oriental Shorthair Cat?
Oriental Shorthair cats are considered hypoallergenic and require minimal grooming, but a once-a-week brushing or more can help your allergy symptoms. Use Allerpet dander remover once weekly, applied with deshedding gloves, to allow plenty of kitty cuddles. If you give your Oriental Shorthair baths, always use a cat-safe shampoo to prevent irritation to your feline’s skin.
Are Oriental Shorthair cats hypoallergenic? Although the Oriental Shorthair sheds less than other breeds, no cat is completely non-allergenic. Monitoring your cat’s health and nutrition minimizes excess shedding; regular cleaning can reduce allergens throughout the house. Finally, consult your physician to support allergy management.