Breeds

Are Sphynx Cats Hypoallergenic?

The hairless Sphynx cat is mysterious and unique looking. These cats have a reputation for being hypoallergenic largely because they are hairless. Are Sphynx cats hypoallergenic? Is this a misconception? We have the answers!

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: August 29, 2022 | 13 min read

Red bald kitten Sphinx washing his face isolated on white

Cat allergies are a big bummer and can get in the way of people who genuinely want a cat in their lives from being able to have one. For some people, even allergies are not enough to keep them from having a feline companion. Looking for hypoallergenic cat breeds is one of the most common ways to avoid significant allergy issues.

There are several feline breeds out there that are labeled as hypoallergenic. One breed that often gets asked about is the exotic-looking Sphynx. The Sphynx is quite unique in appearance due to the breed’s largely hairless coats. Not all these kitties have short or seemingly hairless coats, though many do. This may be one of the reasons they are one of the first breeds thought of as hypoallergenic cats.

Are Sphynx cats hypoallergenic? Prospective cat owners want to know if this is a good breed for people who suffer from cat allergies. Let’s get into the details and find out all we can learn about cat allergies and the Sphynx.

Sphynx Cats

Blue cat brush don Sphinx
These kitties have an incredibly unique look, especially the fully hairless variety.

The mysterious Sphynx is a newer feline breed that originated in Canada. In 1966 an incredibly unique hairless kitten named Prune was born to a regular house cat. Prune’s owner realized that the kitten was quite unusual and began a quest to make more of this curious, hairless kitty. Mating Prune and other hairless cats, including his offspring with other hairy feline breeds, more of these hairless kitties were bred. The hairless gene is recessive, so litters are mixed with hairless cats and those with mixed-length fur.

This breed was initially called the Canadian Hairless Cat. After the breed developed further, the name Sphynx was adopted as a tribute to the feline’s similarity to the giant Sphynx sculptures of Egypt. They are now recognized by most major feline associations worldwide, including the Cat Fanciers’ Association, The American Cat Fanciers Association, and The International Cat Association. One of the more famous members of this breed is a character in the Austin Powers movies and goes by the name of Mr. Bigglesworth.

The Sphynx is a small to medium-sized feline weighing between 6 and 12 pounds. They are incredibly social creatures who crave human attention and are known to be curious and mischievous. This breed is often used for therapeutic purposes because they are so friendly and love interacting with people.

They are most recognizable for their wrinkled skin, large ears, and muscular bodies. The Sphynx also has notably large, wide-set eyes and strong cheekbones, all set on a triangular-shaped head. Their unique appearance makes them look much like the ancient cats worshiped by the Egyptians.

Cat Allergies

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to feline allergies. Many people believe that allergies are caused by a kitty’s hair, but that is not exactly the case. Feline allergies are a reaction triggered by proteins naturally produced by felines. These proteins are shed in their saliva and skin, including dander. The allergic reaction people feel is a response to these proteins being spread, which can be spread on feline’s hair. It is not the animal hair itself that people are allergic to. The protein Fel d 1 is thought to be the main culprit in triggering a human allergic reaction.

Because this protein is shed in saliva and dander, it often gathers on cat hair and is then deposited throughout the home and environment. Allergy reactions can be simple and mild or severe and bothersome. This depends on the specific human and their sensitivity to the allergy-inducing proteins, as well as the feline breed and protein level produced. Because some breeds produce less of this protein or have less hair, they can be referred to as hypoallergenic.

Feline allergies can be very unpleasant for sufferers and will range in severity. Symptoms can include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, tightening of the chest, wheezing, facial swelling or pain, watery eyes, skin reactions like rash or hives, or even trigger more severe concerns like an asthma attack. Other symptoms include more long-term effects like eczema, swollen eyes, skin infection, and trouble sleeping.

Hypoallergenic Cats

Lint roller with animal fur and fluff on gray couch indoors
Allergies can be triggered from contact directly with a kitty or contact with hair and dander that is left behind.

A hypoallergenic feline breed is less likely to cause severe allergic reactions. It is essential to point out that no feline breed is known to be completely allergen-free. To put it quite simply, a fully hypoallergenic cat breed does not exist in the real world. People who are affected by feline allergies have different triggers and different reactions. In a room full of feline allergy sufferers, the same kitty can trigger anything from very mild, almost unnoticeable symptoms to very severe allergies. That being said, some feline breeds can be less allergy-inducing than others.

The severity of an allergy reaction will depend on the individual human and the individual kitty. The genetics of both species will come into play. Some humans will be less sensitive to certain breeds, and some breeds like the Sphynx, who are hairless or have much shorter hairs, spread less of the allergen, making allergic reactions to them less severe. Hypoallergenic breeds include the Siamese, Balinese, Siberian, Burmese, Russian Blue, Cornish, and Devon Rex.

Are Sphynx Truly Hairless Cats?

Sphynx cats are considered to be hairless. This does not mean they do not have any hair at all on their bodies. The Sphynx will have soft, very short hairs on their heads, tails, and sometimes feet. It will be fine and very short, giving the appearance that these kitties are entirely hairless. The texture of these kitties is often referred to as feeling like rubbing one’s fingers along a suede jacket.

There are different degrees of hairlessness for this breed. Cats mixed with a Sphynx can have longer hair, speeding on the genetic makeup. Very rarely a purebred long-haired Sphynx will be born. The hairless gene is recessive, so a Sphynx bred with a furred feline will not always produce hairless kittens. The other parent must also carry the recessive hairless gene.

It is a misconception that hairless kitties would all be completely hypoallergenic, as it is not the hair itself but rather a protein produced by the feline that triggers allergies. While shedding hair with this protein on it is a part of allergies, Just because a kitty is hairless does not mean it will be hypoallergenic. The length and amount of hair do not impact the level of protein a cat produces.

Are Hairless Cats Hypoallergenic?

Hairless kitties are generally thought to be hypoallergenic. Truthfully, this is not precisely the correct perception. Because of their hairless nature, it is often assumed that Sphynx cats are hypoallergenic. Unfortunately for feline allergy sufferers, this is not correct. Because a cat’s hair is not what causes allergies, the presence of hair or lack thereof is not enough for a feline to be considered hypoallergenic. Sphynx kitties produce an average amount of Fel d 1, the allergy-causing feline protein. They have dander, as do all breeds, and can still spread it, along with Fel d 1, through touch and shedding of minuscule skin particles.

Having less hair than other breeds does mean that this kitty will spread less of this protein on their hair. It does not mean that they do not shed any of the protein. Sphynx, just like any other breed, will spend a significant amount of time self-grooming. They will still shed allergy-inducing proteins in their saliva and dander, which can be spread as they walk throughout a home and through direct contact with humans.

This breed may be less symptom-inducing for some people than others. Because they can spread less allergen, they are sometimes called hypoallergenic, but this is not a true statement. They still produce an average level of allergens and can cause significant allergic reactions in some people. There is a possibility that this breed can be less likely to trigger allergy responses in some people, but they are not genuinely hypoallergenic.

Specifically, regarding the Sphynx being labeled as a hypoallergenic cat, there are very claims around the internet. Because they have short hair and have the potential to spread fewer allergens, in some places, they are referred to as hypoallergenic cats, even topping some lists as the most hypoallergenic feline. Anyone who suffers from allergies and is considering getting this breed needs to do their research and spend some time with kitties of the specific breed to determine their symptom-inducing potential.

Sphynx Cat Allergies

Maine Coon and Sphynx Cats
Hairless cats like the Sphynx can still trigger allergy reactions in some humans.

The big question here is, are Sphynx cats hypoallergenic, and the answer is no, not necessarily. The level and severity will depend on the human’s sensitivity level, and the amount of proteins kitties are shedding in their skin and saliva. Because allergy-inducing proteins are produced and spread through saliva and skin, they are often left on a kitty’s coat and spread that way. For the Sphynx, this will happen somewhat, but most of the allergy-inducing proteins will be carried around on the cat’s skin. They will then shed through direct contact with humans, furniture, clothing, and other animals.

It is a misconception to think that hairless cats cannot trigger allergies. Owners who suffer from feline allergies must remember this when considering any breed, hairless or not, for adoption. There is no way to tell how a specific human will respond to an individual feline or breed until they are in the same room. Any potential cat owner who suffers from allergies must spend time with cats, preferably the breed they intend to adopt, before bringing them home. Spend time with different members of varying breeds to observe and evaluate the range of responses.

Research is ongoing to determine if a cat’s diet can affect the amount of allergy-inducing proteins they produce. This research is promising but has yet to be fully understood or applied to the pet food industry. Owners can feed their felines a diet high in Omega 3s, adding the occasional raw meat meal, which further helps decrease the dander a kitty will release. Remember, all allergy sufferers have different sensitivities and symptoms, and all cats have varying levels of allergy-inducing proteins.

It is possible to discuss allergy concerns with breeders when looking for a kitten. Some breeders may specialize in cats that are less allergen-inducing than others. Reputable breeders will usually allow prospective owners to visit kittens or previous letters. Doing this can help an owner determine their reaction to a specific kitty or bloodline. However, even breeders cannot entirely breed out the possibility of a cat causing a human allergic reaction.

Tips To Reduce Allergies

A cute tricolor Sphynx kitten with big ears sits on the owner's lap
These kitties make excellent pets, are lovable, and are easy to interact with.

Even an allergy is not enough for some folks to stop them from bringing home a sweet Sphynx. Their unique appearance is a huge attraction for many folks, making them an intriguing and highly sought-after pet. There are some actions owners can take that may help lessen the number of allergens that felines spread about. Choosing a hypoallergenic, low-shedding breed is the first step.

  1. Nutrition is a critical part of the lifelong health of a feline and the quality of their skin and coat. All felines are obligate carnivores and need food that includes high-quality animal proteins. Healthy kitties will have better skin and coat conditions and will shed less. Cats with unhealthy skin can lose more dander and hair.
  2. A HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filtration system is designed to remove 99.97% of airborne particles like bacteria, dust, mold, and small proteins like the allergen Fel d 1. These filtration systems do an excellent job of removing allergens from the air. They are particularly good at removing pet dander and hair. HEPA vacuum cleaners are also available.
  3. Cleaning a home regularly, particularly in areas where kitties hang out, is a huge step in preventing an allergic reaction. Wiping down surfaces, sweeping, and vacuuming floors and furniture all help reduce the number of allergens people are exposed to. Keeping cats off the furniture is another way to reduce the spread of allergens. This can be very tricky, which is why some owners will restrict areas of the home a pet can be in or keep the furniture covered with blankets or pet-friendly options. In some cases, blankets may do more harm than good as they tend to gather allergens rather than repel them.
  4. A high-quality vacuum is a worthwhile investment for all feline owners. There are a variety of pet-focused options and vacuums with HEPA filters. All breeds shed allergen-triggering proteins, so regular vacuuming of floors and furniture will help keep the levels low. Wiping down tables and regularly washing blankets and pillows on furniture or used by cats can be extremely helpful. Owners often overlook washing cloth curtains and rugs, which can gather substantial amounts of dust, mold, pet fur, and other allergens.
  5. Pet hair-resistant furniture covers can be a lifesaver to keep hair from spreading about your home and sticking to clothing. Lint rollers are a great tool for kitty hair and dander. Even though the Sphynx does not shed a fur coat, they will shed dander. After handling a cat, lint rollers can be a wonderful thing to clear any dander from clothing, especially sleeves, laps, and fronts of blouses.
  6. Regular grooming has a significant impact on reducing the spread of allergens. Though the Sphynx does not need as much brushing as other furry breeds, they do need some. This breed can benefit from regular bathing, keeping their skin soft and healthy. This also reduces the number of allergens they spread. Bathing can happen every few weeks to once a week if a kitty tolerates it. Grooming is part of keeping a cat’s coat and skin healthy, as well as quality time for owners to bond with their pets. Regardless of the breed, all felines should regularly be brushed at least once a week.
  7. Do not overlook dental care and nail trimming in these grooming sessions. While these are not as involved in spreading allergens as cat hair, they are two areas that can often be forgotten. Dental care is a growing concern in older cats and can lead to some serious conditions as they age if not taken care of. Nail clipping is also often overlooked. Broken nails, nails that are too long, or nails that are infected can all be a problem for felines. It is best to train them young, but even older kitties can learn to happily tolerate their nails being cut. Use high-quality clippers and a lot of care.
  8. Medications, for humans, not cats, can reduce a person’s sensitivity to feline allergens and tame the reactions. This is not a cure. Instead, it is a tool humans can use to manage allergies. Not everyone will want to take medications, and they will not work the same for everyone, but it is an option that works for many people. Medication will have varying degrees of effect, and just like allergies will be different for everyone. Talk to your doctor before starting an allergy medication regimen, even with over-the-counter drugs.
  9. Litter box cleanliness is an often-overlooked part of controlling the allergens a feline spreads about a home. Litter boxes should be cleaned at least once, preferably twice a day. Positioning an air purifier near the litter box can help clear the air of dust particles and those pesky allergen-inducing proteins that get stirred up when a kitty uses the bathroom. These allergens can be shed in litter boxes, so this is not a job that any member of the family who knows they have feline allergies should do.
  10. Create a space in your home where cats are not allowed to enter. For people with feline allergies, it is best not to allow pets to sleep in your bed or even in the room you sleep in. Keeping bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, and dressing rooms free of cats can be greatly beneficial in preventing the spread of allergens in these important areas. Make sure kitties have their own place to feel comfortable and safe, and regularly clean that area so that allergens, dirt, dander, and cat hair do not pile up.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Sphynx cats better for allergies?

The Sphynx is often labeled as a hypoallergenic cat. They, like all breeds, produce allergy-causing proteins. Some breeds make less of these proteins, but the Sphynx is not one of them. They produce a normal amount. These kitties shed and spread less of these proteins as they do not have furry coats that the proteins are distributed on. Despite this, they still pass allergy-inducing proteins around through contact with furniture, clothing, other animals, and people. While they may be better for some people with allergies, meaning they will trigger fewer allergy symptoms, for other people, they will be just as triggering as any other breed.

Why do Sphynx cats have no hair?

These kitties are hairless due to a recessive hairless gene. This breed is bred specifically for this gene and is intended to have soft silky skin with downy fur or fuzz in certain places. It is normal for this breed to have some patches of soft, silky fuzz throughout its body.

If a Sphynx has no hair, why are they not fully hypoallergenic?

It is a common misconception that feline allergies are caused by cat hair. Though this breed does not have hair or fur like most other breeds, they still produce allergens. Allergens are shed through saliva, dander, and even feces, not directly through hair. So, a hairless breed is not hypoallergenic because they still produce the same number of allergens.

I am allergic to cats. Can I still get a Sphynx?

Allergies do not have to stop feline ownership. Taking the proper precautions, keeping a home clean, and looking into medication can all help owners manage their feline allergies. Owners should always take the time to get to know a specific kitty they want to adopt and different breeds to see which ones trigger them more. Fostering kittens or asking for a trial run with a new kitten can be an effective way to tell if they will start allergy effects and be a good fit for the home.

Why do I have to groom a hairless cat?

Hairless cats need grooming as it is part of their maintenance and overall health. These kiddos sometimes have a very fine, silken layer of fuzzy fur, and their skin can easily pick up dirt, debris, and pests. Regular grooming and bathing keep their skin free of irritants preventing infection or other diseases. Grooming is a perfect time for owners to inspect their pets for any issues and breeds like the hairless Sphynx need an extra special touch. This breed needs to have regular moisturization, as well as sunscreen, as they can easily be burnt. There is much more that goes into grooming than just brushing a cat. Hairless kitties need this attention just as much grooming as the furry variety.

Final Thoughts

The Sphynx is an intriguing animal and makes for a wonderful house cat. Some people may pick this breed because of its reputation as being hypoallergenic. Other than not having as much hair as most other breeds, these kitties are no less allergy-inducing than any other breed. They still produce proteins that trigger human allergic reactions but may spread less of them due to having less hair. The reality is that no feline breed is genuinely 100% hypoallergenic. All feline breeds produce proteins that can trigger allergic reactions in humans with sensitivities to this. Potential cat owners who suffer from allergies or have a family member that does should spend time doing their research and getting to know different hypoallergenic breeds.

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