Breeds

Are Tabby Cats Hypoallergenic?

Are Tabby cats hypoallergenic? These mottled kitties are extremely popular, but are they hypoallergenic? Does their coat coloring affect allergies? We have the answers and more.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: July 20, 2023 | 12 min read

Woman with allergy to cats holding a handkerchief

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We can all agree that owning cats is a wonderful experience. However, cat ownership can be a big bummer for some folks, especially those suffering from feline allergies. It is heartbreaking when someone wants to have a cat in their life but cannot find a breed that does not trigger a bad allergic reaction. They often search for breeds that are known to be hypoallergenic. One kind of cat many people want is a Tabby cat. The question is frequently asked: are Tabby cats hypoallergenic?

Though it is often called a breed, Tabby is not a single feline breed. It refers to a distinctive marking and pattern. Tabby is a naturally occurring pattern and is present in many different breeds.

Whether or not a Tabby cat is hypoallergenic depends on more than the color, markings, or patterns on their coats. A Tabby cat may be a complicated choice for folks suffering from allergies. In this quick guide, we get into the details about Tabby cats, if they are hypoallergenic, and some ways allergy sufferers can make cat ownership more enjoyable.

Tabby Cats

Ginger Tabby cat sitting on table outside
Tabbies stand out for their distinct patterns and coat markings.

Though they are often referred to as a breed, the word Tabby does not refer to a bloodline or a specific purebred feline breed. Instead, it refers to a color pattern and markings on a cat. This patterning occurs naturally and results from a cat’s unique blend of genetics. Some breeders will select and breed for specific colors and patterns. However, the Tabby pattern appears in a long list of feline breeds. In fact, it is one of the most common coat patterns among felines.

The term “Tabby” originated as an English word referring to striped silk fabric and was used in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 1690s, it started to be used to describe striped felines. One of the first references to a Tabby cat was in 1871 at a cat show held at the Crystal Palace in London. This was the very first ever cat show ever held in the world. A cat that appeared at that show was documented as being an “English Tabby” and was a very handsome 21-pound cat.

All tabbies, regardless of breed, will have a darker marking that resembles a capital letter “M” on the middle of their foreheads. This is accompanied by thin lines on their faces that are more noticeable around the eyes. Tabbies can be solid or bicolored and very dark in color.

There are five distinct types of Tabby patterns. They all look somewhat similar but do have noticeable differences. These patterns can come in blotches, spots, stripes, rosettes, and whirls.

5 Types Of Tabby Patterns

Classic Or Botched

Classic or Botched Tabby has a prominent M on the forehead, circular blotchy-looking patterns along the body, and signature Tabby facial markings. This pattern is often compared to marble because of the swirling markings. Their spots can also look like a bullseye or target.

Spotted

The Spotted Tabby is covered in spots of varying sizes. These cover their torsos and sides. Spots can even sometimes look like broken stripes. Spots can be rosettes, Oval, or round. They also have classic “M” shaped facial markings.

Mackerel

A Mackerel Tabby has narrow, parallel stripes along its sides. They are often compared to tigers and called “tiger cats” because of these obvious stripes. All the stripes will be solid lines and start at the same spot at the top of the spine. They have rings around their tails and legs. It is often said that when looking at these kitties from a certain angle, those stripes look like a skeleton.

Ticked

Ticked Tabbies do not have prominent spots, stripes, whirls, or rosettes on their bodies like other Tabby patterns. They have the classic Tabby “M” marking on their foreheads but do not have a distinctly noticeable pattern. Instead, they have what is referred to as agouti hairs, meaning the hairs themselves have striped lighter and darker sections. Instead of the entire coat having a distinct pattern, each individual strand is patterned.

Patched

The Patched Tabby has tortoiseshell markings. They often have red and brown Tabby patches mixed throughout their coats. Sometimes these kitties are referred to as Torbies. Along with the tortoiseshell coloring, they can also have any of the other four Tabby patterns.

A Tabby can have a wide range of coat coloring. Most will have a black-based coat, with colors that consist of brown, gray, orange, cream, red, and almost black. The most popular are those that are classic orange and look like the character Garfield. In fact, almost all orange Tabbies are male because it is relatively rare to find a female one. Males often inherit the coloration gene for orange because they only have one X chromosome. On the other hand, females need two copies of the coloration gene to have the orange coat.

The list of feline breeds that have a Tabby pattern is long. According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CF), which is the largest registry of pedigreed cats in the world, these are just some of the breeds that can have Tabby patterns:

  1. Abyssinian
  2. American Bobtail
  3. American Curl
  4. American Wirehair
  5. Egyptian Mau
  6. Exotic
  7. Javanese
  8. LaPerm
  9. Maine Coon
  10. Manx
  11. Munchkin
  12. Norwegian Forest Cat
  13. Ocicat
  14. Oriental
  15. Persian
  16. Ragdoll
  17. Scottish Fold
  18. Siberian
  19. Turkish Angora
  20. Turkish Van

Remember that this is not a complete list. The Tabby pattern is prevalent in domestic shorthairs and plenty of other breeds. It is one of the most common patterns to find in all feline breeds.

Cat Allergies

Cat lying by brushing glove with fur
It is often assumed that people who suffer from feline allergies have a reaction to pet hair.

Feline allergies are not typically caused by animal hair. They are the result of proteins the animal naturally produces that are present in the skin, urine, and saliva. The main protein that causes human allergic reactions from felines is called Fel d 1. Allergies are more often triggered by the presence of this protein in feline dander on the hair and skin. Fel d 1 is in their saliva and spreads to their hair when they groom themselves.

Along with immediate symptoms, allergies can also sometimes trigger long-term effects in people, including eczema, swollen eyes, itchy skin, trouble breathing, and trouble sleeping. Allergies can happen after direct contact with the animal or simply by being in a home where there is a lot of cat dander around. The severity of allergy symptoms varies from person to person.

What Is A Hypoallergenic Cat?

A hypoallergenic cat is a breed that is less likely to trigger an allergic reaction in humans. We must point out that there is no 100%, zero-allergen-producing, fully hypoallergenic feline breed. That is a myth and does not exist. Different things provoke allergy sufferers. The same kitty can cause a different reaction at the same time in two different people. Some feline breeds do tend to be less allergy-provoking than others due to producing less of the protein that triggers allergies. Factors like coat length and amount of shedding will also affect allergies.

Are Tabby Cats Hypoallergenic?

Tabbies are not considered to be hypoallergenic. Coat pattern and marking have absolutely nothing to do with the amount of Fel d 1 a feline produces. This is not to say that there are not any Tabby patterned kitties that happen to be hypoallergenic. Because this mottled-coated kitty is not a specific breed, there is a possibility this could occur. As a general rule, do not assume Tabby cats are hypoallergenic.

Tabby Cat Allergies

Closeup of woman combing fur cat with brush on the floor
All felines produce allergens.

Tabbies are one of the most popular kinds of house cats, so many people will experience being allergic to them. An interesting fact is that cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies. A person’s severity of symptoms depends on their sensitivity and the specific kitty.

Deciding to have a cat if one has allergies is a personal choice. Everyone knows their limits and what they are willing to live with in order to have feline companionship. If you suffer from feline allergies, it is a good idea to spend time with different kitties before bringing one home. Taking on the risk of having an allergic reaction is the owner’s responsibility, not the animal’s. Adopting a kitty is a big responsibility, and the animals should not suffer if an owner has allergies, as they do not have any choice in the matter.

Feline allergies are frequently caused by the protein Fel d 1, found in saliva, skin, fur, as well as in feline anal and sebaceous glands. Fel d 1 is the most predominant allergen but not the only one that causes allergy symptoms. Felines produce various other proteins that cause allergic reactions in humans. Even indoor kitties pick up dirt, dust, and pollen, adding to the number of allergens their human family members are in contact with.

Cat Allergy Symptoms

Woman sneezes in her handkerchief, runny nose while holding a cat Maine Coon
Owners should never put their health at risk by having a cat.

Feline allergy symptoms can range in severity and will affect people differently. Some people will feel only mild symptoms, while others will be in great distress.

Symptoms To Watch For

  1. Nasal congestion
  2. Sinus pain
  3. Stuffy or runny nose
  4. Coughing
  5. Sneezing
  6. Itchy, watery, red eyes
  7. Swollen eyes
  8. Skin itching, rash, and hives
  9. Facial swelling and pain

Male cats produce and spread more allergy-causing proteins than females. Intact males spread the highest amount. Kittens are less allergenic because they produce less Fel d 1. While there is no known explanation, darker-shaded kitties produce more allergens than lighter-colored ones. The more animals that live in a home, the more allergens there will be.

Managing Cat Allergies

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Cats cannot control how many allergens they produce. Humans can take steps to help manage how their allergies affect them. The first step is identifying that a feline allergy is, in fact, the culprit. Once that is determined, owners can choose to take medication that can help suppress allergy symptoms. Along with medication, there are a few things owners can try that will help control the number of allergens they are exposed to from their cats.

Control Shedding

While there is no way to control how much a specific kitty will shed, owners can control the amount of hair they allow around the house. Regular grooming is one of the most significant ways, as it helps remove dead hair before a kitty spreads it around the house.

Cleaning

Feline owners will need to invest in high-quality vacuums that can handle cat hair. This may be a substantial investment up front but will help make furniture and floors last and look good longer. People who live in homes with cats need to expect to do a lot of vacuuming, sometimes even daily. Vacuuming often prevents allergens from building up and spreading throughout the house and beyond.

Lint rollers are an investment every feline owner should make. Keep them in the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom, and even the car.

HEPA Air Purifier

Air purifiers are excellent investments for feline owners. They help manage allergens from dander but are also very good at controlling the scent from a litter box. Air purifiers work very well in rooms where kitties are not allowed and can help keep important areas like workspaces, bedrooms, and bathrooms free of cat hair, dander, and allergens. HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filtration. These systems are an advisable choice. They are designed to remove 99.97% of airborne particles like mold, bacteria, dust, and allergy-causing proteins like Fel d 1.

Clean Litter Box

Feline owners may not always connect their allergy symptoms with the litter box, but this is actually a very impactful factor in preventing allergy reactions. Those who have feline allergies should not be the person in charge of litter box maintenance. Though it is an unpleasant task, litter boxes must be cleaned every day at least twice, sometimes more. Allergens can spread through dander as well as urine. Felines sometimes shed hair in the litter box while doing their business. For these reasons, it is important to ensure this area is exceptionally clean.

Factors That Impact Tabby Shedding

Tabby cats, just like most other felines, will shed regularly. There are a few different factors that will affect how much fur a feline can shed. Owners should know that felines go through periods of significantly increased shedding as temperatures shift during seasonal changes.

A few different factors impact how much hair a kitty will shed. Genetics plays a significant role, and factors are environmental. A kitty’s health, age, care, and living situation will also play a role.

Health

A cat’s physical health and body function greatly influence how much a kitty sheds. Cats with poor skin health, allergies, bacteria, parasites, fungal infections, or even stress can experience higher shedding levels. A vet should assess felines that are shedding excessively to ensure they do not have any underlying health disorders. Felines can themselves suffer from allergies, which can trigger itchy skin, excessive grooming, and shedding.

Season & Location

The seasonal changes that occur will affect shedding. Cats shed their heavy winter coast in springtime and then again in the fall to make room for a new one. Felines that live where temperature changes are more drastic may shed more, whatever the breed. The cat’s geographical location also plays a role, as warmer temperatures may trigger more shedding.

Nutrition

Nutrition is a cornerstone of a feline’s health throughout their lives. Cats who do not get a balanced diet of high-quality food may have a duller coat, poor skin health, and may experience excess shedding. Nutritional deficiencies can cause bald patches, cuts, scaly skin, sores, itching, and more. Cat food should include high-quality animal protein, fatty acids like omega-3 and Omega 6, and healthy fats. Felines are obligate carnivores and must eat high-quality animal proteins to survive.

A kitty who has sores irritated skin, or who is shedding more than usual may have an underlying medical issue. Disease, emotional distress, physical stress, anxiety, and more can cause cats to shed. Shedding is also a cat’s natural response to being frightened or startled, so kitties that live in homes where they are constantly being snuck up on, surprised, or spooked may shed more.

Environment

A cat’s home environment affects the amount of hair shed. Those who live in moderate temperatures that do not change will often shed less. Those who live where there are frequent temperature shifts or who live in a home where the temperature is always changing will shed more. Felines shed more if they are uncomfortable, scared, threatened, or stressed. Because of this, owners should make sure their pets feel safe when home alone and when there is a full house.

Genetics

Genetics always impact how much a cat sheds. Purebred kitties may shed less than mixed breeds, but this depends on the genetic makeup. With Tabbies, it may be hard to tell the exact mix of their genetics, and shedding may be a wait-and-see situation.

Grooming A Tabby

One of the most effective ways to maintain and control a kitty’s shedding is regular brushing of their coats. For Tabbies, because they can be any number of breeds, grooming needs will vary. Most cats will need brushing at least once a week, and higher shedding breeds will need it more frequently. Owners will need to invest in proper grooming tools like bristle brushes, slicker brushes, Combs, detangling tools, feline shampoo, conditioner, and more. It is also good to train pets from a young age to tolerate brushing, grooming, and bathing.

Along with brushing and occasional bathing, cats will regularly need their nails clipped and teeth cleaned. These are two areas that often go overlooked. This is in part due to them being a challenging task, and in some cases, owners may just not realize that their kitties need their teeth brushed. Starting young will make the process easier for the kitty and the owner.

Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds

Several feline breeds are known to produce less allergy-producing proteins, like Fel d 1. A hypoallergenic breed may be a good choice, though prospective owners should know there is no one-size-fits-all cure for allergies. They can expect some allergy symptoms, though they may be very mild. They may still need medication or other allergy control methods. Some of the breeds considered to be hypoallergenic include:

  1. Balinese
  2. Bengal
  3. Cornish Rex
  4. Devon Rex
  5. Javanese
  6. Korat
  7. Le Perm
  8. Oriental Shorthair
  9. Russian Blue
  10. Siamese
  11. Siberian
  12. Sphynx

Research is being done on both pet food and vaccines to see if there are ways to reduce the number of allergy-inducing proteins felines can produce. As of yet, this is not something that is available in the larger market but could be someday.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Tabbies more allergic causing than other felines?

Tabbies are not considered more allergenic than any other kitties. Because they can be of many different breeds, owners must look at the breed type rather than markings and patterns.

Why are Tabbies not considered hypoallergenic?

Tabbies are not hypoallergenic because they produce levels of proteins that have the potential to cause an allergy-type reaction in humans. Depending on the breed, some may be less allergy-triggering than others.

Are Tabby kittens less allergenic?

Kittens are less allergenic than adult felines because they make less Fel d 1. As they age, they can start to make more of it.

Can a Tabby cat have allergies?

Yes, Tabbies can suffer from allergies. Felines can be allergic to food, plants, pollen, bugs, chemicals, and other environmental factors.

Final Thoughts

Tabby cats are a very popular type of kitty. They can be any number of breeds and are quite beautiful. Tabbies are not considered to be hypoallergenic because it is not a specific breed. Coat color and pattern do not impact whether a kitty is hypoallergenic or not. Even people who suffer from allergies can have cats, but they must take steps and precautions. Hypoallergenic breeds are a good option but are not guaranteed to prevent allergy symptoms. Though Tabbies generally are not considered hypoallergenic, some may belong to hypoallergenic breeds. Having allergies and being a feline owner can be a lot of work, but it is worth the extra trouble for people who truly love cats.

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