Owning a cat can be challenging for many people due to allergies. Being allergic to cats does not mean a person cannot own them, but it does mean that some breeds might be better than others. People who are allergic to felines are not allergic to the animals themselves or to their hair, contrary to popular belief. All felines create the protein that triggers allergic responses. Allergens are spread when they shed skin, saliva, and urine. Being a cat owner with allergies is possible, but some breeds are worse than others. Potential owners need to know the worst cats for allergies before bringing any kitty home.
Not all cat breeds are as triggering for people with allergies. Several factors contribute to how many allergens an animal may shed. Longer-haired breeds that groom themselves more tend to shed more of the allergen, and some breeds produce more allergy-inducing proteins than others. All cats make allergens, which are spread on their hair, skin, and in the litter box.
If you are a cat owner hoping to learn more about the worst cats for allergies, you are in the right place. While all feline breeds are unique and charming, and most make for wonderful pets, some breeds are more triggering to allergy sufferers than others. We introduce you to several breeds known to have a strong effect on people with cat allergies.
What Causes Cat Allergies?
Cat allergies are not caused by kitty hair. Allergies are caused by different substances found in the saliva, dander, and excrement. Fel d 1 is a glycoprotein produced naturally by cats. Fel d 1 is found in saliva, skin, fur, anal glands, and sebaceous glands of cats. Longer-haired varieties tend to groom themselves more, spreading more saliva. When they shed the hair and dander, the protein spreads. It also sheds in the litter box, exposing owners to more when they clean out the box.
4 Symptoms Of Cat Allergies
Cat allergy symptoms include skin itching, sneezing, watery eyes, headache, itchy eyes, hives, rash, shortness of breath, coughing, facial swelling, and pain. These can range in severity.
- Kittens produce fewer allergens than adults, so allergy sufferers may not notice symptoms until a kitty is a bit older.
- Intact males produce higher levels of allergens. Neutered male cats and females also produce lower amounts.
- No breed is 100% allergen-free, nor does a genuinely 100% hypoallergenic cat exist.
- Darker colored cats like black produce more Fel d 1.
13 Worst Cats For Allergies
The feline breeds below make for some of the worst cats for allergies. This does not mean they are not wonderful pets. Some are very popular breeds. Still, these breeds are more likely to trigger an allergy attack than to be great cuddle buddies for people with feline-induced allergies.
The breeds on this list are listed in order of the impact they have on people with cat allergies. Those that are known to trigger stronger allergic reactions are listed first.
When asked what the worst cat for allergies is, the beautiful Persian is always at the top of the list. Persian cats have long, thick coats which can trap more allergens. Like all kitties, they have seasonal increases in shedding volume twice a year but also shed a lot all the time. Even with brushing, the dander and hair get everywhere. As they groom their long coats, they spread a lot of saliva, with it, more Fel d 1.
Because the Persian cat’s coat is so dense, dander, dust, and other allergens get trapped in it. Persian kitties are quite personable and make excellent pets, but not for allergy sufferers. Most Persian mixes also have dense or long coats, meaning they, too, are some of the worst cats for allergies. These kitties require a high level of grooming and, even then, will leave a significant amount of hair and dander around the home.
Ragamuffin cats are a crossbreed of Ragdolls and other long-haired breeds. These include Turkish Angora, Persian, Himalayan, and other long-haired domestic kitties. Ragamuffins are larger in size, reaching up to about 20 pounds. These kitties require grooming at least once or twice a week. As with many long-haired felines, they are heavy shedders, which tends to worsen allergy symptoms.
These long-haired beauties shed plenty of hair, dander, and dead skin. They gather and carry dust and other allergens in their coats. Owners must commit much time and effort to keep these kitties looking good. For allergy sufferers, that may not be possible. Though a beautiful, friendly breed, the Ragamuffin is not a good selection for allergy-prone owners.
Allergy sufferers should avoid the British Longhair. These sweet kitties have round cheeks, round eyes, and wide ears. With their smiling faces, they are often compared to the Cheshire cat of fairy tale fame. Though an adorable furball, these kitties have high-maintenance coats and shed significantly. British Longhairs have long coats, thicker undercoats, and softer, silkier overcoats. Though not as high shedding as some other long-haired breeds, their hair is fine and mats quickly. These kitties require daily grooming for their coats to stay healthy and in top shape.
The British Longhair requires daily grooming to prevent mats. While this helps control shedding, it exposes owners to cat dander and allergens daily. For people highly sensitive to Fel d 1 and other allergic triggers, this is a big problem. As with other long-haired breeds, this kitty self-grooms, meaning they spread more saliva on their coats than other breeds.
The Oriental Longhair is an elegant, beautiful feline. Also referred to as the British Angora, this feline has a silken coat that is quite long. They are noticeably vocal and friendly. The Oriental Longhair loves being around people. Outgoing and good-natured, these kitties make lovely family pets unless you suffer from allergies. They do a lot of self-grooming, which spreads the allergen in their saliva. They shed all year round, so a fair amount of hair and dander will be dispersed about the home.
Norwegian Forest Cat
The large and shaggy Norwegian Forest cat is a big softy at heart. The breed has a rugged, thick coat color developed to withstand the harsh Scandinavian winters. Though they do not produce high levels of allergens, these thick coats require much maintenance. Additionally, these cats are huge shedders all year round. Even the most diligent owner will find hair persistently around the home.
The Norwegian Forest cat’s hefty coat requires a significant amount of grooming. Along with that, cleaning and maintaining pet hair around the home is a daily task. With this hair, they shed saliva, dander, and plenty of allergy-triggering proteins. Many people rate the Norwegian Forest cat as one of the worst breeds for cat allergy sufferers.
Longhaired Manx – Cymric
The Longhaired Manx, also called a Cymric, has a distinct look. These cats look quite different from other breeds with a round face, highly pointy ears, and very short, poofy tails. Along with their unique appearance comes a very heavy undercoat. The Longhaired Manx has a heavy, double coat. They require significant brushing, if not daily, to keep the coat in good shape and debris-free.
Along with their high grooming needs and heavy coats, this breed is known to shed significantly. The high grooming needs and heavy shedding mean this breed spreads more allergens than shorter-haired, lighter-shedding kitties. Even shorter-haired Manx are known for being high shedders, so allergy owners may be better off avoiding this breed.
Himalayan cats are striking to look at, one of the most beautiful breeds one will see. Unfortunately, this beauty does not mean that they are hypoallergenic. Himalayans are related to Persians and, as such, have thick, fluffy double coats. Their hair is generally long, requiring a high amount of grooming. Also, Himalayan kitties are significant shedders, known to leave swaths of hair in their wake.
Anyone sensitive to cats will want to spend time with the Himalayan before considering bringing one home. They often trigger symptoms such as itchy eyes, watery nose, sneezing, itchy skin, and rash. The high grooming requirements, shedding frequency, and spread of dander and allergens make the Himalayan one of the worst for allergy sufferers.
The Chartreux is an old yet rare French feline breed. They stand out for short, bluish-gray coats. The Chartreux is a mild-mannered, calm, friendly kitty. They are hard to find and quite expensive. For allergic owners, this breed can be quite problematic. Their thick coats are short, and these kitties are regular moderate to heavy shedders. This kitty experiences extreme shedding twice a year, but their thick coats hold on to dander, dust, and other allergens.
Chartreux require regular brushing to manage shedding and clean their thick coats. This can expose owners to higher levels of allergens during these grooming sessions. Because of the amount of care their coats need, the Chartreux makes the list of worst cat breeds for allergies.
The Turkish Van is a semi-long-haired feline breed known for having an incredibly smart, mischievous, and playful personality. Though they only have semi-long hair and do not have the thick undercoat, Turkish Vans are heavy shedders. They also produce significant amounts of dander, increasing the amount they spread.
Turkish Vans are not small cats. They can reach between 10 and 20 pounds when fully grown. The breed’s larger size and high activity level means they spread hair, dander, and allergens wherever they go. This can make grooming and changing the litter box uncomfortable for owners with allergies. Because dander triggers allergy symptoms, and this breed produces high levels, allergy sufferers should not adopt the Turkish Van.
These kitties have an unmistakable flat face with large round eyes. With their shorter coats, one might think this is a safer pick for allergy-prone owners. Sadly, this is not the case. Exotic Shorthairs have remarkably plush, thick coats. They are known to be very high shedding and leave plenty of hair, dander, dust, and other allergens behind. The high grooming need of this breed also means owners have higher exposure to these proteins.
Exotic Shorthairs are believed to be a mix of Persian cats with American Shorthairs. This combination created their distinct look, round body shape, and thick, plush coat. They stand out from other breeds for their unique appearance. Along with their flat faces, they have thick necks and large, rounded heads. It creates an appearance of them being stuffed animals or cartoon-like cats. Exotic short hairs are pretty affectionate and very quiet. Their unique facial expression makes them appear to be sad, though that is not a personality trait.
The Maine Coon cat is nothing short of magnificent. For very mild allergy sufferers, this breed may not be too triggering. However, for people with moderate to severe allergies, unfortunately, the Maine Coon is not the best option. Maine Coons are quite large, reaching between 18 and 25 pounds. They have dense, double coats and regularly shed. While they may be less allergy-inducing than other breeds, these gentle giants are not a top pick for allergy sufferers.
Maine Coons are often polydactyl. These cats and others are sometimes called American Polydactyl. The genetic mutation causes kitties to have extra toes on their paws. The mutation creates a unique foot, often resembling a mitten or a hand with an opposable thumb. American Polydactyl kitties are said to shed a lot, likely due to many of them being Maine Coons.
Though not all inherit this characteristic, the breed stands out for having folded ears. Despite the fold, these ears are fully functional and help give these sweet kitties a strikingly different appearance. They are very friendly, love human attention, and can become clingy. The breed has a calm, quiet personality, making them appealing as family pets. Though they are lovely to have as feline companions, Scottish Folds are not a good choice for allergy sufferers.
Scottish Folds are not hypoallergenic nor a good pick for people sensitive to feline allergies. The breed can have short or long coats, and both shed moderate to large amounts. Along with shedding significantly, they require grooming multiple times weekly to keep their thick coats healthy. Their folded ears require regular checking and inspection for infection and debris. Because caring for these kitties requires a high level of human handling and significant exposure to allergens, they are not recommended for allergy sufferers.
The Kurilian Bobtail is a Russian cat breed and is extremely rare. This kitty has a unique appearance and a petite, poofy tail. The Russian breed has a wild look but is quite friendly, playful, and mild-mannered. The breed has short to semi-long hair. This breed stands out for its distinctive tail, which appears to be a small fluffy poof on their back end.
Even the shorter-haired variety of this rare breed is bad for allergic owners and is known as excessively heavy shedders. The high shedding and unique coat mean this kitty requires intense grooming. Owners are exposed to high levels of allergens when caring for these kitties, and they are one of the worst breeds for allergies. That said, the Kurilian Bobtail is relatively rare and not a breed one comes across often.
It is important to note that while these kitties are more likely to trigger allergy symptoms, all feline breeds and mixes produce allergens. These are spread through a variety of means. Any allergy sufferer who plans to adopt a kitty should spend time with a few different kitties and the specific animal they are considering. This will allow them to get to know the animal and to see how severe the allergy reaction and symptoms are.
How To Reduce Cat Allergies: 8 Tips
Many feline allergy sufferers can live happily with feline family members. It all depends on the level of sensitivity a person has, the level of allergens a feline produces, and how much they shed. That said, owners can take steps to reduce allergens in the home. These include:
- Many owners take medication like antihistamines to help counter the allergy symptoms.
- Along with medication, managing shedding through brushing and grooming is critical. It keeps a kitty’s coat free and clean of debris, dirt, dust, and dander. Removing these and dead hair prevents them from spreading and triggering allergy symptoms.
- Cleanliness is key. Regular vacuuming and removal of hair are essential. Include the furniture, where pet hair, dander, and dust often cling. Furniture covers and lint rollers can help.
- An air purifier in rooms where kitties spend a lot of time and near the litter box helps remove allergens from the air. Look for those with HEPA filtration systems. You can also use air filters in the home.
- Always keep the litter box clean and tidy. This area holds many germs and airborne particles. Keep the litter box itself clean, as well as the contents.
- Do not allow kitties to lick you or sleep in your bed. Set boundaries where your kitty can and cannot go. This will prevent the spread of allergens. Keep an area of the home and any places where you store clothes and linens cat-free.
- Always wash your hands after interacting with pets or litter boxes.
- Females and neutered males produce fewer allergens, so always spay and neuter your pets.
13 Best Cats For Allergies
People often ask what are the best cats for allergies. There is no 100% hypoallergenic feline. All felines produce some level of allergen. Some breeds are better than others, and these include:
- Cornish Rex
- Oriental Shorthair
- Russian Blue
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the worst cat breed for allergies?
The Persian kitty often makes the top of the list. Their fluffy coats, high shedding, dander, and natural allergens make them a breed known to trigger allergic reactions.
What is the best cat for allergies?
This is hard to say. Due to lower shedding, many people name the Siamese as a top allergy-friendly breed. Others pick the hairless Sphynx, Bambino, or Peterbald. Hairless felines still produce allergens. But they stay on the skin, which helps owners control the spread.
Is any cat 100% allergen free?
No, but some come close. The Siberian, for example, produces less Fel d 1 than many breeds. The same goes for the Balinese. There is no feline breed that makes no allergens, but the Siberian has notably lower levels.
All felines can make wonderful pets, but not for allergy-prone owners. Some breeds are heavier shedders or spread more allergens, making them more likely to cause symptoms. The worst cats for allergies are not bad kitties overall but can be a poor match for some owners.
If you have allergies and want to adopt a kitten, be sure to take precautions first. They can include preparing your home, looking into medication, and spending time with every kitten or adult kitty you are considering.
Remember, the cat has no control over the allergens they make and spread. Regardless of allergies, owning a pet is a wonderful privilege and a big responsibility. Owners must ensure their pets are properly cared for while managing their symptoms.