Cat allergies are quite common amongst us humans. The itchy eyes and runny noses that can come from being around cats are often extremely frustrating for both cat owners and non-cat owners alike.
People who suffer from severe cat allergies can barely step foot into the home of someone with a cat before they start sneezing. And people can develop allergies to cats at any stage in their life. This means that even if someone has been around cats their entire life, they can still develop an allergy to them at any time.
While Benadryl and other antihistamines are often the drugs of choice for people with cat allergies, some people claim that certain breeds of cats are actually “hypoallergenic”.
Usually, they are referring to hairless cats or cats with very short fur, such as the Cornish Rex.
However, there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic cat. Let’s discuss why.
What Causes People to Be Allergic to Cats?
It is not cat fur that causes people to be allergic to cats. The allergen is actually a protein within the saliva of cats, called Fel d1. It is in their mouth, it is on their tongue, it is in their saliva. It only gets on their fur because cats are such avid groomers.
The reason we tend to think of the problem as being with their fur is because cats are groomers and they are constantly licking themselves and grooming their fur. They are also constant shedders. So their fur is spread all over and throughout the house, leaving not only fur but their saliva all over the place.
That being said, there are some breeds of cats who either have little to no fur, or who tend to shed less. This does make them less likely to cause severe allergies in people, but they are definitely not hypoallergenic, and people can still have allergies to them.
Cat Breeds Less Likely to Cause Allergies
The cat breeds that are touted as less likely to cause allergies in people are:
- Cornish Rex
- Devon Rex
While these breeds may shed less, people can still have symptoms of allergies when they are around these cats or if they come into areas where the cats frequent. This is because people can still come into contact with the cats’ saliva- which could be from petting the cat, or from contacting anything that the cat has even rubbed against.
A Possible Solution
The good news is that researchers have been trying to determine a solution to this problem. Purina has developed a food called Pro Plan LiveClear, which is the first allergy-reducing cat food available.
According to their website, this food can decrease the allergens in cat hair by 47% after a cat has been eating the food for a minimum of 3 weeks.
The food contains a protein source from eggs that, when eaten by cats, binds to the allergy-causing protein, Fel d1, in cats’ saliva. Once bound, the Fel d1 is neutralized, meaning it can no longer trigger an allergic response in people who are allergic to cats.
To break it down in simpler terms:
- Cat eats the new food
- Special antibody in new food attaches to allergy-inducing substance in cat saliva
- Allergy-inducing substance in cat saliva is rendered ineffective
- Cat saliva is no longer able to trigger allergic response in people
But is it safe?
So far, the research says yes, it is very safe. Purina has been studying this for 10 years and there has not been any evidence that it negatively affects cats in any way. It is complete and balanced and follows all of the guidelines for ensuring proper nutrition for cats.
With it being a new product, though, we will need to stay vigilant and make sure there are truly not any long-term effects on our cats’ health. Of course, some cats have food allergies themselves. If you start feeding this food to your cat and they develop vomiting or diarrhea, it may not be an long-term option for your individual cat.
If you have a cat allergy and want to try this food for your cat, it is best to gradually introduce it into your cat’s diet over the course of one week. Mix it in with your cat’s regular food and over the course of one week, slowly increase the amount of the new food and decrease the amount of the old food you give to your cat each day. This will help your cat’s digestive system adjust to the new food better.
In the meantime, for cat owners who have allergies, and especially for people who have considered giving up their cat due to their allergies, this food can be a great alternative option to try.
Are there hypoallergenic cats?
No, there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic cat.
What causes people to have allergies to cats?
People who are allergic to cats are allergic to a protein within cat saliva, called Fel d1.
Are the options for people who have a cat allergy but also own a cat or want to own a cat?
Yes! There is a new food available, called Pro Plan LiveClear, which has been shown to decrease the allergen within cat saliva by 47% after it is fed to your cat for 3 weeks. You can also work with your doctor to determine if certain medications or allergy shots could help you.
While there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic cat, there is a new cat food available that has the potential to decrease the severity of cat allergies in people. With allergies to cats being one of the most common allergies people suffer from, hopefully, this new cat food can be a real game-changer and allow more people to care for cats.
Article by Dr. Leslie Brooks 👩⚕️