Being a cat-allergic cat lover is no fun. You can’t enjoy those divine kitty snuggles when you’re sneezing or itching all over. Some cat fans have started looking into the possibility of finding a hypoallergenic feline friend to get around this problem.
Many different breeds have been proposed for the role of hypoallergenic cuddle-buddy, including the hairless Sphynx, the lightly-furred Devon and Cornish Rex, the British Shorthair and the American Shorthair. Unfortunately, none of these cats is truly hypoallergenic. Allergens have little to do with the length of the cat’s fur. Don’t give up, though — there are ways to tackle the allergy issue.
Are American Shorthair cats hypoallergenic? No, they’re not. They may appear to shed less fur than longer-haired cats, which confuses some people into assuming they must be better for allergies. An American Shorthair cat will trigger allergies in cat-sensitive individuals. It is possible to manage cat allergies if they’re not severe.
You’ve arrived on this page because you want to know if an American Shorthair is the right cat for you. Is the American Shorthair cat hypoallergenic? Can cat-allergic people safely own American Shorthairs? Are any other breeds of cat hypoallergenic? What causes cat allergies? How can cat allergic people cope with their issues? Is there anything cat lovers can do to reduce allergies?
If you’re a cat-lover who wants a pet but can’t handle the histamine, or you have a cat-allergic person in your household and want to know if it’s safe to get a cat, read on. We have all the information you need about living with cat allergies and how you can cope.
Are American Shorthair Cats Hypoallergenic?
While American Shorthair cats have many wonderful and special traits, being hypoallergenic isn’t one of them. I’m never entirely sure how they got the reputation for being a low-allergy breed, but they certainly didn’t get it from anyone with a cat allergy. Regrettably, if you have a sensitivity to cats then an ASH will probably set your allergies off just as badly as any other cats need plenty of attention from their humans to be happy. Remember, this is the same breed.
I think one reason for the myth that American Shorthairs are hypoallergenic is that they’re — well, shorthairs. People assume that it’s the cat’s fur that causes their allergies, so a breed with a shorter coat and fewer issues with shedding will somehow be less prone to provoke allergies.
The fact is, it’s not the cat’s fur that you’re allergic to. It’s their dander, the flakes of dead skin that get shed along with the fur. (To be strictly technical, it’s the proteins found in the dander that you’re allergic to.)
A cat is a cat, and all of them produce dander. One cat-allergic friend of mine chose a Devon Rex — a very short-haired breed, with only the merest peach-fuzz all over her body — and was disappointed that she still sneezed and developed dermatitis. Even though her pet barely shed at all, the dander was still present and still triggered her allergic reaction.
I myself am somewhat allergic to cats. Like my friend, I had hoped that shorthaired breeds like the British Shorthair or American Shorthair might cause me fewer problems. No such luck — they trigger my reaction just as badly as any Persian or Norwegian Forest Cat ever did. Short fur, alas, is not the answer.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. There are ways that you, the pining cat-lover, can work around your allergies. Keep reading as we explain more about cat allergies and how you can beat them.
What Is a Cat Allergy?
This is going to get a bit technical, but bear with me. It’s useful knowledge if you want to manage your allergies more effectively.
Cat allergies come down to certain proteins in feline dander and saliva. Multiple proteins may be involved, but the main offender seems to be one called Fel d1. When most people are exposed to this protein, not much happens.
For the 10 per cent of us with an allergy, alas, it’s a problem. Our immune systems have decided that the perfectly innocent Fel d1 is an invading pathogen. It reacts with the same responses that you see in an infection: flooding the body with histamine, triggering inflammation and generally kicking up a fuss.
Symptoms of cat allergy can range from mild to life-threatening. They can include:
- Puffy, swollen eyes
- Skin irritation and hives
- Asthma (difficulty in breathing)
Rarely, a person with a very severe cat allergy may even experience anaphylactic shock.
If you’re allergic to Fel d1 and other allergy-triggering proteins, you can experience an allergic reaction just from being in a room that a cat has occupied. Allergic reactions may occur even if there’s no fur visible anywhere. Dander from the cat’s skin, dried saliva from washing, etc. can be transferred to surfaces or float around in the air.
Are Hypoallergenic Cats Real?
There have been many attempts to breed a hypoallergenic cat, with various candidates put forward de to their naturally lower levels of Fel d1. In the 21st century, scientists have started to try and genetically modify a hypoallergenic cat.
One of the more successful projects supposedly produced low Fel d1 cats, which the creators were planning to sell at around £3000 apiece. I believe this may have been the reason for some of the confusion over the American Shorthair being a hypoallergenic breed, as some people mistakenly think that the ASH was the breed involved.
In fact, thee breed chosen for this project was the British Shorthair rather than the ASH; BSH cats were chosen not for any hypoallergenic traits but simply because they’re unusually quiet and tractable.
With the advent of CRISPR, the quest for a truly hypoallergenic cat has picked up steam. The best thing about this is that we could one day see some kind of gene therapy, allowing allergenic cats to be turned into hypoallergenic ones with a simple shot.
We may yet find ourselves in a brave new world that has sneeze-free kitties in it. Until then, we’ll have to find other ways to deal with the problem. Read on to get some useful anti-allergy tips for cat owners.
How Can I Reduce Cat Allergies?
I have to be honest here and tell you that the only truly effective way to end your cat allergies is to have a cat-free dwelling. If, like me, you simply can’t bear the thought of a catless home, there are ways to cut down the amount of Fel d1 you’re exposed to. Note that these tips won’t work for everyone.
If someone in your household has a more severe allergy, you may really need to go cat-free. Children in particular should not be made to live in a high-allergen home, as it can set them up for serious health issues later in life.
First of all, your bedroom needs to be a no-cat zone. You’ll have to be very strict about this, not even allowing your cat to pop in for a visit in the morning. You spend all night with your face very close to your bedding; it needs to be completely free of animal dander and saliva. Wash your bedding frequently — ideally once a week. I find washing my pillowcase every couple of days helps.
Invest in an air purifier or two, one for the bedroom and one for the living-room or wherever the cat spends the most time. These will pull particles of dander out of the air and mean that you’re exposed to lower concentrations of allergenic material.
You should also vacuum (daily of you can) and run a lint roller over your furnishings. While fur itself is not an allergen, each hair is likely to carry cat saliva and dander. Get a good-quality vacuum cleaner, one with a HEPA filter. Wipe down surfaces and dust frequently with a static-generating duster.
Cover your furnishings with wipe-clean covers, or slipcovers you can remove and wash. You should also make sure that your own clothes are free from cat hair.
Antihistamines are your friends. I double up mine, taking a non-drowsy allergy pill in the mornings and a standard antihistamine pill at night. Antihistamine creams, sprays and inhalers can help too.
My GP despairs of me, but on this regimen I’m more or less able to live allergy-free. It’s a little extra work, but my American Shorthair is worth it.