Ah, the legendary hypoallergenic cat. Perhaps I should say “mythical” rather than legendary, because a truly hypoallergenic cat is still the stuff of fantasy. If only such a creature truly existed! We cat-allergic cat-lovers could live the dream of enjoying all those wonderful kitty cuddles without all the sneezing, wheezing and reddened eyes. Unfortunately, the idea of a genuinely allergy-free cat is still just that — a nice idea. Some cats so seem to produce fewer symptoms for some cat-allergic people. I regret to say that Exotic Shorthairs are not really a possible candidate.
Are Exotic Shorthair cats hypoallergenic? No. They have short hair, which people assume makes them less allergenic than the Persian cat. Unfortunately, Exotic Shorthairs still produce Fel d1, the protein that causes allergies. They also shed fairly heavily. While cat hair itself doesn’t produce allergies, it does help to distribute allergens more widely through your home.
You’ve landed on this page because you’re interested in Exotic Shorthairs and have concerns about allergies. Is an Exotic Shorthair a good choice for an allergy sufferer? Will getting an Exotic Shorthair make your allergies worse? What is an Exotic Shorthair’s coat like? Do they shed more than other cats? Do Exotic Shorthairs require any special care? Are Exotic Shorthairs healthy cats? Keep reading, because we have the answers you’re looking for. In this article, you’re going to learn some important facts you need to know about Exotic Shorthairs as pets, and how you can care for this breed more effectively.
Are Exotic Shorthair Cats Hypoallergenic?
No, they’re really not. Exotic Shorthairs are adorable cats with lots of wonderful characteristics, but being a low allergy pet is not one. There are a lot of misconceptions about cat allergies, and the existence of a hypoallergenic cat breed is one of the most misleading.
Cat allergies are mostly caused by a protein called Fel d1. This protein is present in a cat’s saliva, and also in the flakes of dead skin that are shed along with loose fur. This dead skin is called dander and it’s the main reason you’re sneezing. Cat hair is often mistakenly identified as the allergy trigger, which makes many people assume that shorthaired cats will be hypoallergenic.
In fact, it’s the dander and dried saliva carried by the hair that causes your allergy symptoms. You can’t avoid allergies by getting a shorthaired cat instead of a longhaired cat, although the amount of allergens spread by shorter hair may be slightly reduced.
Despite the efforts of some breeders, it has not been possible to create a truly hypoallergenic cat breed. Many candidates are put forward: shorthaired breeds like the American Shorthair and British Shorthair turn up on a lot of lists, as do Rex cats and the eerily naked Sphinx. A British Shorthair makes a wonderful pet, but won’t save you from allergies. Even a bald cat won’t be free from Fel d1.
Another line of enquiry has been the creation of genetically modified hypoallergenic cats. While I don’t have a problem with GMOs in principle, I’m really not happy with the idea of modifying a cat this way just to make humans more comfortable. In any case, the biotech research companies who promise to create hypoallergenic cats don’t seem to have succeeded so far. One strain, the Allerca cat, was touted as producing a modified form of Fel d1 that was supposedly less allergenic; this was disputed, however, and Allerca kittens don’t really seem to be available anyway.
Some biotechnology companies are looking into CRISPR as a way of using gene therapy to stop cats from producing Fel d1 anymore. Personally, I’m holding out for an injectable allergy cure than I can take myself rather than something to alter my cats. I’m the one with the problem, not them!
All of that aside, I do understand the drive to find a cat that’s a good match for a cat-allergic owner. It’s probably going to be a long time before we meet such a creature, however. In the meantime, let’s focus on taking the best possible care of the cats we have now, while also learning to manage cat allergies a little more effectively.
Are Exotic Shorthair Cats Good Pets?
Exotic Shorthair cats are related to Persians. They have shorter fur (although it’s still fairly fluffy and thick) but retain the trademark pug nose and brachycephalic configuration of the exotic type. They’re sometimes nicknamed “the lazy owner’s Persian”, because their shorter coats require less management than their longhaired cousins.
The Exotic Shorthair is a social, amiable cat. They are very friendly and readily become attached to their human caregivers. They enjoy attention and affection, but are less “clingy” than the more anxious Persian cat. When they’re awake they are quite playful and curious; however, this is a fairly low-energy breed that needs plenty of downtime. They are lovely pets, perfect for someone who’s at home a lot and who doesn’t have the energy to keep up with a more rumbustious breed.
I have mixed feelings about exotic-type cats in general. They look lovely, with their cute little smooshed faces and button noses, and often have really fascinating personalities. Sadly, more extreme variants of the exotic type can have all sorts of health problems. The foreshortened muzzle means that the cat is somewhat more prone to infections of the nose, sinuses and airway, and may experience breathing problems.
Very extreme exotics may get eye infections because their tear ducts are too flattened and convoluted for their tears to drain away properly, leading to watery eyes that readily become home to bacteria. There are moves afoot in many parts of the cat fancy to put a stop to the breeding of very extreme exotics, in order to make sure that all cats are born able to enjoy long, healthy lives.
Most Exotic Shorthairs are healthy, and can live to 15 or more (a ripe old age for a cat). You do need to exercise caution when choosing your breeder and your kitten, selecting a breeder who emphasises health and well-being. You’ll also need to pay special attention to certain aspects of their care in order to avoid breed-specific health issues.
Grooming Your Exotic Shorthair
If you’re a cat-allergic person, regularly grooming your cat to reduce the amount of loose hair and dander is always a good idea. It’s important for your Exotic Shorthair, too.
Unlike the longhaired Persian, it’s quite easy to groom an Exotic Shorthair. I recommend a good combing about twice a week. Place a towel or blanket under the cat to catch the hair and dander you remove. Those with bad allergies might benefit from a mask or scarf during the grooming process. Use a metal comb and gently go over the entirety of the cat’s body, paying special attention to areas where the fur is longer.
For most of the year, tangles and mats will be uncommon. Your Exotic Shorthair will shed a lot more during the springtime, though, as she sheds her winter coat. She may need some extra grooming at this time, and maybe even a bath.
On the whole, I prefer to skip bathing cats unless their fur is very badly soiled or they’ve got something on them that they shouldn’t lick off. Washing cats strips their skin of its natural oils and can cause irritation. Some cats thoroughly enjoy a nice bath, but most will fight you tooth and claw; it’s a distressing experience for many, and something to avoid if you can.
Once or twice during the spring moult, though, you might want to gently bathe your Exotic Shorthair with a pet-safe shampoo. Carefully pat her fur dry with a soft towel (don’t rub). If she’s still damp, you may use a hair-dryer but only on the coolest setting.
Very special attention needs to be paid to your Exotic Shorthair’s face. Most will need their faces washed daily, to avoid a build-up of tears and secretions in the fur. Use plain, warm water and a soft cloth or cotton pads. Use different parts of the cloth, or a fresh pad, for each eye. This will avoid spreading any germs from one to the other. If the cat’s eyes look red, crusty or inflamed, or you see more secretions than usual, check in with your vet. Eye infections in cats are no joke, especially not when it comes to this breed.