The Oriental Shorthair is a charming cat. Although they’re developed from the Siamese cat, their appearance is quite distinct. They have an unusual elongated muzzle and very large ears. They have lively personalities and are very active. Like their Siamese cousins, Oriental Shorthairs are noted for being talkative. The configuration of their faces gives them an unusual range of vocalisations, with some individuals almost honking rather than the more typical meow. Another trait attributed to the Oriental Shorthair is that they’re “hypoallergenic”. While there may be a grain of truth to this claim, it’s not entirely accurate.
Are Oriental Shorthair cats hypoallergenic? Not really. They do seem to produce less dander than some other breeds and have modest levels of shedding, which gives them a reputation for being hypoallergenic. Unfortunately, if you’re allergic to cats you will be allergic to the Oriental Shorthair.
You’ve arrived on this page because you’re interested in Oriental Shorthairs, especially in their supposed hypoallergenic properties. What are Oriental Shorthairs? Are they truly hypoallergenic? If you have cat allergies, would an Oriental Shorthair be a safer pet? What do you need to know about Oriental Shorthairs? Do they make good house cats? What cat breeds are best for cat-allergic people? Keep reading, because we have the answers you need. You’ll learn all about the Oriental Shorthair and whether this breed is really a solution to cat allergies. You’ll also learn how you can manage your allergies and enjoy life with a cat again.
Are Oriental Shorthair Cats Hypoallergenic?
While you could make a case for Oriental Shorthairs as being a better option for the cat-allergic pet owner, it’s not really true to state that they’re hypoallergenic. They may produce fewer allergic symptoms for some people. In most cases, a person with a cat allergy will still experience a reaction when they’re around an Oriental Shorthair.
Devon Rex, Sphinx, British Shorthair — many different breeds are touted as being less likely to cause allergies. Tabby cats are claimed as allergenic by some, while tortoiseshells are the supposedly allergy-free favourite of others. The fact is, they’ll all produce an allergic reaction.
All cats produce a protein called Fel d1, which is the substance responsible for most cat allergies. Since every cat produces this, every cat will provoke an allergy. Short or long hair doesn’t change the amount of Fel d1 a cat produces, although some cats may produce more of the protein or less.
Enter the Oriental Shorthair. Is this breed’s short, sleek coat the answer? Could you potentially have your very own sneeze-free kitty? Well, no — not without taking a few other steps. Oriental Shorthairs do seem to produce less dander than the average cat, which could be helpful; on its own, however, this trait won’t protect you from an allergic reaction. Any dander at all will mean Fel d1 in your environment, although less is always good from an allergy perspective.
As I say, the idea of a fully allergy-free life with a cat is still a fantasy for those of us with Fel d1 sensitivity. Attempts to breed a low Fel d1 cat have been less than completely successful. Even attempts to use genetic engineering to produce such a cat have delivered only dubious results (even setting aside the ethical problems associated with this kind of project).
If you decide to get an Oriental Shorthair, do so for all of their many wonderful kitty traits rather than because of their notional low-allergy characteristics. They’re charming, handsome, fascinating cats with tons of character. Many owners find the allergies a small price to pay for such an enchanting cat. In the upcoming sections, you’ll learn what makes Oriental Shorthairs so special — and how you can manage your allergies more effectively.
What Are Oriental Shorthairs?
The Oriental Shorthair is a really special breed. They trace their ancestry back to Thailand, as they’re descended from the same cats as the modern Siamese.
In the 1950s, Baroness von Ullmann bred Siamese-type cats with a range of solid colours. These cats were the origins of today’s Oriental Shorthair, capturing the imagination of certain cat fanciers who bred from them.
The Oriental Shorthair as we know her first emerged in the early 70s, with some unusual and beautiful cats that exhibited a Siamese body type but with unusual colouration. Instead of the classic seal-point coat associated with the Siamese, these prototypical Oriental Shorthairs had solid colour or pretty lynx patterning. The breed was introduced to the wider cat fancy and was eventually accepted as a distinct breed in 1977. This allowed Oriental Shorthairs to be entered into championship competitions as a breed in their own right.
Since then, the Oriental Shorthair has gone from strength to strength, becoming one of the most celebrated and widely loved breeds in the cat fancy. It’s really not hard to see why. They’re a unique-looking cat. They have the graceful, slender body of the Siamese, intriguing triangular faces that are just full of character, and wonderful personalities.
In terms of character, I’ve heard Oriental Shorthairs described as being “part monkey”. They are very, very intelligent, wildly curious about everything, and seem to have absolutely boundless energy. They’re not the right breed for everyone, as they need a lot of attention and vigorous play. If you don’t think you’ll be able to keep up with this bundle of energy, I recommend a more sedate breed such as the British Shorthair. If you’re a high-energy cat owner, though, this breed will keep you enthralled and enchanted all day long.
Grooming Your Oriental Shorthair
If you want to get the minimum dander and Fel d1 from your Oriental Shorthair, you will need to groom her regularly. Strictly speaking, an Oriental Shorthair doesn’t need much grooming. They have short, sleek fur that doesn’t really mat. However, a good brushing session every few days will cut down on loose hair and dander, reducing the amount of allergens in your environment. Luckily, most Oriental Shorthairs enjoy the process and love having their fur groomed.
While you’re brushing your cat, take a moment to check for any obvious health issues like pest infestations, injuries, or signs of infection. Your cat’s eyes should be clear and bright, free from discharge or inflammation. Check the ears for mites and the hindquarters for worms.
The grooming process throws up a lot of fur and dander initially, so place a towel or a blanket under the cat while you work. It can be useful to wear a mask or a bandana over your face while you work to avoid breathing any of it in. After grooming, wash the towel and pick up any obvious hair or detritus with a hand-held vacuum.
Dealing With Cat Allergies
Hopefully, the lower dander levels of the Oriental Shorthair will help to cut down your symptoms a little. They’re unlikely to have gone away completely, however. You can reduce your allergies by reducing the Fel d1 in your environment.
I start with a cat-free bedroom. Yes, this can be a wrench, especially if your cats are used to sleeping with you. Extra playtime and attention right before you turn in will help them settle down. Change your bedding frequently and don’t play with your cats after you’ve changed into your night-clothes.
A good vacuum cleaner can really help. Old, cheap vacuum cleaners tend to put out a lot of fine dust into the air even as they pick up the more obvious particles, setting off your allergies. Choose a good quality vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. This keeps all the particles from being blown out of the vacuum.
Look for models which specifically tell you that they’re tested for emissions. Good options include Miele’s Cat & Dog vacuums or Kenmore’s Pet Friendly line.
It’s useful to empty your vacuum cleaner outside when it’s full, as the process inevitably releases a cloud of dust into the air. Another option is to consider a vacuum cleaner with a bag, which is easier to empty without kicking up dust.
Air purifiers can help too. My main line of defence, however, is a regular dose of antihistamines. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about choosing an antihistamine that’s safe for you to take every day.