Cat Allergies

Hypoallergenic?

Siberians have enjoyed good placement rates in homes with cat allergies, but no pet should be considered truly hypoallergenic.

Some Siberian cats have much lower levels of the Fel D1 feline allergen than other domestic cats.

Black tabby & colorpoint in homes. Low allergen Siberian kittens.
Siberian Kittens:  Cernin, Czarina, Cyprian, Catina, and Chasnik ~ 2007


ABOUT CAT ALLERGIES                                                             © 2005 Lundberg Siberians

What causes most cat allergies? 
Most cat allergies are caused by a small stable glycoprotein called Fel d 1.  However, most people have mild reactions to other allergens present in cats (and litter boxes).

What does Fel d 1 mean?
Plant and animal allergens are named in order of discovery. Each allergen found in a species is given a number when it is identified.  Fel d 1 is the first allergen discovered in house cats --  Feline domesticus allergen number 1.  To date, thirteen different allergens have been found in cats.

Where is the allergen found? 
Fel-d1 is produced by lacrimal, salivary, sebaceous, and perianal glands. During grooming, Fel-d1 from saliva becomes airborne. Allergen from the glands in the skin stays in the fur, and is easily transferred to clothing, carpet, and upholstery.   Litter boxes contain the highest amount of Fel d1 as well as other cat allergens.

Does long hair affect Fel d 1 levels?
Fur length does not increase or decrease the amount of allergen produced.  Cats do remove a large amount of allergen from the hair through grooming. Some people have problems with eye irritation caused by the fine hair in the Siberian undercoat, which is worst in early spring when cats shed their winter coats.

Are dark or light coats higher in Fel d1?
There is no evidence that dark or light coats has any effect on Fel d1 (with the exception of silver and smoke).  Over 400 Siberians were tested for Fel d1 levels, and silver/smoke always showed higher allergen levels.  The reason is unknown, but it has been proposed that the gene for silver may be carried on the same chromosome as  Fel d1.  A few low allergen silver Siberians have been reported, but not enough to be statically valid.

Does neutering affect feline allergen production?
Multiple studies have shown neutering sharply reduces Fel-d1 levels in males, but not females. The allergen is hormonally controlled with non-neutered males producing the highest levels. After neutering, allergen levels drop sharply in both males, though not to the level of females. Low allergen Siberian males have the same levels as females, and those levels do not change by neutering.

Will people who are allergic to dogs also react to cats?
About 20% of people allergic to dogs also react to cats. This reaction is from secondary allergens, primarily Fel d2 (feline albumin) and Fel d4 {feline lipocalin).   There are NO commercial tests to measure Fel d2  or  Fel d4.

What about other animals or foods?
In our experience, many people that are highly allergic to rabbits and horses, or have severe food allergies to eggs and milk are likely to react to low-Fel d1 Siberians.

How accurate are fur samples for allergy testing?
We find fur samples work well for demonstrating reactions to Fel d1 levels, but are NOT a good predictor of reactions to secondary cat allergens and we no longer provide them.  Individuals with horse/cat allergies or food allergies to eggs or milk should always spend time with a Siberians before making a decision to purchase.


SECONDARY CAT ALLERGENS

There are no simple answers to cat allergies, nor to Cross Species Reactions. To date, thirteen cat serums allergens and eight cat danders have been isolated. An allergen may cause an allergic reactions in one person but not another, and most cat-allergic individuals tend to be allergic to more than one feline allergen. Siberians have been shown to have reduced levels of Fel d 1 allergen, but are thought to have normal amounts of other allergens. 

Roughly 80% of individuals who have allergies to horses/rabbits or who have food allergies to pork meat/egg white will have have some reaction to low Fel d1 allergen Siberians.  We have seen these cross reactions vary from mild to severe. These are primarily albumin and lipocalin allergies.

Serum Albumin (Fel d2)
Serum albumin accounts for about 30% of cat cross reactions to dogs, pork meat, or egg white. Allergies to serum albumin can be quite severe.

Lipocalin (Fel d4)
Lipocalin is a respiratory allergen, and commonly causes asthma. About 25% of people who are allergic to horses/rabbits also react to Fel d 4, a feline lipocalin.  Studies have shown that intact male mice produce 500 to 1000 times more lipocalin than female mice. Although studies have not been performed in cats, we find that neuter/spay does help with lipocalin allergies.  


TESTING AND BREEDING TO REDUCE ALLERGENS

Do low allergen parents always have low allergen kittens?
Mating a sire and dam with low Fel-d1 levels has the best chance of producing lower allergen kittens, but normal allergen kittens can be found in all matings. Mating two cats with normal Fel d1 levels always produces kittens that cause reactions. 

How do you test your cat for allergens?
We take samples of saliva and fur from our cats and kittens. These samples are sent to Indoor Biotechnologies, who are the world leaders at measuring levels of Fel d1 allergen. Neither of these procedures hurt the cats in any way.

Can kittens be tested for allergen levels?
We developed the current method for saliva and fur testing adult Siberians about five years ago, but results in kittens were very inconsistent.  Recently, after five years of joint research with UC Davis, we  developed a new saliva test for use on kittens. This test is far more sensitive, but more expensive. 

How do Siberians differ from other breeds?
Studies of saliva and fur show that many Siberians produce considerably less Fel-d1 allergen than most other cats.  In general, people do not react to these lower allergen Siberians.


REDUCING REACTIONS TO CATS

Does bathing reduce the allergens?
Yes, shampoo washes off allergens present in the fur. The cat will still produce Fel d 1 allergen, but the amount in the air will be much lower.  On average, weekly bathing of the cat reduces total airborne allergen levels by 45% or greater. 

What about daily grooming?
Moistening your pet prior to daily combing reduces allergens released into the air. Allerpet Grooming Solution works well to moisten the hair, removes oils and deactivates allergens. It also keeps allergen and fine hair from floating into the air during grooming.

What about the litter box?
Litter boxes tend to cause the greatest problems with asthma. Change litter boxes frequently as Fel-d1 and other allergens are found in urine and faeces. Place the litter box in the garage or a room that can be vented to the outside. Kittens get dust on their coats from powdery litters, which track both irritants and allergens into the house. Dust free litter such as Feline Pine Pellets may cause fewer reactions.

What about shedding on furniture?
Place washable throws on any area your cats like to sleep. Include couches and chairs as well as climbing stations and cat beds. Wash throws weekly in hot water, detergent and borax to remove or deactivate allergens.

Housekeeping to reduce allergies.
Frequent vacuuming will reduce allergen levels dramatically. Remember to clean upholstered furniture at the same time. Air out the house after vacuuming. Damp mop hard floors and wipe hard surfaces to eliminate dust buildup. Replacing carpets in bedrooms with washable hard flooring to decreases allergen levels.

Can kitten sleep in my bedroom?
People with mild cat may be able to allow their Siberian in the bedroom. Individuals with severe allergies need a clean allergen free room for sleeping. Do not allow the kitten in bedrooms of individuals with severe allergies, nor if allergies persist.

Do HEPA filters make a difference?
High efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filters are high-efficiency air filters, and are good for removing small particles like Fel d 1.  Keeping the cat out of the bedroom, and using a HEPA filter cuts airborne allergen levels in half and sharply reduce allergic symptoms.


USEFUL RESOURCES 

Allergen Nomenclature Database
The Allergen Nomenclature Sub-committee operates under the auspices of the International Union of Immunological Societies (I.U.I.S.) and the World Health Organization (W.H.O.).  This is an excellent database on allergens from mammals, plants, foods, and other sources.

Cat Dander
ImmunoCap has published a nice technical article on feline allergens and some of the more common cross reactions with other animals.

The Major Cat Allergen, Fel d 1, in Diagnosis and Therapy
Some of the most recent studies in feline allergens has been performed by the Clinical Immunology and Allergy Unit, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet and University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.

a.© Meredith Lundberg 2015