There are indeed some cats that cause less sneezing, itching, and sniffling for pet owners with allergies or asthma. But here's what experts want you to know when it comes to "hypoallergenic" breeds and picking the right pet.
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Approximately 3 out of 10 people with allergies or asthma also have reactions to dogs and cats, according to The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Cat allergies, however, are much more common, so it's no wonder that so many people are excited about the idea of hypoallergenic breeds said to have a special type of fur or aren't as prone to shedding. But according to experts, it's not actually fuzzy fur you need to be concerned about if you're allergic to cats—it's a special protein all cats produce.

"There are several proteins cats shed that people react to: Fel d 1 through Fel d 7," explains Tarina L. Anthony, DVM, owner and medical director of Aurora Cat Hospital and Hotel. "Fel d 1 is the most common allergen and mainly presents in saliva and dander. These little proteins are inhaled or come into contact with skin, eyes, and noses and cause hives, itchiness, sneezing, and watery eyes."

With that in mind, here are some cat breeds that are low-allergen and low-shedding that could be a great fit for people with allergies.

The Best Cats for Allergies

Since everyone reacts differently, experts recommend fostering or visiting with different cat breeds to see how you react. Here are some of the best breeds to start with:

Balinese

balinese lying on womans lap
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Since the intelligent, energetic Balinese produces a little less Fel d 1 and has a single layer coat, he's often a great choice for people with mild cat allergies, even though he's a little fluffy. As a member of the Siamese family, he'll likely be quite talkative.

Javanese

javanese cat looking at camera
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A cousin of the Balinese, the Javanese doesn't have an undercoat, which means he has less fur to primp and will spend more time cuddling. He's quite smart, great with children, and easy to train, too!

Russian Blue

russian blue lying in owners hands looking at the camera
Russian blue kittens are born with blue eyes that turn golden yellow. But as they enter adulthood, their eyes turn a distinctive green.
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Here's another strikingly attractive kitty that has less Fel d 1 than other breeds. Even though a Russian blue has a dense, luxurious coat, he doesn't shed much so there's less dander floating around. He's also a lovable furball—forever dispelling the myth of aloof cats. 

Siamese

siamese cat sitting on couch
The dog-like Siamese is often described as a "Velcro kitty." He loves his humans deeply, and will always want to be by their side—if not in their lap!
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The beautiful Siamese has a short, non-shedding coat that doesn't require a ton of grooming, making them a potential choice for people with allergies. What they lack in grooming needs they make up for in play and activity, so be prepared to give them exercise and plenty of toys (and all the pets—they love affection!).

Siberian

Siberian Cat
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Although the Siberian's glamorous long coat requires brushing throughout the week and sheds a little more than other cats, you won't have to worry too much about sneezing and itching. Siberian cats are irresistible for many reasons, including their playful sweetness and reduced allergen production. 

Cats That Don’t Shed (Much!)

Low-shedding means there's less chance of irritating airborne particles from the dried Fel d 1 protein. However, proper grooming, a no-cat zone bedroom, and air purifiers might still be necessary to enjoy the company of these kitties. 

Bengal

bengal cat sitting outside
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With his unusual short, spotted pelt, a Bengal looks like a little wildcat. He doesn't shed as much as other breeds, which is a good thing because he's quite playful and craves constant affection from his human companions. 

Cornish Rex

grey and white Cornish Rex with blue eyes closeup
Cornish rexes do best as indoor kitties. If you take yours outside, make sure she doesn't get too cold or become sunburned.
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The sociable, athletic Cornish rex is ready to play anytime, anywhere—he'll even fetch! A Cornish rex has a wavy, downy soft fur but no coarse layer. He does require occasional baths to reduce oil buildup, but those will also help minimize Fel d 1 allergens. 

Devon Rex

gray tabby devon rex kitten in cat perch
Like most cats, the Devon rex needs lots of toys to play with and cat trees to climb (and snooze on).
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Cute as a pixie and just as mischievous, the playful Devon rex has three coat layers, but his fur is short and wavy with little flyaway hair. He's curious, intelligent, and eager to snuggle. 

Korat

korat in cat bed staring at camera
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The Korat's shimmering blue and silver-tipped coat is surprisingly low shedding, making these intelligent social butterflies a tolerable choice for people with allergies. Native to Thailand these loving lap cats develop strong bonds with their families.

LaPerm

two LaPerm cats, one darker brown, the other light tan and white, curled up together
LaPerm cat coats can come in nearly any color and pattern, but they hall have one thing in common: those signature waves and curlicues.
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Thanks to a genetic mutation, LaPerm cats have a curly coat that can range from springy curls to soft waves (mimicking the human perm hairstyle, hence the name!). This curly coat is low-shedding and mat-resistant, so they could be a good option for people with allergies.

Oriental Shorthair

Oriental Shorthair kitten with a chocolate hair
Credit: Svyatoslav Balan / Getty

You'll hear a lot of purring from the Oriental shorthair as he's quite fond of his people and wants to be with them all the time! An Oriental's coat is fine and silky to touch, but he doesn't shed much as long as you brush him regularly, which he'll love. 

Sphynx

gray sphynx cat sitting by window
Just as furry cats can have spots and different colorations, a sphynx's skin can have the same markings. Some might be completely pink, while others have a tortoiseshell pattern.
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Probably the closest thing to a hypoallergenic breed, the sweet, lively, and funky Sphynx is a highly affectionate charmer who's essentially hairless. However, his suede-like covering does need your help to control skin oil with frequent towel rubs and occasional baths.

Are Certain Cat Breeds Really Hypoallergenic?

Unfortunately, no. According to Anthony, this definition is simply not true. What's more accurate is that each person has a different allergy threshold. One person with allergies might not be greatly affected by one type of cat, while another could react to the very same "hypoallergenic" breed if they're sensitive enough, she explains. Anthony also notes that female cats tend to produce less Fel d 1 than males, and neutered males less than intact males. 

And if you're really smitten with a certain cat? Ask a veterinarian to test your favorite's Fel d 1 protein before bringing him home.

More Tips for Cat Owners with Allergies

Anthony says diet and grooming are also helpful tools for reducing allergic reactions. "Keeping a cat's coat healthy with fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids reduces the amount of the allergic protein present on a cat's body," she says. "Bathing also minimizes the level of proteins, but shampooing cats has its challenges. Remove dander with a fine-tooth comb and hair with regular brushing, although this aerosolizes the proteins, so it's best done outside or by someone who doesn't have cat allergies." 

And if you're suffering? Hit the pharmacy. While scientists are working on hypoallergenic solutions—such as special feline medicine and food that reduce the protein culprits—Anthony says it's easier to treat the human. 

"There are many antihistamines, hyposensitization treatments, and other remedies that help people coexist with cats more comfortably," Anthony says.