Siamese cats are among the breeds sometimes described as hypoallergenic. A hypoallergenic breed is less likely to trigger allergic reactions than one that isn’t; hypoallergenic means “less allergenic.”
It does not, however, mean non-allergenic. A hypoallergenic animal or product has fewer allergens than a regular animal or product, but it still has some allergens.
In other words, there is no guarantee that a Siamese won’t trigger your allergies, it’s just less likely to do so.
What causes cat allergies?
Allergies of any type are caused by a hypersensitive immune system that reacts to a harmless substance as if it were dangerous.
A person with pet allergies has allergic reactions to a protein in the pet’s dander (shed skin cells), urine and saliva.
Contrary to popular belief, people aren’t allergic to cat hair per se. They’re allergic to the saliva, urine or dander it collects. Cat hair can also collect other allergens like pollen or dust. To make matters worse, the allergens produced by a cat can linger for months.
Cats produce a protein unique to them called the Fel d 1 protein. It’s found in the cat’s saliva, urine, and skin. When a cat grooms itself, it gets the protein on its fur. The dried saliva then becomes a vapor that carries the allergen through the air.
Since all cats have skin and saliva and go to the bathroom, all cats produce some Fel d 1 protein. There is thus no such thing as a non-allergenic cat.
Cats like the Siamese that are described as hypoallergenic simply produce less of the protein than do other breeds.
Which breeds are hypoallergenic?
The Pet MD website lists the following breeds as hypoallergenic:
• Colorpoint Shorthair
• Cornish Rex
• Devon Rex
• Oriental Shorthair
• Russian Blue
It’s worth noting that a lot of the cats on the list are relatives of the Siamese. The Balinese, for example, is basically a Siamese with longer fur.
Many of the various cat registries consider only cats with seal, chocolate, blue or lilac points to be true Siamese.
They, therefore, categorize cats with points of other colors as Colorpoint Shorthairs, and they class cats that come in other colors and patterns as Oriental Shorthairs.
The Javanese cat is a long-haired version of the Colorpoint Shorthair.
Both the Cornish Rex and the Ocicat have Siamese ancestry. Several different breeds were interbred with the first Cornish Rexes to widen the gene pool and prevent the health problems caused by inbreeding. The Siamese was likely used to give the Cornish Rex its slim build.
Back in the 1960s, somebody crossed a Siamese with an Abyssinian in the hopes of getting a Siamese with ticked points. Much to that breeder’s surprise, they also get a spotted kitten that reminded people of an ocelot. That kitten became the ancestor of the Ocicat.
The Siberian can be considered a Russian analog of the Maine Coon, for it is also a large cat with long fur.
It is noted for its low production of the Fel d 1 protein. In 2017, the science journal “Veterinary Sciences” published a study in which researchers tried to determine why the Siberian was among the more hypoallergenic cats.
The researchers knew that two genes, Ch1 and Ch2, determine the amount of allergen a cat produces. They found that the Siberian cats had mutations affecting those genes.
”I really want a Siamese!”
The good news is that you can reduce your chances of suffering allergic reactions by both picking the right cat and by paying particular attention to hygiene. Factors that affect a cat’s allergen production include the following:
• Gender: Males produce more allergen than females
• Age: Kittens are less allergenic than are adults
• Color: Cats with dark fur are more allergenic than those with light coats
• Reproductive status: A neutered male produces fewer allergens than an intact male
You, therefore, should get a girl cat, and you need to get her fixed as soon as the vet recommends it, for Siamese tend to hit puberty early. You should also choose a cat with relatively light points, like a lilac point or blue point.
Some breeders work with a company called KittenTesting.com that offers a test that supposedly can estimate the amount of allergen a kitten will produce when it reaches maturity.
Breeders use the results to try to match kittens with clients. Allergic reactions to cat range in severity from a stuffy nose to full-blown asthma and/or hives. Breeders use KittenTesting.com to try to make sure that people with the worst symptoms get the kittens that produce the fewest allergens.
After bringing your Siamese home, you need to keep her and her things clean to reduce the number of allergens in the air. Thus, wash her bedding and toys at least once a week.
Since cats often like to sleep on their owner’s bed, you should wash your sheets and blankets once a week as well.
Similarly, give your cat regular baths—or get somebody who doesn’t have allergies to do that, be it a groomer or family member.
Regular baths can cut existing allergens down by as much as 84 percent and also slow the production of more allergens. Some people recommend using distilled water to bathe a cat and further reduce allergen levels.
Someone without allergies should brush the cat outside to remove loose hair and dander. They should also clean the litterbox.
Regular vacuums simply stir allergens in the carpets. You should thus use a vacuum that has a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Such vacuums have powerful suctions that capture up to 99.7 percent of small particles – including pet allergens.
Similarly, get an air cleaner or purifier with a HEPA filter, and run it for at least four hours every day. It will pull allergens from the air.
You can enjoy a Siamese if you have cat allergies, but it will take work. You will have to carefully choose the right cat and then commit yourself to cleaning your home to keep the allergens down to a tolerable level.