Do you love cats but have concerns about allergies? You are not alone. Millions of people suffer from allergies, and many of them want cats. Thankfully, there are many choices of cats that are hypoallergenic and better for allergy sufferers. So I decided to do some research to see if Birman cats can save the day when it comes to allergies.
So, are Birman cats hypoallergenic? No, Birman cats are not entirely hypoallergenic. While not officially classified as “hypoallergenic,” Birman cats do cause fewer allergy symptoms in many people than many other cats. Birman cats produce fewer allergens than other cat breeds, lessening allergy symptoms. Because they don’t have an undercoat, they shed less fur and fewer allergens.
While they are not entirely hypoallergenic, they are an excellent pet choice if you’re trying to sneeze a lot less around the home. Of course, that’s not the only interesting thing about Birman cats. Read on for more info about hypoallergenic cats, and what it’s like to own a Birman.
Birman Cats Are Not Entirely Hypoallergenic
As mentioned, Birman cats are not technically hypoallergenic, but they usually do not create as bad of allergy responses. It is not the fur itself that creates the allergy, but the cat saliva and dander. While they produce just as much dander as other cats, they do not have an undercoat, and their long, silky fur is not prone to matting, so less fur, saliva, and dander come off. Therefore, they can be better for people with allergies.
Hypoallergenic cats include:
- Oriental Shorthair
- Cornish Rex
- Russian Blue
- Devon Rex
- Colorpoint Shorthair
The reality, however, that truly hypoallergenic cats do not exist. Not even the Sphynx cat is entirely hypoallergenic. So, while the list above may be cats that cause fewer allergies, hypoallergenic is technically a misnomer.
Since the allergy is actually to proteins in the cat’s saliva, skin, and urine, and all cats have these proteins, no cat can be fully hypoallergenic. The best that can be hoped for is that the cat does not shed very much, and Birmans do have an advantage there. Some people also find their allergies lessen the longer they have the cat.
Allergy Getting Better Over Time?
All pet owners with allergies should remember that exposure can reduce the severity of your allergy. When you first bring a Birman, or any cat, home you’re going to experience a more severe reaction than you will after a month of living with them.
That’s because allergies are essentially an overreaction by your immune system. Continued exposure teaches your immune system that the allergen is less of a problem, reducing the overall reaction.
That’s why some kids with extreme peanut allergies end up taking tiny controlled doses of peanuts in allergy clinics. Controlled exposure can help reduce their reaction if they are accidentally exposed later.
The same thing works with cats and other pet allergies. That isn’t to say that you should breathe through your cat’s fir or let them lick your face and nose. But, just living near one another and sharing the same space and air will provide plenty of exposure for this effect to work.
Do Male or Female Cats Produce More Allergens?
Believe it or not, the sex of your cat matters for how many allergens they put off into the air. Birmans are already at an advantage over other cats because they shed less, and there is less opportunity for the protein you’re allergic too to spread.
But you may also want to consider getting a female cat instead of a male. Females produce fewer allergens than male cats. Neutered males produce less allergen than intact males, but still slightly more than female cats.
Bringing home a girl can make managing your cat allergy easier, though we don’t necessarily recommend that everyone with a cat allergy get a girl. There can be big personality differences between male and female cats, and female cats tend to be a little more independent.
So, if you’re looking for more companionship and attention from your cat, a boy might be a better choice. But if you’re looking for a cat that’s going to be even more hypoallergenic, stick to a girl.
Does Color Matter When It Comes to Hypoallergenic Cats?
Another question many cat owners have is whether the color of your cat’s fur affects how many allergens they produce. The answer is yes, color does have an impact, but we don’t understand why yet.
As a rule, dark-colored cats will produce more allergens than lighter colored cats. That doesn’t mean it will make a huge difference, but you might want to look for a lighter cat breed or a lighter colored individual to reduce your allergic reaction.
That’s another area Birman cats excel when it comes to being a hypoallergenic cat. They are all born white and develop some color as they age. That said, your typical Birman is going to remain a lighter coat their whole lives.
Kitten or Adult?
There’s another factor when it comes to cat allergen; kittens produce fewer of them. Combine that with the tendency of allergies to get better with continuous exposure, and getting a kitten can reduce the severity of your reaction to your cat.
However, kitten personalities are less predictable than adult cats. So, if you’re looking for a particular personality, you may want to choose an adult cat instead of a kitten.
It’s all about how your allergy affects your priorities, and which aspects of cat ownership are most important to you.
Habits that Make Living with Cats and a Cat Allergy Easier:
Of course, it’s not all about picking a hypoallergenic cat. Once you have your new Birman or any other cat, you also need to pick up some habits to help prevent your allergy from causing problems.
The good news is that most of these habits are relatively easy to develop.
Avoid Having Cats on the Bed
The first thing you need to do as a cat owner with a cat allergy is to train your cat not to get up on the bed. Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to ensuring your immune system is working correctly, which can reduce the severity of your allergy. More accurately, a night of inadequate sleep can make your allergy symptoms worse and harder to deal with.
Some cat owners will keep their cat out of the bedroom entirely, but that’s often unnecessary as long as your cat doesn’t get on the bed. If your cat does get on the bed, or you catch them on the bed, you should try to wash the bedding at least.
If it becomes a habit, that’s when you should consider keeping your cat out of your bedroom.
Before it gets to that point, you should consider giving your cat a small cat bed so that they have their own place to get comfortable and warm up.
Brush Your Cat Regularly
One of the best things you can do is to brush your cat regularly. That will help them produce less dander, and also helps contain shedding so it doesn’t get everywhere randomly.
If you can cultivate a love of brushing in your cat, that’s the best option. Trust us; they’ll make sure you remember to brush them.
If your cat is getting elderly, has any muscular or skeletal issues, or is obese, brushing becomes especially important, especially near their back legs and tail. These cats will have a more challenging time taking care of their skin and fur themselves. You’ll be helping take care of them and taking care of yourself at the same time.
Give Your Cat Fish Oil
Another habit you should build is to give your cat a fish oil supplement. Not all cats will like fish oil, even the tasty salmon oil supplements you can get at pet stores. It’s better not to force the issue unless your cat has another reason that they need fish oil.
But, if you can get your cat accustomed to getting fish oil occasionally, it will help improve their skin health, reducing dander and improving the health of their skin. That also means fewer allergens in the air and on your furniture.
Invest in a Good HEPA Air Filter
Sometimes you just need a break from the allergens. It’s a good idea to get a HEPA air filter for your bedroom, office, or any other rooms you spend a lot of time in. That way, you’ll have at least a few places with very low allergen counts where you can escape allergy symptoms.
Your bedroom is especially important for the reason we’ve already mentioned; you need to breathe well to sleep well. And sleeping well is critical to minimizing the symptoms of your allergies.
Between these good habits and the naturally low allergen counts from Birman cats and other hypoallergenic breeds, your cat allergy shouldn’t get in the way of having a wonderful time with your cat.