People who love cats but suffer from allergies to cats often wistfully watch cat videos and long for the day when they can curl up on the couch with their own purring companion.
Researchers at Rockefeller University and other institutions discovered that a mutation in a particular gene, known as inhibitor of differentiation-1 (ID), is necessary for humans to be allergic to cats. There are many different proteins that may play a role in causing allergy symptoms.
It has been found that some people lack an allergic reaction when exposed to dogs because they carry a mutation in the coding region of the gene encoding IFDY, which shares homology with ID. The research team mapped this hereditary difference to chromosome 16 and found that the same mutation was linked to allergy severity in cat-allergic patients.
Domestic Shorthair Cats vs Other Breeds
Researchers believe that certain breeds of cats are hypoallergenic because they carry a mutated form of the gene encoding ID. The most hypoallergenic breed identified so far is the Balinese, which expresses only one functional copy of the ID gene. They hypothesize that the other mutations may be carried by Maine Coons or Rag dolls, but it requires further study to determine whether these breeds indeed carry mutated forms of the ID gene and/or if their allergenicity can truly be attributed to this particular gene product rather than other proteins found cat saliva and skin secretions.
Most people that are allergic to cats have an allergy to proteins found in a cat’s saliva and skin. It is not completely clear why some people react when they come in contact with a cat, while others can live in a home with many cats and never develop symptoms. Hypoallergenic cats carry the mutated ID gene which produces less of these allergens within their saliva and skin secretions, making them less likely to cause allergic symptoms. Although there is no hard evidence yet proving if this mutation really does make hypoallergenic cats less allergenic than other breeds of cat, it is believed by the researchers studying this phenomenon that this could be the case.
Domestic shorthair cats are not known to be hypoallergenic. The reported incidence of cat allergies in the United States is 10-15%, and there is no strong evidence that any breed or variety of feline is better than another for people with cat allergies who are trying to decide what breed or variety of cat might be less problematic. Cats can still shed many allergens even if they carry a mutated ID gene, but it has been found that their allergenicity may decrease by up to 50%.
Cat Allergy Symptoms
Common symptoms associated with allergy include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, eye irritation (redness, itching or watering), nasal congestion, nausea, stomach problems (nausea or vomiting) and asthma attacks. These symptoms usually appear within minutes to hours after exposure and can be either seasonal or year-round. Cat allergy sufferers often experience reaction when exposed to:
• Cat dander (flakes of skin)
• Cat saliva and sweat by licking and grooming their fur, respectively
• Vomit from hairball regurgitation
Domestic Shorthair Cats vs Maine Coon/Ragdoll Hypoallergenic Breeds
Researchers believe that the Ragdoll breed has a mutated form of ID similar to that found in Balinese cats.it is believed that the Maine Coon also carries this mutation, but testing of these breeds is still ongoing. Other cat breeds may carry this same genetic defect, but further study is needed to confirm this. The main differences between hypoallergenic cats and other cat breeds is the these breeds produce less saliva, which results in a decreased level of allergens in their spit when compared with non-hypoallergenic cats.
Cat Allergies and Hypoallergenic Cats
Hypoallergenic, meaning they should cause fewer allergic symptoms than other breeds or varieties of feline. The only gene identified so far is the Balinese which expresses only one functional copy of the ID gene. It has been found that these cats produce less saliva and skin secretions containing allergens present in cats with two functional copies of this gene which makes them less likely to trigger an allergic reaction. Although there is no hard evidence yet proving if this mutation really does make hypoallergenic cats less allergenic than other breeds of cat, it is believed by the researchers studying this phenomenon that this could be the case.
There are no known true “hypoallergenic” cats as far as we know, but some people who have allergies to cats can tolerate certain breeds better than others. There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests Balinese or Siamese cats carry a mutated copy of an immune system gene (called gene 1) which makes them produce less protein allergens within their saliva and skin secretions, thus making them less likely to cause symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose etc. than other breeds of cat.
Are Domestic shorthair cats hypoallergenic
sociability, being able to live with other cats and dogs in a household without the risk of fighting or injury is one way that cat breeds can be ranked according to “hypoallergenic” traits. Most cat breeds have been tested for their reaction with regards to this phenomenon, but there are many others whose breeds have not been fully researched yet so it is unclear if they carry a “tolerable” gene or not. The only known cat breed confirmed so far as being “hypoallergenic” according to current studies is the Balinese, which carries about half of all possible genes within breed – most likely because of a mutation in the ID gene. This mutated ID gene produces a truncated protein that lacks the ability to function as a transmembrane protein, thus resulting in hypoallergenic reactions as the allergen is not being produced.