Q: Can a person who is allergic to cats own a hairless cat like a Sphynx and be OK? Do these cats have dander?
A: When cats clean themselves, the saliva that they deposit on their coat dries, and then flakes off into the air. The dried saliva and dead skin cells are called “dander,” and it is this, not the hair, that triggers an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to cats. The real culprit is a protein in the saliva, called Fel d 1. Sphynx cats do clean themselves, and they do deposit saliva on their skin, and their skin cells (with dried saliva adhered to it) do shed into the environment. In other words, Sphynx cats are not hypoallergenic.
You do have options, though. There is a breed of cat, the Siberian, that happens to produce very little of the protein Fel d 1, and therefore, their dander usually produces no (or minimal) reaction in allergic people. It’s not a guarantee, but I have several clients who own Siberians because of allergies, and they tell me that their cat elicits no allergic reaction from them. They’re elated that they’re finally able to own a cat.
Another option is to purchase a genetically manipulated cat from the Allerca company. The company won’t say exactly what makes these cats hypoallergenic, but it is believed that they have been genetically manipulated so that they do not produce the Fel d 1 protein in their saliva. The drawback? The cost. A hypoallergenic kitten from this company will set you back about $4000.
You also can reduce the amount of allergy-causing dander in your home by frequently washing your cat’s bedding, bathing your cat, and keeping floors and rugs vacuumed. In addition, if you’re allergic to cats, you should keep your cat out of your bedroom, so that dander doesn’t accumulate on bed linens.