Siberian Cats and Hypo Allergenicity

Are Siberian cats really hypoallergenic or nonallergenic...

Allergies are caused by the immune system of your body vigilantly reacting to proteins it detects. Most often we are talking about making your body making a special antibody, IgE instead of the normal antibodies IgM and IgG which help fight infections.  IgE is associated with unpleasant symptoms:  sneezing, itching, rashes and wheezing. 

Of all the proteins associated with cats, one of them is far more antigenic, that is more likely to stimulate antibody formation than any other. That protein has the name Fel d1. Originally it was thought that this protein was found not in the fur but in the saliva and gets on the fur when the cat grooms itself. Current research teaches that this protein is found in the sebum, the oily sweat glands of the skin, primarily. This has interesting applications, as male cats will make less sebum and less Fel-d1 after being neutered (1). There are also drugs that effect sebum production, but these have not been explored with relation to decreasing cat allergies.

When an early importer of Siberians to the United States had friends who were allergic around her cats, they began to notice that they were not affected by her Siberian cats like they were by other cats.  This became more noticed and eventually discussed, including with allergists.  By 1999 a private test was done by Indoor Biotechnologies that measured Fel d1 on fur sample of a mixed breed cat and Siberian neutered male and female.  The mixed-breed cat carried ~63,000 microgram of Fel d1 per gram.  The neutered male Siberian carried ~2000 micrograms, and the female Siberian cat carried ~200 micrograms per gram.  This is the only documented test, and included only those two Siberian cats. However, every breeder cat at the SiberianGatos Cattery has tested lower than these numbers.

Now those numbers could easily still be high enough to cause problems, in theory.  And in addition, other proteins could also play a significant allergenic role.  Furthermore, one study on only two Siberian cats is not a significant amount of scientific data.  Anyone considering buying a Siberian cat for the sake of its hypo-allergenicity should spend time with the cats from which he or she wants progeny.  Either visit the Siberian breeder or have the breeder bring the kitten you are most interested in to you or have the breeder mail fur from the parents to you.

Interesting anecdotal evidence is supplied by the number of hits obtained from a search engine seeking "cat allergies + Siberian". I found Siberian cats because my younger son wanted a cat desperately and my older son who no longer lives with us and I are allergic to cats.  Cats set off a substantial reaction for both of us.  I was searching for new cat allergy treatments. Two had been in development some years ago (when I had worked in a field where I did medical research) and I hoped one of them had worked out well  Neither had panned out, but I got many hits with search words "cat allergies" explaining how a person who was allergic to other cats could tolerate Siberians.  As a control, I tried "dog allergies" and got no more than a few hits for any breed.  Today Google gave about 37,800 hits to "cat allergies + Siberian". 

Another interesting datum is supplied by Dr. Alan Greene here . He says that darker cats are two to four times more allergenic than light colored cats. This is not my experience in the Siberian world, and I have discussed this with a Russian breeder, who agrees. Black Siberians seem to be the least allergenic.

I tried to arrange for my oldest to go and pet a Siberian, but he couldn’t fit it into his schedule.  I eventually tried a tiny bit of fur and he didn't react.  That was all we had to go on.  We took a great risk in buying Siberians without having been near them.  We committed ourselves with this, but I STRONGLY recommend anyone else to visit a Siberian cat.  I am completely non reactive to Siberian cats.  My son does react to them, just not as much as to other cats. 

A final and brand new piece of data regarding cat allergies has been added recently.  A paper in   Experimental Allergy Volume 32 Issue 3 Page 361 - March 2002 showed that children growing up between the ages of  0 and 2yrs in a household with pets, there was significantly less sensitization to other pets and to both indoor and outdoor allergens.  See the following abstract.    This means that allergic parents might be able to offer their children partial protection from developing allergies to many things by having any pet

To answer the question:  Are Siberian cats really hypoallergenic?  Empirical data suggests that Siberian cats are hypo allergenic.  A weak amount of scientific data suggests a reason.

Are Siberian cats nonallergenic. NO. Siberian cats, like all living things, make proteins.  Proteins can be allergenic

And a further and important question:  Is it beneficial to own a pet to prevent developing allergies later in life.  Based on an extensive study of 3,000 children, it appears that probably living with a pet before the age of 2 is protective against developing allergies to cats, dogs, indoor allergens, and outdoor allergens!  This is brand new and important data.  What pet was not important. Children with pets take less days off school.

Link to cattery which will send you free fur samples.