What is a hypoallergenic cat breed?

When people are allergic to cats, it's largely caused by a reaction to the saliva and skin. People think it's the fur - you can have an allergic reaction to cat fur, but that's mainly because they're licking it all the time. The skin is a problem because of dust - little microscopic parts will flake off (sounds gross, but it happens to you too - your skin is a big source of dust in your house). When they get in the air in the form of dust, you breathe it in and can have allergic reactions.


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Luckily, there are some solutions on the horizon. One is a new breed of hypoallergenic cats. They have been genetically modified from British Shorthairs to reduce the production of a protein that causes cat allergies. They're going to be available starting in 2007. They'll run about $3500 then. The company is called Allerca, and they've issued an update saying they'll be able to breed about 10,000 a year starting then.

Right now, there are no truly "hypoallergenic" cat breeds in the sense that they are completely allergen-free. "Hypoallergenic" just means that there are less allergens. There is a breed called the Rex breed that produces far fewer allergens than most cats. BUT - you need to be responsible about this. A number of these cats get dumped in shelters because their owners find out they're still getting allergic reactions - it's LESS allergen, but that doesn't mean none. Also remember that kittens produce less allergens than adults. The result is that many people get a Rex, then have to get rid of it in a few years. The good thing is that you can have a doctor do a skin prick test to check for allergies, and you can also usually get a breeder or a shelter to let you have contact with cats billed as hypoallergenic beforehand. Do this for several months if you've had past allergies - go have contact with that particular breed. Allergies often take a long time to manifest. Just don't be the person who goes and gets a cat and then has to dump it later on - if you've got a friend or family member willing to be a backup and take it in if you end up not being able to house it, then fine, but it's not OK to be irresponsible as a pet owner.

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