Cat allergies are a genuine source of misery for many people. Symptoms can be mild in some — just a sniffle and a little reddening of the eyes when coming into close contact with a cat, easily remedied with an over-the-counter antihistamine. For others, however, cat allergies can be very serious. People with asthma can find their symptoms become much worse in the presence of a cat, to the point where breathing becomes difficult. Some cat allergies are so severe that the victim is at risk of anaphylaxis if they’re exposed to cat hair or dander.
Are ragdoll cats hypoallergenic? No cats are truly hypoallergenic as all cats produce the proteins that cause allergic reactions. Some breeds of cat produce fewer symptoms because the cat sheds less or produces less of the proteins responsible. Ragdolls lack an undercoat and produce less loose fur than some breeds, which may make them a better choice for allergy sufferers.
Given the impact of cat allergies on people’s lives, it’s no wonder that people want to know if they can find a hypoallergenic cat. You’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about cat allergies and whether ragdolls could offer the solution.
- Do ragdolls produce fewer symptoms?
- Is there a way for someone with a cat allergy to live comfortably with cats?
- Which other breeds might trigger fewer allergies?
Fortunately, we have the answers. Read on to find out everything about cat allergies, whether ragdoll cats could be a solution, and what you can do to ease allergies to pets.
Are ragdoll cats hypoallergenic?
Ragdoll cats are a rather special breed. They take their name from their habit of falling limp when they’re picked up. This doesn’t seem to harm the cat and, for the most part, they seem very happy to be scooped up and cuddled. Ragdoll cats tend to be physically affectionate, snuggling up to you and climbing onto your lap to be petted. They also possess long, soft coats and bright blue eyes, making them a very charming breed.
Most cats have a double layer of fur, with a soft, short under-layer and a longer, more durable overcoat. Ragdoll cats have only one layer of fur. Even though they’re longhairs, they have a reputation for shedding less than other cats and thus triggering fewer allergy attacks.
There might be some truth to this, even though it’s a theory with a couple of problems. Firstly, having encountered ragdolls myself, I’m unconvinced that they are particularly less prone to shedding than other breeds. Secondly, hair is not the substance causing the allergy. The culprits are a group of proteins. The most severe allergies seem to be triggered by Fel d 1, which is found in cat dander, and Fel d 4, which is found in a cat’s saliva. There are various other proteins that generally cause milder effects; three of the most allergenic are Fel d 2, Fel d 3 and cat IgA.
Having said that, ragdoll cats may actually produce fewer allergies even if they don’t really shed less fur or produce less of the allergenic proteins. In other breeds, much of the cat dander may be collected in the undercoat. A cat’s undercoat is made up of soft, light hair that is more likely to float in the air for a while, meaning that more allergens become airborne. A ragdoll’s long hair is less light and is more likely to fall down and become stuck to something than to blow around and create airborne allergies.
There may also be a psychological factor involved. Although allergies are very real and could be extremely serious, there is often a psychosomatic component involved. Anyone who’s found their eyes watering in anticipation after seeing a field of goldenrod through a closed window, or felt their chest tighten when watching someone walk through a dusty room on the TV, will be familiar with the effect. The body thinks it’s going to be presented with an allergen and produces an inflammatory response in defense. It may be that the reverse happens with ragdoll cats: the sufferer expects to be handling a less allergenic cat, so the psychosomatic element of their allergic response may be mitigated and their symptoms lessened.
In any case, some cat owners find that ragdolls create fewer allergies than other breeds in their personal experience. While I wouldn’t go so far as to describe ragdolls as hypoallergenic or recommend them to anyone with allergies, I’m also reluctant to dismiss the idea that they may be less allergenic for some individuals.
Are there any hypoallergenic cat breeds?
No breed of cat is truly hypoallergenic. That said, some breeds do seem less prone to causing allergies in susceptible individuals. This may be because their fur is less troublesome than the average cats. It may also be because certain breeds produce less of the worst allergenic proteins and thus cause less severe reactions.
Breeds that often get tagged as “hypoallergenic” include those with less fur or no fur at all. I’ve known some people who found that cats of the Rex type (Devon, Cornish and Selkirk Rexes) seemed to trigger their allergies less. These cats have very short, thin fur and shed remarkably little. The hairless Sphynx cat has a similar reputation.
Of course, even though they may not be shedding as much (or at all, in the case of the Sphynx), these cats still produce Fel d and cat IgA. It’s probable that less of the proteins become airborne due to the fact that there’s less hair to carry them around. Even the delicate curly coats of the Rex cats and the bare skin of their Sphynx cousins can cause allergic reactions in susceptible people when they’re in contact with the cat.
More likely candidates for the title of “low allergy breed” are those who produce lower levels of Fel d proteins, especially Fel d 1. These include the lovely Russian Blue, a gorgeous grey-blue breed with green eyes. The Siberian cat is another breed reputed to produce reduced levels of Fel d 1. Despite their remarkable shaggy pelts, some sufferers proclaim that they experience far fewer symptoms in the presence of their Siberian than the average shorthaired cat.
In general, though, it would be unwise to assume that any cat will not produce allergies. Choosing a particular breed is unlikely to solve the problem for most sufferers.
What can I do to curb my cat allergies?
As a cat-allergic cat-lover myself, this is a problem I’m all too familiar with. Fortunately, my symptoms are mild enough that they can be managed with the odd antihistamine tablet and regular vacuuming of my living space. Some people aren’t so lucky and may need to take more strenuous measures.
First of all: make sure it’s really the cat you’re allergic to. You can arrange for a patch test to find out exactly which substances your body responds to. Sometimes a “cat allergy” turns out to be an allergy to dust mites, certain perfumes or cleaning products. Tobacco smoke is another common allergen, causing nasty symptoms that get blamed on the cat.
The vacuum is your friend; soft furnishings are not. Wood floors, tiles or vinyl floor coverings are preferable to carpeted floors. If you install carpet, choose a short, washable pile and use a wet-and-dry vacuum. Brush and vacuum your furnishings, including curtains and upholstery. It’s a good idea to replace an old and ineffective vacuum cleaner with one recommended for allergy sufferers, preferably a high-powered model with a HEPA filter.
You should also exclude your cat from your bedroom so that you’re not breathing allergens in all night; I know how difficult this can be emotionally, however. If you really can’t bring yourself to stop your cat from sleeping on your bed, I’m afraid you’ll need to change your bedding much more frequently.
Keep your living space well ventilated. Allergens build up in stuffy, unaired rooms and make things worse than they need to be. Crack your windows, turn on the fans and make sure you have good air circulation everywhere. Use an air purifier to help reduce the amount of cat dander floating around.
If you’ve tried all these things and they really don’t work, please don’t be a hero. Consider finding your cat another home. It’s hard and painful to do this but your health is important. This is especially true for households where there is a child with a severe pet allergy. Children seem to have it worse for some reason and can become very sick if they’re forced to live in a home where the allergen is everywhere. It’s really not fair to leave a child in a state of ill-health.
Even if they’re not hypoallergenic, should I get a ragdoll cat?
She may not be the solution to your cat allergy woes, but the sweet-natured ragdoll has a lot to recommend her. As previously mentioned, ragdolls are very social and friendly. They love cuddles and are lap-cats par excellence. On the whole, I would happily recommend a ragdoll as a pet — with a few caveats.
Firstly, I would always encourage a cat lover to think about adopting a shelter kitty over buying from a breeder. There’s nothing wrong with purebred cats, but with so many wonderful felines languishing in shelter cages, it’s important to at least consider adoption. Secondly, ragdolls are very expensive; a ragdoll kitten can cost a few hundred pounds and show-quality animals may go for thousands.
Another consideration is the ragdoll’s personality and whether your lifestyle will be compatible with her needs. Most ragdolls are all right to be left alone for part of the day; however, these cats get very attached to their people and can suffer social anxiety if you work long hours or are gone overnight a lot. If you lead a busy life that takes you away from home a lot, consider a more independent cat.