In recent years hypoallergenic cats have repeatedly made news headlines. What is "hypoallergenic" where cats are concerned, and what are "reasonable expectations" for allergy sufferers?
Feline allergen is a very small glycoprotein created in the salivary (saliva), lacrimal (tears), sebaceous (skin), and perianal glands. Salivary Fel d1 becomes airborne during grooming, sebaceous Fel d1 tends to be distributed across the fur, with the highest levels being found near the skin. Perianal glands secrete the allergen onto the feces. The highest concentration of Fel d1 is found in the perianal glands.
Feline allergen (Fel d1) is found only in cats and accounts for up to 60% of cat allergies. Typical reactions to the allergen vary, but includes symptoms ranging from mild runny nose and itchy eyes, to severe reactions such as swollen eyes, hives or difficulty breathing. Individuals allergic to cats and not other animals are usually allergic only to Fel d1. The allergen is very stabile, and can remain in a home for six months after removal of the cat.
Ongoing research show that all cats produce some Fel d1, but the amounts are quite varied. Studies by Siberian Research have shown is a very strong correlation between the allergen level in saliva and the perceived allergic reaction in highly allergic individuals. Siberians with very low allergen levels pass this trait to some (but not all) of the kittens in the litter.
Production and secretion of the Fel d1 allergen is controlled by hormones and stress. In normal cats, the highest levels are found in un-neutered males. In very low-allergen Siberians, the males and females have similar levels of Fel d1. Some of the lowest levels have been found in Siberian males.
Over 12 additional substances that can cause allergic reactions have been identified in all mammals, including cats. Allergies to dogs, hamsters, and horses are caused by these other types allergens. Individuals with allergies to other animals (especially horses/rabbits), or (food allergies to eggs/pork meat) often react to low Fel d1 Siberians.
Siberian Research worked closely with U.C. Davis to search for genetic changes that could reduce Fel d1 in Siberians. In conjunction with Tom Lundberg, SRI developed methods used by Siberian Breeders for measuring allergen levels of adult cats, and has made these methods available without charge.
The methods developed by SRI have highly erratic results in kittens and young cats. Test kits marketed by KittenTesting.com can accurately measuring allergen levels in kittens. They may also be used to test adult cats that panic or have irregular results using the older methods.
DISCLAIMER: Feline allergens can cause serious and potentially fatal reactions in some individuals. Allergen information provided is not a substitution for medical advice. We recommend consulting a medical doctor prior to visiting and/or purchasing a Siberian cat. Siberian Research Inc. and Lundberg Siberians disclaim all liability from individuals or catteries where allergies or feline allergen levels are concerned.
© Lundberg Siberians 2004