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Home > Cats > Are Cat Allergies Genetic? Vet Reviewed FAQ

Are Cat Allergies Genetic? Vet Reviewed FAQ

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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It’s not great being a cat lover and having cat allergies! The truth is that, yes, to some degree, cat allergies are genetic! Does that mean there is someone you can blame? Can allergies develop after you’ve brought home a cat?

We answer these questions for you to the best of our abilities. We also talk about how to manage your allergies since the last thing that you want to do is give up your beloved kitty!


Are Cat Allergies Genetic?

Experts have said that if you have allergies, there is a chance that they could be passed on to your children, but this isn’t a guarantee. It is more of a 50% chance. However, if both parents have cat allergies, the odds that your children will inherit these allergies go up to a 75% chance. So you can inherit a genetic predisposition to cat allergies and then become sensitized at any point in your life.

Other predispositions to allergies come from things like pollution, respiratory infections, your environment, and diet.

Allergies can affect people of all ages at any point in their lives, and many people often also have other allergies to molds or pollen. In fact, about 10% to 20% of the world’s population is allergic to cats and dogs.

Ultimately, you are more likely to develop an allergy to cats if someone in your family is also allergic.

woman sneezing near her cat
Image by: Pormezz, Shutterstock

What Are People Actually Allergic To?

Some people have often believed that they are allergic to cat fur, but in fact, it’s primarily cat dander (dried flakes of skin), the proteins found in their saliva, and their urine. There have so far been 10 cat allergens identified that people can be sensitized to but FEL D 1 is the most common.

Of course, all these substances, particularly the fur and dander, can attach themselves to clothing, bedding, and furniture and float through the air. Living with allergy symptoms when you’re constantly surrounded by these floating particles can be rough!

What Are the Symptoms of Cat Allergies?

Signs and symptoms of cat allergies can range from mild to severe. These can include:

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffed-up nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, swollen, watery, and red eyes
  • Postnasal drip
  • Itchy throat, roof of the mouth, or nose
  • Coughing
  • Not sleeping well
  • Blue-colored skin under the eyes
  • Facial pain
  • Hives
  • Itchy skin
  • Eczema

Your symptoms will improve when you’re separated from the cat for a few days to weeks. Some people might also have asthma and seem to have more colds than usual instead of the more traditional allergy symptoms.

You should definitely see your doctor if your symptoms are hard to live with, like having trouble breathing.

balinese cat in the garden
Image by: Fazlyeva Kamilla, Shutterstock

Are There Hypoallergenic Cats?

Since allergies are triggered by the proteins in dander, saliva, and urine, it’s practically impossible to find cats that don’t make Fel d1.

Cats that don’t shed as much or are hairless don’t make them hypoallergenic, but they might be easier to live with for allergy sufferers. Such breeds include:

  • Balinese
  • Bengal
  • Burmese
  • Colorpoint Shorthair
  • Cornish Rex
  • Devon Rex
  • Javanese
  • Oriental Shorthair
  • Russian Blue
  • Siberian
  • Sphynx

Remember that while one of these cats might make living with them easier for an allergy sufferer, it won’t mean they’ll be allergy-free.  The amount of Fel d1 produced by a cat has been shown to fluctuate over the course of a year and with time, with older cats producing less. So, testing a cat’s Fel d1 levels as a once-off is not likely to give a true reflection of what will happen over time.

Scientists working with gene editing tools CRISPR have had success in deleting the genes coding for Fel d1 and so in the future if may be possible to breed cats that produce no Fel d 1.


What Are the Best Ways to Deal With Cat Allergies?

Nothing can prevent all allergy symptoms. Still, you can lessen them to a degree and make them easier to live with. The following tips might help:

  • Vacuuming is no one’s favorite chore, but regular vacuuming and damp dusting can help reduce allergens. You can also consider purchasing a vacuum that is designed for allergy sufferers with HEPA filtration.
  • Invest in a HEPA air purifier.
  • Keep your cat off of your bedding and out of your bedroom at all times. Since you spend so much of your time in it you will be surrounded by less allergenic material, and hopefully, you’ll have a more restful sleep.
  • Many products in the market can be used on your cat’s coat. For example, wipes, waterless shampoos, shampoos, and sprays can help reduce excess dander and help make their skin and coat healthier.
  • Close the ducts in the room that you spend the most time in (usually the bedroom). Consider using portable heaters and air conditioners instead of forced air through the vents that will circulate dander and fur.
  • Brush your cat every day, and consider using a de-shedder, which can reduce the shedding of fur and dander. (Better still, get a non-allergic family member to brush the cat.)
  • Wash your hands whenever you touch your cat or any toys, bedding, etc.
  • Ensure that your cat has a healthy diet, and provide supplements that contribute to healthy skin and coat.
  • Regularly wash your cat’s blankets and bedding, and keep the litter tray clean.
  • Talk to your doctor, and look into the right kind of antihistamines or medications that you can take. There are also immunotherapy allergy shots that can be quite effective.

Some of these steps can help alleviate or lessen your cat allergies, but what if we could make our cats less likely to cause an allergic reaction?

Bubble bath a small gray stray cat
Image Credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

Treating the Cat

Some scientific breakthroughs include treating the cat so the active allergen-causing problem is neutralized. This means as the allergy sufferer, you won’t have to worry so much about purchasing medications or HEPA purifiers.

A Swiss study from 2019 found that a specific vaccine created for just this purpose when administered to cats, bound to and neutralized the Fel d 1 protein that causes allergies. The vaccine has been called HypoCat, and when cats are injected with it, the Fel d 1 levels are found to be lower in their blood. This vaccine will hopefully be available in the market in the next 4–5 years.  The study found that people allergic to cats showed fewer symptoms around cats vaccinated with HypoCat.

Purina has also published a study where they have looked into neutralizing cat allergens through diet rather than a vaccine.

It uses a specific kind of egg product designed to reduce the Fel d 1 cat allergen. Purina has since produced the food as LiveClear, which states that 47% of cat allergens are reduced after 3 weeks of feeding.

These are just a few options that you can consider as they work on the actual root of the problem. Maybe a combination of treating your cat and yourself will make living with a cat conceivable!



There’s no question that being a cat lover but also being allergic to them is a bitter pill to swallow. Unfortunately, if your allergy symptoms are severe, particularly if they are complicated by asthma, your best bet is to live without cats. It can be sad, but your health is definitely more important.

But there are products available and designed to reduce the allergens and lessen your own allergy symptoms. Speak to your doctor about all your options, and consider speaking to a vet. The combination of both worlds might give you the perfect solution and, eventually, the perfect cat!

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Featured Image Credit:Image Point Fr, Shutterstock

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