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.
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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