Sometimes love can take your breath away, but not in a good way. That's how it can be for a dedicated cat lover with cat allergies. If cats make you wheeze and sneeze yet you still can't imagine life without one, consider a breed less likely to cause allergic reactions. The Burmese isn't an allergy-free cat, but the breed tends to be low on the scale of allergy-triggering cats.
More than Hair
It was long believed that cat hair was the culprit behind cat allergies; however, time and research have proved that allergic reactions to cats are more than skin deep. According to Dr. Steven Bailey of Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, the major cat allergen is Fel d 1, or secretoglobin, a protein responsible for approximately 90 percent of cat allergy cases. This allergen is contained in saliva, dander, urine and the skin's sebaceous glands -- so it easily finds its way all over your cat and your home. All your cat has to do is groom herself to spread this allergen. Dr. Bailey states that among eight identified feline allergens, Fel d 4, the urinary protein lipocalin, is present in about 40 percent of cat allergy cases.
Allergenic proteins attach themselves to your cat's hair and dander, so when she sheds it gets all over your home. Being very lightweight, dander is highly mobile; and since it's also very sticky, it easily adheres to whatever it lands on. That means not only is it in your pet's bedding and anywhere she hangs out -- the couch, the bed, your favorite sweater -- but it adheres to surrounding areas such as the rugs, the drapes and the walls.
Every cat has dander, saliva, urine and sebaceous glands, so there's no getting away from the carriers of allergens. However, some breeds, such as the Burmese, have lower levels of the potentially offending proteins. Though they aren't entirely hypoallergenic cats, they tend to trigger fewer reactions in general.
Burmese: Low Levels of Fel d 1
The Burmese is one of a few breeds carrying low levels of the Fel d 1 protein. She's a beautiful cat, with large, round eyes and a short silky coat. Described as "doglike" by the Cat Fancier's Association, the Burmese will follow you from room to room to be with you. If you like an affectionate, devoted cat, the Burmese may be a safe choice for minimizing allergic reactions.
The Siberian and Balinese are the breeds carrying the lowest levels of Fel d 1. Other breeds with low levels include the Cornish rex, the Javanese, the Siamese, the Bengal, the Russian blue and the sphynx. Take note: A cat has low levels of the proteins still carries them; she just has less to spread around.
Clean Living Helps
No matter what cat you live with, you can take steps to make your living space less allergenic. Neutering a male cat reduces his allergen production. Regular grooming cuts down on shedding and on the amount of dander floating around on cat hair. If your cat's OK with a bath, bathe her weekly to drastically reduce the amount of allergens she sheds. If she's not keen on water, clean her regularly with a damp microfiber cloth.
Extra care in your living space makes a difference. Invest in a vacuum with a HEPA filter -- a regular vacuum will only spread the allergens -- and use it twice a week on rugs and upholstery. Wash your pet's bedding weekly and keep her out of your sleeping space for your best rest. When you give your cat some pats and snuggles, wash your hands immediately afterward; avoid rubbing your nose and eyes when you're around her.