Siberians are often called “Hypoallergenic,” but this is somewhat misleading. There are actually two different issues that should be addressed:
Primary cat allergen: Fel d1 is a very small protein that causes 70% of cat allergies. A few Siberians produce very little Fel d1, and these are a wonderful option for families with severe cat allergies.
Secondary Cat Allergens: Some people are allergic to other cat allergens, typically albumin or lipocalin. In our experience, people who are highly allergic to rabbits / horses (or who have severe food allergies to milk / meat) often react to low-Fel d1 Siberians.
Fur samples are an excellent way to start assessing allergies. Holding fur from a tested exceptionally low allergen adult Siberian will help identify whether reactions are to primary or secondary allergens. Individuals with horse/rabbit or eggs/meat allergies should spend time with a Siberian before purchasing a kitten.
Lundberg Siberians / KittenTesting developed a method to take saliva samples from cats to measure Fel d1 allergen levels. These samples are sent to InBio for analysis. From 2003-2008 we worked with UC Davis, studying allergen levels in Siberians and other breeds. We found all cats produced some Fel d1.
Saliva testing must be used for kittens 6 months or younger. Saliva tests tend to be more reliable than fur samples in adult cats, but both are subject to biological errors. Over the last twenty years we have analyzed allergen results from 600 Siberian cats and kittens. Half of Siberians tested had allergen levels substantially lower than other breeds. Roughly 15% of Siberians are suitable for homes with severe cat allergies.
We created a Cat Allergy Chart to help families understand their allergy severity. The chart is based on symptoms, but is similar to the 1-5 skin test scale used by allergists. Consider how holding a normal cat would affect you. Each level is mapped to a different amount of Fel d1 cat allergen.
Allergen levels are specific to test protocols developed by Kitten Testing.
Ex. Low ~ hives, swelling, severe sneezing, airway constriction
Very Low ~ itchy skin, light sneezing, severe runny nose, mild asthma
Low ~ moderate symptoms, runny nose, eye irritation, coughing
Medium ~ ok for very mild allergies – eye irritation and stuffy nose
Normal ~ NOT recommended for homes with cat allergies
Charts of Allergy levels were developed and copyrighted in 2005 by Meredith Lundberg.
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Our articles about cat allergies:
- Are Siberians Hypoallergenic – questions about Siberians and cat allergies
- Reducing Household allergens – ideas to reduce reactions to your pets
- Cross-Reactive Allergens – are you allergic to horses, rabbits, eggs or meat
- Testing with Fur Samples – using low-allergen fur samples to assess allergies
- Testing with Kittens – allergic but wanting to buy an untested kitty