Allergies

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Allergy testing with a Siberian… faceplant in the fur, then wait a few minutes.

Siberians are often placed in homes with cat allergies, but no pet is hypoallergenic.  Some Siberians produce less of the Fel d1 Fel D1 allergen than most domestic cats.  Only one allergen is reduced in Siberians.  Folks allergic to other animals often react even to low Fel d1 Siberians. 

ABOUT CAT ALLERGIES ©

What causes most cat allergies? 
Most cat allergies are caused by a small stable glycoprotein called Fel d 1.  However, most people have mild reactions to other allergens present on cats and in litter boxes.

What does Fel d 1 mean?
Plant and animal allergens are named in order of discovery. Each allergen found in a species is given a number when it is identified.  Fel d 1 is the first allergen discovered in house cats --  Feline domesticus allergen number 1.  To date, eight different allergens have been registered with WHO/IUIS.

Where is the allergen found? 
Fel-d1 is produced by lacrimal, salivary, sebaceous, and perianal glands. During grooming, Fel-d1 from saliva becomes airborne. Allergen from the glands in the skin stays in the fur, and is easily transferred to clothing, carpet, and upholstery.   Litter boxes contain the highest amount of Fel d1 as well as other cat allergens.

Does long hair affect Fel d 1 levels?
Fur length does not increase or decrease the amount of allergen produced.  Cats do remove a large amount of allergen from the hair through grooming. Some people have problems with eye irritation caused by the fine hair in the Siberian undercoat, which is worst in early spring when cats shed their winter coats.

Are dark or light coats higher in Fel d1?
There is no evidence that dark or light coats has any effect on Fel d1 (with the exception of silver and smoke).  Over 400 Siberians were tested for Fel d1 levels, and silver/smoke always showed higher allergen levels.  The reason is unknown, but it has been proposed that the gene for silver may be carried on the same chromosome as  Fel d1.  A few low allergen silver Siberians have been reported, but not enough to be statically valid.

Does neutering affect feline allergen production?
Multiple studies have shown neutering sharply reduces Fel-d1 levels in males, but not females. The allergen is hormonally controlled with non-neutered males producing the highest levels. After neutering, allergen levels drop sharply in both males, though not to the level of females. Low allergen Siberian males have the same levels as females, and those levels do not change by neutering.

What about other animals or foods?
In our experience, many people that are highly allergic to rabbits and horses, or have severe food allergies to eggs and milk are likely to react to low-Fel d1 Siberians.

How accurate are fur samples for allergy testing?
We find fur samples work very well for demonstrating reactions to Fel d1 allergen levels, providing the samples are properly collected and trialed.  Fur Samples may not always show all reactions to secondary cat allergens.  Individuals with horse/cat allergies or food allergies to eggs or milk should always spend time with a Siberians before purchase.  Information for testing with Fur Samples


SECONDARY CAT ALLERGENS © 

There are no simple answers to cat allergies, nor to Cross Reaction between species. By 2005, thirteen cat serums allergens and eight cat danders have been isolated. One allergen may cause an allergic reactions in one person but not another, and most cat-allergic individuals are allergic to more than one feline allergen. Siberians have been shown to have reduced levels of Fel d 1 allergen, but they have normal amounts of other allergens. 

Individuals with allergies to horses/rabbits/rodents or who have food allergies to pork meat/egg white are likely to have some reactions to low Fel d1 allergen Siberians.   These are primarily albumin and lipocalin allergies, and can vary from mild to severe.

Serum Albumin (Fel d2)
Serum albumin accounts for about 30% of cat cross reactions to dogs, pork meat, or egg white. Allergies to serum albumin can be quite severe.

Lipocalin (Fel d4) (Fel d7)

Lipocalin is a respiratory allergen, and commonly causes asthma. About 25% of people who are allergic to horses/rabbits also react to Fel d 4, a feline lipocalin.  Studies have shown that intact male mice produce 500 to 1000 times more lipocalin than female mice. Although studies have not been performed in cats, we find that neuter/spay seems to help with lipocalin allergies.  

More detailed information on Secondary cat allergens:


TESTING AND BREEDING TO REDUCE ALLERGENS ©

Do low allergen parents always have low allergen kittens?
Mating a low-allergen sire and dam has the best chance of producing lower allergen kittens, but normal allergen kittens can be found in all matings. Mating cats with normal Fel d1 levels produces normal allergen kittens.

How do you test your cat for allergens?
We take samples of saliva and fur from our cats and kittens. These samples are sent to Indoor Biotechnologies who measuring the levels of Fel d1 allergen. Neither of these procedures hurt the cats. 

Can kittens be tested for allergen levels?
We developed standards for saliva and fur testing of adult Siberians in 2005, but results in kittens were inconsistent. After five years of joint research with UC Davis, we  developed a saliva test for use on kittens that is far more sensitive, but more expensive.  We license these tests to other Siberian Breeders as well.  Testing information and a list of breeders testing kittens is availble at KittenTesting.com

How do Siberians differ from other breeds?
In a joint un-published study with UC Davis, we found many Siberians produce considerably less Fel-d1 allergen than other domestic cats and cat breeds. Roughly 50% of Siberians were found to have Feld1 allergen levels lower than other cats.  Only 15% of Siberians test in the lowest two allergen ranges - suitable for homes with moderate to acute cat allergies.  (In normal cats and other breeds, less than 1% test in the lowest allergen ranges).  In general, people do not react to these lower allergen Siberians

Mating for low allergen kittens
Our hope working with UC Davis was to come up with a stabile genetic mutation that could breed low allergen kittens.  After five years, we jointly realized that breeding for lower allergen was far more complex than anticipated.  We also found mating the lowest possible sire and dam typically produced fewer offspring.  

Mating for Low Allergen Kittens
Normal x Normal          ~  always produces normal kittens
Normal x Low                 ~ mostly normal levels, some low
Low x Low                      
 
mix of normal to low levels
Very Low x Low             ~ 
may be fewer kittens, mid to very low ranges
Very Low x Very Low   ~  fewer kittens, more in the lower ranges


COMMON ALLERGY QUESTIONS  ©

Does bathing reduce the allergens?
Yes, shampoo washes allergens off the fur. The cat will still produce Fel d 1 allergen, but the amount in the home reduced.  On average, weekly bathing of the cat reduces total airborne allergen levels by 45% or greater. 

What about daily grooming?
Moistening your pet prior to daily combing reduces allergens into the air. Allerpet Solution can be used to remove oils and deactivates allergens. It keeps allergen and fine hair from floating into the air during grooming.

What about the litter box?
Litter boxes are the greatest cause of asthma. Change litter boxes frequently as allergens are found in urine and faeces. Place the litter box in the garage or a room that can be vented to the outside. Kittens get dust on their coats from powdery litters, tracking irritants and allergens into the house. Dust free litter such as Feline Pine Pellets may cause fewer reactions.

What about shedding on furniture?
Place washable throws on any area your cats like to sleep. Include couches and chairs as well as climbing stations and cat beds. Wash throws weekly in hot water, detergent and borax to remove or deactivate allergens.

Housekeeping to reduce allergies.
Frequent vacuuming of rugs and upholstered furniture will reduce allergen levels.  Air out the house after vacuuming. Damp mop hard floors and wipe hard surfaces to eliminate dust buildup. Replacing carpets in bedrooms with washable hard flooring.

Can kitten sleep in my bedroom?
People with mild cat may be able to allow their Siberian in the bedroom, though we do not recommend it. Individuals with severe allergies need a clean allergen free room for sleeping. Do not allow the kitten in bedrooms of individuals with severe or persistent allergies.

Do HEPA filters make a difference?
High efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filters are high-efficiency air filters, and are good for removing small particles like Fel d Keeping cats out of the bedroom, and using a HEPA filter cuts airborne allergen levels by half and sharply reduces allergic symptoms.


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© 2005 Lundberg Siberians


USEFUL RESOURCES -  We try to keep outside links update, but are aware that some may have changed.

Over the years, we have been interviewed several times. In 2019 Science News published an article discussing some of the current and upcoming research in cat allergies.  

The Allergen Nomenclature Sub-committee operates under the auspices of the International Union of Immunological Societies (I.U.I.S.) and the World Health Organization (W.H.O.).  This is an excellent database on allergens from mammals, plants, foods, and other sources.

Cat Dander
ImmunoCap has published a nice technical article on feline allergens and some of the more common cross reactions with other animals.

The Major Cat Allergen, Fel d 1, in Diagnosis and Therapy
Some of the most recent studies in feline allergens has been performed by the Clinical Immunology and Allergy Unit, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet and University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.

U© Meredith Lundberg 2015