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Are Tortoiseshell Cats Hypoallergenic? Here’s What You Need to Know

Between 10–20% of people globally are allergic to cats1. If you suffer from cat allergy but can’t resist the charm of Tortoiseshell cats, you might wonder whether they are hypoallergenic.

Unfortunately, no. Tortoiseshell cats are not hypoallergenic and will trigger an allergic reaction if you come into contact with it. Cat allergy is caused by a protein found in cats’ saliva, fur, urine, and dander. Stick around to learn more!

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Are Tortoiseshell Cats Hypoallergenic?

As mentioned, Tortoiseshell cats aren’t hypoallergenic. Typically, cat allergies have nothing to do with the cat’s fur color pattern (a trait the Tortoiseshell cat is popular for).

So, if you are allergic to cats, you will have a reaction if you come into contact with a cat, regardless of its fur color(s). However, some cats are less likely to trigger an allergic reaction in individuals with cat allergies, which we will explore later in the article.

Tortoiseshell Pattern
Image Credit: andy-holmes, Unsplash

What Causes Cat Allergies?

Cat allergies are caused by an individual’s immune response to a protein called Fel d1, which is found in a cat’s saliva, urine, and flakes of dead skin (dander) produced by its skin1. However, this protein is largely produced in a cat’s saliva, which is then transferred to its dead skin flakes and fur when they groom themselves.

Typically, people allergic to Fel d1 react by producing immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These antibodies induce mast cells that release histamine and other chemicals that cause them to sneeze, experience nasal congestion, and have itchy skin, among other signs.

woman allergic to cat
Image Credit: Image Point Fr, Shutterstock

Signs of Cat Allergies

There are various signs of cat allergies:
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy skin
  • An asthmatic attack in individuals with asthma
  • Irritated eyes

In rare cases, those with cat allergies can have a more severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This causes difficulties in breathing and low blood pressure and can even send the body into shock.

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Treatment for Cat Allergies

More treatments for cat allergies continue to be discovered as time goes by. Some of the common treatments used to manage cat allergies include:

  • Allergy shots, otherwise known as immunotherapy, gradually desensitize one to an allergen
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays
  • Antihistamines
  • Cromolyn sodium prevents the mast cells from spewing out the chemicals that cause cat allergy signs

Tortoiseshell Cat Breeds Less Likely to Cause Allergies

Tortoiseshell cats (also known as Torties) aren’t a specific breed. This is because the term “tortoiseshell” refers to the distinctive fur coat pattern that is often similar to a Tortoiseshell (however, Tortoiseshell cats also have other specific traits). Therefore, Torties can be found in a variety of cat breeds.

Tortoiseshell Norwegian Forest Cat
Image Credit: Nui Rattapon, Shutterstock

Usually, Tortoiseshell cats are common in British Shorthair, American Shorthair, Ragamuffin, and Persian cat breeds, to mention a few.

While Tortoiseshell cats aren’t hypoallergenic, there are cat breeds with Torties and other breeds that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction in people with cat allergies. This is attributed to the fact that they produce less Fel d1 protein or shed less fur.

One cat breed with Tortoiseshell cats that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction is the Siberian cat breed. While Siberian kitties have long fur, they produce lower Fel d1 levels, making them suitable for cat lovers who have allergies.

Another breed with Torties that are less likely to cause cat allergies is the Cornish Rex cat breed. For starters, these Cornish Rex cats grow undercoat fur, meaning they shed very little fur, reducing the amount of Fel d1 protein coming into contact with the surrounding environment.

Cornish Rex cats also rarely groom themselves. Therefore, the transfer of their saliva with Fel d1 to their fur coats is minimal.

Balinese cats are also another breed with Torties that are suitable for people with cat allergies because they produce less Fel d1 protein.

Other cat breeds that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction in people with cat allergies include the following:

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Top 3 Tips to Manage Cat Allergies

If you are allergic to cats but still have one around, there are several ways you can keep your allergy under control.

1. Keep Your Cat Restricted to Specific Rooms in Your Home

One way to keep your cat allergy under control is by restricting your feline companion in specific rooms. Doing so will limit its shed fur from getting everywhere around the house.

It’s also advisable to keep your cat away from your bedroom. Since that is where you sleep, the chances of getting into contact with its shed fur are high.

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2. Limit Those Cuddles

It’s hard not to cuddle your cat, but keeping those cuddles as minimal as possible if you have cat allergies is advisable. Doing so will prevent you from getting into contact with the Fel d1 protein on its fur.

If you pet or cuddle with your feline companion, always wash your hands and change your clothes.

tortoiseshell cat close up
Image Credit: Didi S, Pixabay
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3. Invest in High-Efficiency Particulate Air Cleaner

Another way to keep your cat allergy under control if you have a cat around is to use a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) cleaner in your house. This top-notch quality cleaner will filter out all tiny dander from your cat’s skin in your home, reducing your cat allergy signs.

It’s also advisable to vacuum and clean your house regularly, especially areas where your cat regularly stays.

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Final Thoughts

There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat, whether it’s a Tortie or any other kind. Although there are cat breeds that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction in people with cat allergies, it doesn’t mean they are hypoallergenic.

So, if you’re a cat lover who’s allergic to these feline companions, it’s best to limit your contact with cats and find other ways to manage your allergy.

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Featured Image Credit: Julieshoots, Pixabay