To feline enthusiasts, their furry pal isn’t just a pet; they’re a member of the family. That’s why most cat parents would rather deal with allergies rather than say goodbye to their fluffy friends. And it’s also the reason some people who are allergic to cats decide to adopt them anyway.
If you’re here trying to get some info on whether your dusky kitty is the source of your sneezing and general misery, or if a black cat may be the best choice for you, I’ve got you covered.
So, are black cats hypoallergenic? Black cats aren’t a specific cat breed. This coat pattern is present in many different breeds. The two most popular cat allergens are found on the skin and in the saliva of all cats. Some black cats can have a lower level of these allergens, but the difference has nothing to do with their color.
It’s just a matter of which breed produces a lower level of the proteins, as mentioned earlier. On the whole, black cats from breeds like the Sphynx, Japanese Bobtail, LaPerm, etc., are more likely to be hypoallergenic.
If things are starting to sound a little too technical, don’t stress. I’ve dedicated this entire feature to analyzing how hypoallergenic black cats truly are, and I’m not going anywhere until you have the answers you’re looking for. Let’s get to it!
Why Are Some People Allergic to Cats?
Let’s talk more about why some individuals are allergic to cats, while the rest of the population seems to do a-okay.
Science tells us allergies develop when our immune systems react to a substance that’s pretty harmless. Nonetheless, the immune system may treat the foreign substance like a virus or bacteria and try to flush it out of the body. That’s where histamines come in.
Histamines are your body’s response to the threat of the foreign substance (a DEFCON 4 type of situation). They cause the symptoms of allergies, like sneezing or a runny nose (among others), to get rid of the allergen.
Scientists have identified approximately ten allergens from the fur, saliva, urine, etc., of felines. However, before you freak out, it’s mostly the Fel d1 and Fel d4 proteins that cause all the trouble. Fel d1 is secreted by the skin of felines, whereas Fel d4 is found in their saliva.
Unfortunately, because your furball licks its fur to groom itself, it also leaves a snail trail of the Fel d4 allergen all over itself, and before you know it – BAM! You’re sneezing yourself into a frenzy.
That’s possibly the reason why cat breeds with a fine coat or those that don’t shed a lot are more hypoallergenic than others. Additionally, cats who produce less of the Fel d1 protein, like the Russian Blue breed, are also safer for people with sensitive immune systems.
Having said that, it’s vital that you know that there’s no cat breed that is 100% hypoallergenic – it’s always more of a hit-or-miss type scenario.
Are Black Cats Safer for People With Cat Allergies?
And now for the million-dollar question (or more, depending on your love for felines) – are black cats safer for people with cat allergies?
Well, this is actually a complicated question to answer. I’ll start by explaining that black cats, similar to calicos, are not a breed in and of themselves. There are multiple breeds and mixes that can have an entirely black coat. That means this coat can be made up of any hair type, be it short, long, soft, course, or even curly.
Every breed has its own quirks in the fur department and some shed less or produce less allergens than others. In other words, the color of a cat has nothing to do with whether or not they’re hypoallergenic.
However, I came across a few contradicting opinions in my research. For example, Shahzad Hussain, MD of the department of allergy and immunization at the Long Island College Hospital (LICH), surveyed around 321 patients with allergic reactions who lived with cats.
The survey seemed to reveal that people who owned dark-colored felines were four times as likely to have allergic reactions than individuals who owned lighter-colored kitties.
Dr. Shahzad thinks that one possible reason behind the survey’s finding is that dark-colored cats may have higher melanin levels (because of the darker pigmentation), which may elevate the production of Fel D1 in such cats. To say I was bummed is putting it lightly.
However, before you start thinking that maybe there’s some truth to the old wives’ tale of black cats and bad luck, remember I mentioned contradicting opinions.
Here’s where Dr. Clifford W. Bassett of the Allergy and Asthma Care of New York comes to the rescue. As an author of the study mentioned above, he believes that the color association finding isn’t conclusive.
Another later study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that the color of kitties has little or nothing to do with the amount of allergens they produce. So, all the cat parents with black felines can breathe a sigh of relief.
But does that automatically mean all black cats are hypoallergenic? Nope, no such luck. That’s why I scoured the internet for feline breeds that may produce black-colored beauties that are also hypoallergenic. Or, well, as hypoallergenic as a cat can get.
Hypoallergenic Black Cats
It’s the moment prospective feline parents who want a feline to rival the dark coat of Sabrina’s Salem have been waiting for. Here are some of the more renowned hypoallergenic feline breeds that include blacks cats (sorry Sphynxes).
1. Japanese Bobtail
If you’ve never seen a Japanese Bobtail, these adorable felines classify as medium-sized cats, with tall ears standing right on top of their heads and prominent cheekbones.
No, I’m not describing a model, but, ironically enough, the Japanese Bobtail’s hind legs are longer than the front legs – and by some miracle, they still retain a leveled stance.
These lovely kitties are available in various colors (including black) and come in shorthair and longhair varieties. Oh, and they’re almost Olympic-level jumpers – so watch out.
However, this breed’s most prominent trait is the naturally occurring short tail. The combination of their powerful hind legs with their tiny tails truly makes them the bunnies of the cat world.
Japanese Bobtails are generally described as sweet, loving, and super intelligent. They’re also very social and playful. However, they’re somewhat cliquey. That means, when it comes to felines, Bobtails prefer hanging out with other Bobtails.
Most importantly, the shorthair Japanese Bobtails are soft, silky, and lack an undercoat, making them pretty hypoallergenic compared to their longhaired cousins.
I know what you’re thinking. LaPerm sounds more like a French Clothing Brand rather than the name of a cat breed. But LePerms get their name because their coats include luscious and bouncy curls. Even the whiskers on these cats are curly!
And, they’re beyond beautiful to look at with tight curls at the neck and ears, forming a type of mane. And they have a plumed tail to boot.
The most common colors among this breed are tabby, tortoiseshell, and red. However, every so often, there’s a black LaPerm too. This breed is also available in two coat lengths – long and short.
If you’re on the lookout for a kitty unique kitty that’ll put Loki to shame, then you’re going to love this breed. LaPerms are usually described as clownish mischief-makers with a love of knocking things off shelves. But, they’re also extremely loving, like hanging out with their owners, and are reasonably active.
While there’s no scientific evidence to prove LePerms are hypoallergenic, cat owners claim this breed doesn’t shed very often, and that’s probably why LaPerm’s are considered hypoallergenic.
3. Devon Rex
A cat that looks like the feline version of a pixie? What’s not to love about that? The Devon Rex breed is not only hypoallergenic but has plenty of black cats to offer too.
Devon Rex felines are generally medium-sized, with broad chests and large heads. But the breed’s most distinctive feature is their butterfly ears that sit low on their heads, giving them an elf-like appearance.
Males of this breed are larger than the females, but as far as the coats are concerned, both genders of the Devon Rex possess super soft and curly coats. The difference is that sometimes felines of this breed may lack fur – specifically in areas they groom. That’s because their coats are very delicate, right down to their whiskers.
These cats are highly energetic and playful and aren’t shy of running around and displaying their acrobatic skills. Also, much like the Japanese Bobtail, Devons are also jumpers – you might want to keep them away from tall trees.
Siberian cats hail from the forests of Siberia and have a triple coat to protect themselves against the elements. But, how are they hypoallergenic with such a thick coat?
That’s simple. It’s scientifically proven that Siberians (the cats, not the natives) produce much lower levels of the Fel d1 protein – making them safer than other cat breeds for folks with allergies.
If you’re looking for a kitty that leaves an impression and is hard to miss, then you’re going to love this breed. Siberian cats have a longhaired triple coat and can weigh up to 17lbs (7.7 Kg) – as I said, there’s no ignoring this beauty. Besides that, Siberians are available in multiple color combinations – including all black.
While they may look imposing, these cats are typically super loving and affectionate. Even more bizarre, they love company and aren’t shy of strangers. Siberians have all the makings of a great feline companion.
I think we’ve managed to successfully conclude that not all black cats are hypoallergenic and that allergenicity in felines is a little more complex. In fact, scientists are still trying to figure out why cats produce certain allergens.
The good news is that black cats from specific feline breeds like Siberians and Japanese Bobtails are certainly more hypoallergenic than their kitty counterparts. So, if you’re thinking of adopting a black cat, it’s best to opt for a breed that’s known to be hypoallergenic to avoid roadblocks like hay fever.