Maine Coon cats are well known for having thick, impressive coats of fur which help them survive even the coldest of New England Winters. In fact, it is their long hair that sets them apart from other cat breeds and has helped them attain a reputation for being very hardy. But, with all that fluffy fur and daily shedding, many people naturally worry that the fur will trigger their allergies. So, can you be allergic to Maine Coon cats? Keep reading, to find out why Maine Coons are more hypoallergenic than you would naturally assume.
Although Maine Coon cats are not hypoallergenic, they are still an ideal pet choice for owners suffering from allergies. Most individuals are actually allergic to a protein present in the cats dander, saliva and urine, known as Fel d 1, rather than the cat’s fur itself. Therefore, regularly grooming a Maine Coons fur will significantly reduce the chances of an owner touching this protein.
For those of you that have suffered from an allergic reaction, you will be well versed in what an allergy is. However, for the lucky few that haven’t, it is simply your bodies natural immune systems reaction to a harmless substance i.e. cat allergens, or pollen.
Allergic reactions are most common in individuals with over sensitive immune systems. In situations where these individuals come into contact with an allergen, their bodies naturally start producing Immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody known to protect humans from viruses. The downside to this antibody, is that it causes symptoms within a person’s lungs, stomach lining, nose etc (source).
In some cases, certain people are so allergic to these harmless allergens that their bodies go into anaphylaxis shock. It is important in cases such as this that the emergency services are called immediately.
Cats And Allergies
Have you just bought an adorable new Maine Coon kitten home, but quickly discovered that you are allergic to them? If this sounds familiar, then you might be interested to learn that many people in modern society are allergic to cats. In fact, if you have an over-sensitive immune system, then you will likely experience unwanted allergy symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, itchy red eyes, or sneezing. The level to which you suffer from cat allergens is also thought to increase, the more cats you have.
If you are keen to lessen your symptoms, make sure you groom your Maine Coon cat regularly to remove excess dander from your cats fur. I personally find these grooming brushes to be particularly effective in reducing my husbands cat allergy symptoms. Additionally, pay particular attention to the cleanliness of your home since pet allergens will stick to all surfaces, e.g. floor, sofa and walls (source).
What Causes Cat Allergies?
A common misconception about cat allergies, is that people are allergic to the cats fur. Though in some cases this might be true, it is more likely that the individual suffering allergies is actually allergic to a particular protein known as Fel d 1, which exists within a cats dander, saliva or urine (source).
The three main cat allergens are:
- Dander (cat skin secretions)
The spread of these cat allergens across a cat’s body is unavoidable, since cats are inherently clean creatures who like to groom themselves on a regular basis. Whilst grooming is known to keep a cat clean, the process of licking their fur inevitably spreads these allergens yet further across the cats entire body. Consequently, if an individual with an over sensitive immune system strokes a cat, they are likely to come into contact with the Fel d 1 protein, and experience a reaction.
Avoiding these three allergens might not be as easy as you would first assume though, since allergens are extremely sticky and light. They easily stick to all types of surface, and can even become suspended within the air individuals breathe, if they have become airbound whilst an owner brushes their cat (source).
Cat Allergy Symptoms
If you are wondering whether you are allergic to your cat, or not, check out the following list of common cat allergy symptoms:
- Rash on the chest and face
- Red, itchy eyes
- Skin turns red, where cat has licked, scratched or bitten you.
- Itchy, runny, stuffy nose.
The speed at which an allergic reaction starts will ultimately depend upon the severity of an allergy. Individuals that are highly sensitive will immediately react if they come into contact with the Fel d 1 protein. Whereas an individual less sensitive to cat allergens might not notice any signs of reaction until 4-8 hours, after being exposed. Cat allergy symptoms will persist between a few minutes, to a few hours (source).
Individuals with allergic asthma are at particular risk of experiencing an allergic reaction to cat allergens. According to WebMD, 20-30% of these individuals will experience severe flare-ups (source).
Are Maine Coons Hypoallergenic?
So, can you be allergic to Maine Coon cats? The simple answer is yes. Before you rush off to find a different cat breed though, it is important to understand that no cats are hypoallergenic. In fact, individuals prone to cat allergies are just as likely to be allergic to other cat breeds, even the hairless sphynx!
Research does indicate however, that in general female cats produce less of the Fel d 1 protein, than male cats. This is particularly important to those with cat allergies, since it means that the female Maine Coon is more hypoallergenic than the male.
Additionally, studies also suggest that the Maine Coons long fur may limit the amount of protein that is able to spread across a cat’s fur, thus making the Maine Coon cat more hypoallergenic than other cats breeds (source).
Ultimately, if you suffer from cat allergies, but are still desperate to own a Maine Coon cat, you might be interested to learn that some people do build up a tolerance to cat allergies over the years. Although statistically this is hard to prove, I have personally found that my husbands cat allergies have lessened over the years. In fact, he puts this improvement down to cuddling our Maine Coon cat everyday, and sniffing the cats fur! As bizarre as this daily ritual might sound, it may potentially be the reason his immunity to our cat has improved.
For more fascinating reading on this subject, check out my article “Are Maine Coon Cats Hypoallergenic?“.
How To Minimize Cat Allergies
Are you allergic to Maine Coon cats, but would still love to own one? Or, are you worried your cat allergens will be too much to handle? If so, take a look at the table below which shows you some simple ways to reduce your cat allergies:
|Individuals Should …||Benefit|
|Brush cat regularly||Helps to remove cat dander from cat fur|
|Bathe your cat||Bathing cat will ensure that excess dander and protein Fel d 1 is removed. This option is particularly effective if you are allergic to Maine Coon cats, since this breed loves water, and bathing will remove the majority of cat allergens from their fur|
|Wash hands after stroking cat||Washing removes saliva (and protein Fel d 1) from your hands|
|Stop stroking your cat!||A little unrealistic for cat lovers, but a valid method of reducing contact with cat allergens|
|Wear gloves when gardening||Cats often urinate in soil. Wearing gloves limits exposure to cat urine|
|Don’t let your cat lick you!||Cats love to groom their owners, yet this process increases an individual’s chances of reacting to cat allergens|
|Clean your home||Regularly cleaning your home significantly reduces the amount of cat allergens attached to surfaces|
|Off Limits||Teach cat that bedrooms are ‘off-limits’. This enables allergic individuals to have a few rooms within their home where allergens are less likely to be present|
|Medication||Ask a medical professional to prescribe medication that limits your cat allergy symptoms|
|Cat cleaning wipes||Cat wipes help to remove cat allergens from cats fur|
|Anti-allergen sprays||Anti-allergen sprays may help to reduce your allergy symptoms|
|HEPA air filter||Air filters help to collect airborne allergen particles|
|Change heating / air filters||Changing heating and air filters regularly reduces the spread of cat allergens|
|Washable throws||Wash sofa throws regularly, to remove cat allergens|
In order to reduce cat allergies, aim to implement as many of the tips listed above as possible. If certain methods are unrealistic, or simply not possible, move onto the next suggestion. Ultimately, the more methods you implement, the less exposure you will have to cat allergens within your home. For those of you that are allergic to Maine Coon cats, keep in mind that just a few changes will make a significant impact to your daily lives, and enable you to own one of these magnificent large cats.
Which Cat Breeds Are Hypoallergenic?
As I alluded to earlier, no cat will ever be truly hypoallergenic, despite what a breeder claims. This is because all cats secrete the Fel d 1 protein from their sebaceous glands, and in their saliva. As a cat grooms themselves, this protein becomes caught in the cats fur, saliva and urine. It is thought that up to 10% of humans are allergic to this protein.
It is safe to say however, that there are cats that are more hypoallergenic than others. This is because certain cat breeds are known to secrete lower levels of the Fel d 1 protein, making them more hypoallergenic, than others.
Below is a list of cats thought to be more hypoallergenic (source):
- Russian Blue
- Devon Rex
- Cornish Rex
Black Cats And Allergies
Cat allergy sufferers of this world might be interested to learn that black cats are more likely, than any other coloured cat, to cause moderate to severe allergic reactions. In fact, research indicates that owners of black cats are four times as likely to suffer from cat allergies than owners with cats that have lighter fur.
The reason for this scientific result is yet unknown. However, researchers are investigating whether the higher levels of melanin within a black cats skin are responsible for producing higher levels of the protein Fel d 1 (source). Maybe there is some truth in the myth that black cats are bad luck after all!
For more information on the black Maine Coon, click here to read my complete guide on the black Maine Coon cat.
Can you be allergic to Maine Coon cats? The simple answer is yes, you can be allergic to Maine Coon cats. In fact, all cat breeds produce the protein most commonly associated with cat allergies, therefore no cat breed can ever be considered to be truly hypoallergenic.
However, before excluding Maine Coons from your cat breed selection, it is vital to remember that each owner can take a number of steps to limit their exposure to cat allergies. Ultimately though, the extent to which each individual is willing to adapt their life to enable a Maine Coon to live with them, will obviously come down to personal preference.