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Maine Coons are fantastic cats. They’re the largest of the domestic cat breeds and they have the longest and thickest fur, making them incredibly cuddly and cute.
However, with long fur often comes a lot of shedding, which gets many people asking the question “Are Maine Coon cats hypoallergenic?”
Hypoallergenic cats are ones that are extremely unlikely to trigger an allergic reaction in humans. Maine Coons are not hypoallergenic, but this has nothing to do with all their fur! It is the dander that can cause Maine Coon allergies. However, just because you suffer from allergies, you won’t necessarily be allergic to Maine Coons.
Sound confusing? By the end of this article, you will know what exactly causes cat allergies, how Maine Coon cats can trigger an allergic reaction, and how to minimize these allergies if you simply have to have a Maine Coon as a pet.
What Causes Cat Allergies?
Most people have already experienced an allergic reaction to something at some point in their life. When people have an allergic reaction, it is because their bodies identify a harmless substance known as an allergen as a dangerous intruder, and start producing an antibody called IgE. When talking about cat allergies, it is pet allergens that are responsible.
Once your immune system has come into contact with these allergens, it will produce the IgG antibodies which are made to help protect humans from any viruses. However, these IgE antibodies also cause many typical allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, a runny rose, and watering eyes. This is to help the body flush out the irritant, but it’s extremely unpleasant at the time and can make us feel unwell.
Whether you suffer from allergies or not depends on the sensitivity of your immune system. The more sensitive it is, the more IgE antibodies will be produced which will trigger an intense allergic reaction. In some cases, people’s immune response is so severe that they will go into anaphylaxis shock.
On the other hand, many people’s immune systems never produce enough IgE antibodies to trigger any allergy symptoms and will not be allergic to anything, or at least never have unmanageable symptoms.
What Are Pet Allergens?
So, pet allergens are what cause an allergic response to Maine Coon cats, but what actually are pet allergens?
Many people assume that their cat’s fur is what is acting as a pet allergen and that long-haired cats like Maine Coons shed more and are therefore more likely to cause allergies. However, cat fur is not an allergen and this is a common misconception.
It is actually a protein called Fel d1 found predominantly in cats’ dander, as well as their urine and saliva that is the cause for an allergic response in humans.
Dander is your cat’s dead skin cells which fall of regularly to be replaced with new cells. Because cats are such clean creatures, it is easy for them to spread their dander and the Fel 1d protein across their entire body through grooming, making it easy to come into contact with these allergens simply by stroking your pet. If you touch these allergens and then touch your face, they can easily enter your body through your nose, mouth, or eyes.
Petting your cat will also cause the allergens to loosen from your cat’s fur and become airborne. Airborne allergens are the most dangerous as they can easily be inhaled and enter your body, without you needing to touch them with your hands.
Airborne dander can also then settle on any surface around your home, waiting to be picked up. This means even if you aren’t near your cat, the dander in the air and on other surfaces can still cause an allergic response.
Alongside dander, saliva also contains this allergy-causing Fel d1 protein which can lead to an allergic reaction. As cats constantly lick their fur, their saliva will also be spread over their entire body which can transfer to you by petting your cat. Although saliva is a liquid, it can also become airborne once dry, further triggering symptoms of allergy.
The Fel d1 protein is also present in cat urine. Every time your cat uses its litter box, this allergen will be released in huge quantities. Thankfully, as a liquid, allergens from urine are much more easily contained than dander and saliva, especially if you have an enclosed cat litter box.
However, droplets of urine can become stuck to your cat’s fur, traces of which can transfer to you when you stroke your cat. Also, when it comes to cleaning your cat’s litter box, you will disturb the dried urine and allergens. For this reason, a super absorbent litter is best that will bind to and trap the urine, helping to limit the amount of Fel d1 that is around.
Are Maine Coon Cats Hypoallergenic?
Maine Coon cats are not hypoallergenic as they produce the allergen-containing dander, urine, and saliva. But, so do all cats! That’s right – there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat. Even hairless cat breeds such as a Sphynx will still shed dander and can trigger allergic reactions in people.
However, while Maine Coon cats are not hypoallergenic, they do not cause any more severe allergies than other cat breeds do. In fact, some studies have found that the Maine Coon’s long and thick fur can actually help to spread the allergens out across their fur, making them less concentrated. Therefore, they may be more hypoallergenic than other cat breeds.
Their long coats can also help to hold onto the allergens and prevent them from traveling around your home through the air and to a range of other surfaces. This can make allergy management much easier as you can groom and bathe your cat, knowing the majority of allergens will have been removed as they were mostly clinging onto your Maine Coon’s long coat.
This all being said, anyone with severe allergies will still likely experience symptoms. However, some owners have reported that their symptoms have eased over time as their bodies have got more used to the pet allergens, so it’s possible you could build a tolerance over the years.
What Are the Symptoms of Maine Coon Allergies?
If you have a Maine Coon, you may be wondering if you’re allergic to them. Allergy symptoms can vary, depending on how allergic you are to them. Usual symptoms include:
- Runny nose or nasal congestion
- Red, itchy, or watery eyes
- Coughing and wheezing
- Itchy nose, mouth, or throat
On top of these symptoms, you could also have additional symptoms if you suffer from asthma. You will feel this as a tightness or pain in your chest and shortness of breath. This can lead to difficulties breathing and may make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
Although less common, some people can also experience skin symptoms if they are allergic to a Maine Coon cat or any other pet. This is called allergic dermatitis and is caused by the allergen directly touching your skin. Signs of allergic dermatitis include eczema, itchy skin, or raised red patches which are known as hives.
As the most common symptoms are similar to the symptoms of a cold, it can be difficult to determine whether you are allergic to Maine Coon cats or whether you’re just under the weather. However, if your symptoms persist for over two weeks it is likely because of an allergy.
Another way to tell if you are allergic to your cat is to look at the timeframe. Have you recently introduced a new cat into your home? If so, it is highly suspicious and likely that you are suffering from an allergy.
If you think you have an allergy, you can always visit your doctor who will be able to perform an allergy test and determine (1) if you are suffering from an allergy and (2) whether it is your cat or something else in your home that is triggering this allergic response.
How Can I Reduce Maine Coon Cat Allergies?
Some owners won’t have discovered that they are allergic to Maine Coon cats until after they’ve got one as a pet. Or perhaps you know you’re allergic but are desperate to have one anyway. Either way, you’ll want to know what you can do to minimize your Maine Coon allergies.
Thankfully, there are a few strategies to try! You can try using one or more of the below suggestions to help reduce your Maine Coon cat allergies. Most of these strategies work by avoiding contact with pet allergens in the first place, but I will also talk about allergy relief through medication.
The more of these strategies you take on board and implement, the most successful they will be! None are major lifestyle changes but can make a huge difference.
1. Regularly Brush Your Cat
The first and most important thing you can do is to regularly brush your cat, daily if possible. If you have a Maine Coon, they will need to be brushed regularly anyway to help keep their fur in good condition, preventing it from matting.
By brushing your cat, you will help to remove any dander that has been spread around their body and is trapped in their long fur. Be sure to clean the brush after each use and wash your hands afterward before touching your face to limit the amount of allergen that will make it into your body.
2. Bathe Your Cat
Most cats would hate being bathed, but Maine Coons love water. For anyone with cat allergies, this is great news! Just as brushing can help to remove dander and the Fel d1 protein, bathing your cat will have the same effect.
This is arguably superior to brushing as the allergens will stay in the water, whereas brushing can cause more allergens to be released into the air. When you do wash your Maine Coon, be sure to use a shampoo specifically suited for cats so that it doesn’t cause them any irritation.
İf you don’t have time to give your cat a full-on bath in the tub, you can also purchase cat cleaning wipes. Simply wipe your cat with these and they will help to remove any allergens.
3. Wash Your Hands Regularly
Unless you want to stop stroking your cat altogether, which I’m guessing you don’t, you should try to get into the habit of washing your hands regularly. After stroking your cat, washing your hands will remove any Fel d1 protein from your hands.
Similarly, if your cat grooms you, be sure to wash their saliva off when they’ve finished – the sooner, the better! Although your cat is lovingly doing this, it may be the reason you are coughing and sneezing all the time.
4. Wear Gloves When Gardening
You should also protect your hands when gardening by wearing gloves. Even if your cat uses a litter tray, they may still urinate in your garden. Or any of the neighborhood cats could unknowingly be using your garden as their litter tray too.
As cat urine contains the Fel 1d protein, any dried bits of urine that you touch could trigger an allergic reaction, especially if you experience skin symptoms. Gloves will protect your hands and ensure you don’t pick up any allergens from outside and bring them into your home.
5. Clean Your Home Often
Aside from removing the allergens from your cat by brushing and bathing, and removing the allergens for you by regularly washing your hands, the allergens will also easily spread around your home. Therefore, you need to make sure you clean your house regularly to remove any Fel d1 protein that has settled on any surfaces.
Vacuuming will be enough to pick up any allergens that have settled on the floor, whereas all other surfaces should be wiped clean regularly. If you have a lot of carpeted floor or upholstered furniture, consider switching to wooden or tiled alternatives which are easier to clean than fabrics.
Cat trees for large cats also need cleaning as these will likely have a lot of allergens on their surface because your cat spends so much time here. Any throws or cushions should be washed frequently too, even if they aren’t where your Maine Coon likes to sleep.
Allergens travel in the air and can land on any surface, so you need to clean everywhere thoroughly!
6. Use Anti-Allergen Sprays
If you do have a lot of fabric surfaces in your home that you don’t want to replace, fear not!
You can also use anti-allergen sprays as a method of deep cleaning and destroying pet allergens on hard-to-clean surfaces. These sprays can be bought from your local pet store and can kill a range of allergens, including pet dander, pollen, and dust mites. They do this by oxidizing the compounds and destroying them.
To use, simply spray the product over the surfaces in your home, such as carpets, windows, curtains, and upholstery. Let the product dry for a few hours then vacuum up any remaining dried product. For maximum effect, you need to use these sprays at least once every 30 days on all the areas around your home that will have high levels of allergens.
7. Make Your Bedroom a Cat-Free Zone
Although it may be tempting to cuddle up with your Maine Coon at night or allow them to kip on your bed in the day, don’t do it! They will leave allergens all over your sheets which your face will then be pressed against for hours as your sleep.
This is a sure-fire way to get allergens into your body and trigger an allergic reaction. Also, it’s great to have a pet-free zone in your home so that if you do feel an allergy coming on, you can shut yourself in their room and breathe easy for a while until the symptoms pass.
As cat allergies can also cause trouble sleeping due to breathing difficulties, it is also extra important that your bed is free from all dander!
8. Purify The Air in Your Home
As allergens can become airborne and travel around the air in your home, you could also look to purify your air. HEPA air purifiers are great for this and use advanced filters to remove all dander and allergens from the air you breathe, making it allergen-free!
Another great thing to note with air purifiers is that they remove all airborne allergens, not only pet allergens and dander. This means if you are a regular allergy sufferer who gets irritated by anything else, from pollen to dust mites, the HEPA air purifier will also remove these from their air, helping to alleviate all allergic reactions.
What’s more, air purifiers don’t only remove allergens. They also remove cat hair, unwanted odors, and anything else unpleasant lingering in the air. Some advanced filters have additional temperature settings and fancy features to further improve your home living.
9. Cover Heating & Air Conditioning Vents
Allergens do become airborne and travel through the air. However, they won’t get very far. That is unless you have heating or air conditioning running continually through your home. The changes in air temperature can create an air current, helping to spread airborne pet allergens around your entire house!
You can try turning your heating or air conditioning off when it’s neither too hot nor too cold outside. However, this is not a permanent solution. What can help is if you cover all heating and air conditioning vents with a cheesecloth. This can help limit the spread of allergens while still allowing the air to flow.
10. Go Outside More
Have you noticed that your Maine Coon allergies get worse in the colder months? One explanation is that the cold weather weakens our immune systems, making us more prone to having more severe allergic reactions.
However, it is also because we spend more time outside in summer, and more time sitting in our homes in winter. In colder months, we are often sitting surrounded by pet allergens with no break in between! One simple way to help this is by making the effort to go outside more often, even if it’s cold outside.
11. Get Someone Else to Change the Litter Tray
As allergens are found in cat urine, changing your cat’s litter tray may also trigger an allergic reaction. This is especially true for Maine Coons who will have an extra large litter box and produce higher volumes of urine than other smaller breeds.
Therefore, where possible, it is best to get someone else who isn’t allergic to cats to scoop the litter tray daily and complete the weekly clean. You should also try to use a super absorbent cat litter so that the amount of free urine left on surfaces is reduced, helping to limit the onset of allergies.
12. Choose a Hypoallergenic Cat Litter
Although you may think you have a Maine Coon allergy, it could be that you’re actually allergic to their litter. There is a huge range of different cat litters out there, such as clumping clay litter, wood pellets, or silica crystals. Some are fragranced, some are dusty, and some have chemical irritants, all of which can trigger an allergic response.
A litter box for Maine Coon cats is a lot larger than a regular litter box, meaning there will more litter inside it. More litter means more dust and a stronger fragrance. Plus, the long fur of Maine Coon cats means it is more likely that litter particles will get stuck to their fur and trodden around your home.
If you are using a cat litter that has a strong fragrance or lots of dust, try swapping to a hypoallergenic litter such as pine litter, corn litter, or paper litter. It may take a little while for your cat to adjust to the new litter, but it could be hugely beneficial in the long run.
13. Wear a Face Mask
Although it is far from ideal to wear a face mask permanently in your home, you could consider it if you have bad allergic reactions but are desperate to have a Maine Coon as a pet.
Face masks will reduce the number of allergens that you breathe in, helping to prevent the Fel d1 protein from entering your system. Similarly, any dander of saliva that has been transferred onto your hands is less likely to make it into your body. As the mask covers your nose and mouth, it’s less likely you’ll touch an entry point for the allergens to enter your system.
If you don’t want to wear a face mask all the time, that is totally understandable. However, you could try wearing one whenever you clean your home as many allergens will become released into the air in the process. You could also try wearing a face mask when you’re emptying and cleaning your cat’s litter tray, when you’re brushing or bathing them, or even when you are petting your Maine Coon.
14. Take Medication
If everything fails when it comes to preventing allergies, there is medication available to treat them, including treating Maine Coon allergies. However, it’s not great to take medication every day, so only use this as a last resort if the other ways to reduce allergen exposure are not working.
The most common type of over-the-counter allergy treatment is antihistamines, which are tablets you take each day. You can also purchase decongestant sprays or corticosteroid nasal sprays.
For more serious allergies, you can undergo immunotherapy which will provide long-term allergy relief. You will need to talk to your doctor about this treatment, but if your allergies are severely impacting your daily life, it is definitely an option. However, it does require long-term commitment to be effective.
Are There Any Truly Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds?
In truth, there are no hypoallergenic cat breeds – it’s a myth! All cats produce saliva, dander, and urine which contain the Fel d1 protein responsible for triggering an allergic response. So, anyone can be allergic to any cat.
Many people wrongly assume that it is long-haired cat breeds like Maine Coons that will cause the most severe allergic reactions, but this isn’t true. Long-haired breeds are actually often better for allergy sufferers because their fur helps to spread the allergens out across the surface.
In fact, how much of an allergic reaction you have depends on three equally important factors, none of which are related to the breed of cat:
- How many allergens each individual cat produces, which varies even between cats of the same breed.
- How sensitive your immune system is, which is different for each individual.
- How many cats you have, as there will be more allergens circulating around your home if more than one cat is living there.
Whereas the breed of cat may have a slight influence on the severity of an allergic reaction, the factor that carries the most weight is down you and your individual reaction. This is why Maine Coon allergies exist in some people, whereas others can happily cuddle with a Maine Coon all day and not even sneeze once!
If you have severe allergies, any cat will likely cause a reaction, as no hypoallergenic cats exist.
What is the Best Cat Breed for People with Allergies?
While no truly hypoallergenic cats exist, there are some breeds that some studies have found shed their dander less frequently. These include Siberians, Russian Blues, Bengals, Burmese cats, and Sphynx. As you can see, this list includes hairless, short-haired, and long-haired breeds, further confirming that the length of your cat’s hair has little to do with it.
Interestingly, although each individual cat produces Fel d1 in different amounts, there also are a few other generalizations that studies have found:
- Female cats produce less of the protein which causes allergies than male cats.
- Light-colored cats produce less Fel 1d than dark-colored cats.
- Long-haired cats give off fewer allergens to their environment than short-haired or hairless cats.
Therefore, according to this, a long-haired, light-colored, female cat will be less allergenic than any other cat. That being said, these are just generalizations. Each and every cat is different, and a cat that ticks all these boxes may still produce more Fel d1 than a short-haired male black cat. So, they aren’t actually that helpful!
If you do suffer from bad allergies, the best way to find the right cat for you is to simply spend as much time with it as possible. Only this way will you know if this exact cat will cause an allergy or not. When choosing a cat to adopt, make sure you spend at least 30 minutes with them each visit to see if any symptoms develop afterward.
If so, don’t despair! Most cat allergies can be dealt with by using the strategies I have mentioned above, so if you’re a huge cat lover, it is still possible to have a furry friend without any allergies whatsoever!
If your allergies are really bad, you could show your love by volunteering at your local cat shelter instead, which will be much better for your allergies than living with a cat in your home.
Long story short, Maine Coon cats are not hypoallergenic. However, hypoallergenic cats don’t actually exist! In fact, the most important factor when considering whether you will be allergic to a cat is not down to the cat itself – it’s predominantly down to the sensitivity of your immune system.
Whereas some breeds may shed less and are better for people with severe allergies, most owners will be able to deal with Maine Coon allergies. Simply groom your cat regularly, wash your hands frequently, clean your home, and invest in an air purifier and you should be okay. If push comes to shove, medication is also available.
So, even if you do have mild cat allergies, you can still enjoy the magnificence of Maine Coon cats comfortably with no major lifestyle adjustments needed.