SO I actually get this question a lot! Hope you don’t mind a bit of back story with your answer ❤
My husband was always REALLY allergic to cats. He would wheeze and typically have difficulty breathing while around one. We weren’t even going to adopt a cat when we got Heimdall, but the big dude really just won us over. So I researched. A lot. And basically this is what I found.
It depends ENTIRELY on the severity of your allergy. My husband’s, while uncomfortable, wasn’t the throat-closing, hive-raising reaction that I’d seen from others. He personally has success with his daily allergy medication, so he uses that to counteract anything our other endeavors don’t take care of. Your own personal reaction will be the best way to tell how to handle it.
We have 8 cats in our house currently. Yet my husband isn’t constantly in a state of anaphylaxis.
We have air purifiers in every room. They’re outfitted with special filters that specifically handle pet dander. We clean them frequently and replace the filters as per the suggestion on the box. We also vacuum. A lot. We dust our shelves. A lot. We allow the cats to sleep in the bed with us, but another helpful step would be to train the cats to not sleep on your bed.
A typical cat allergy is related to the proteins cats produce on their skin and in their saliva, not the actual fur. There are things you can do to help keep these protein levels down. Brush them frequently, use dander wipes on them. Some people recommend bathing them, BUT, bathing them can cause them to groom more if they’re unhappy with how they smell afterwards (yes it might be nice that they smell like Lilac Meadow Dream, but Whiskers really just wants to smell like Whiskers). When a cat grooms themself, it produces more of that protein you’re allergic to. Hence more of the thing that causes allergies.
Some people have a bad reaction to the litter box. This is typically more related to breathing issues related to asthma, but not totally unheard of. Getting a silica litter is EXTREMELY helpful in aiding this.
We’ve found, over the years, that simply doing these things, and getting one cat at a time, my husband’s allergies are MUCH better than they were years ago. He still reacts if we’re in a home that doesn’t clean as often as we do, but it’s more tolerable than it has been in the past. This is obviously not going to be the case for everyone, but it is, as I understand it, the nature of some allergies (oddly enough I worked as an administrative assistant in an Allergist’s office for a short time so I learned a lot about this there).
Typically short hair cats with less thick coats will produce less of the protein that causes allergies. You can find a list of “hypoallergenic” cats anywhere on the internet, but they’re typically either hairless, or have very short, thin coats, although there are a few who have longer, thicker coats but produce less of one protein found in the skin.
And despite what some people believe, no, shaving a cat will not help. Honestly shaving should only be done if absolutely medically necessary.
While I ALWAYS encourage people to adopt from a shelter, these hypoallergenic breeds are INCREDIBLY sought after. And unless it’s a very special circumstance, they typically aren’t surrendered. In the rare cases that they ARE, they’re snatched up almost immediately. So if you’re DEAD SET on adopting, you might be waiting for a while. If you decide to go for a breeder, I just recommend doing your research. The cats can be very expensive, but it’s important to recognize a good breeder from a backyard breeder. I know this may get some negative attention. All of my cats come from a shelter. But no shelter worker I’ve EVER known has EVER seen a pure bred Devon Rex walk through the doors (again, not saying its impossible, but an owner is less likely to surrender a cat they paid $2k+ for than a shelter cat they got on sale during kitten season for $20).
Essentially, see what you can handle. If your allergies are SEVERE, you may have to see if you can handle the hypoallergenic cats. If your allergies aren’t terrible, just uncomfortable, you can work with a short-haired cat that you adopt, just be sure you clean, and groom the cat with brushing and wipe regularly!
If you are SUPER ULTRA MEGA set on adopting every single long-haired cat on the planet, then your best route might actually be to meet with an allergist and see if the series of shots they provide can help you. It’s ENTIRELY up to you with how much you can afford to do, how badly you want a cat, and how you personally react to the allergy.