Are Male Cats the Real Allergy Culprits?


Cat allergies are very common, affecting around 10-15% of the population. When a person is allergic to cats, their immune system overreacts to proteins found in cat dander, saliva or urine. This causes allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and asthma flare-ups.

One common question cat owners and allergy sufferers have is whether male cats cause worse allergic reactions than females. This is because male cats tend to produce more allergens. Male cats have more testosterone, which leads to increased oil and protein production in their skin. Intact male cats also tend to roam more and get into fights, spreading more allergens into the home.

In this article, we’ll explore whether male cats truly are worse for allergies. We’ll look at the evidence around hormones, coat length, grooming/bathing, allergy management, and hypoallergenic breeds. The goal is to provide a complete guide to help allergy sufferers determine if they can tolerate a male cat companion.

Male vs Female Cats and Allergens

The main allergens in cats that cause reactions in humans are produced in their skin (dander), saliva, and urine (1). Cat dander consists of microscopic flakes of skin shed by a cat, which contain the Fel d 1 protein. This is considered the primary allergen, as it’s produced in cats’ sebaceous glands and found in their saliva, skin and fur (2). When a cat grooms itself, saliva containing Fel d 1 gets spread over the fur. As the saliva dries, it flakes off into dander. Cat dander can then become airborne and is easily inhaled. Saliva may also be directly transferred to humans when a cat licks exposed skin. Lastly, Fel d 1 is excreted in cats’ urine. Litter boxes and any surfaces where a cat urinates can allow allergens to accumulate in house dust.



Testosterone and Allergen Levels

Research has shown that testosterone plays a role in allergen production in cats. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that male cats produce significantly more Fel d 1 allergen than female cats (Jalil-Colome et al., 1996 The study measured allergen levels in the coats and saliva of male and female cats and discovered 3-5 times higher levels in male cats. The researchers concluded that testosterone likely stimulates higher production of Fel d 1 allergen.

This effect was also noted in a review published in Frontiers in Immunology, which stated that castrated male cats produce lower levels of Fel d 1 compared to intact males, likely due to decreased testosterone (Satyaraj, 2019 The evidence indicates that testosterone is one factor contributing to higher allergen production in male cats.

Coat Length and Allergen Levels

Contrary to popular belief, there is no significant difference in allergen levels between short-haired and long-haired cats. This is because people are not actually allergic to cat hair itself. Rather, the main allergen in cats that causes reactions in humans is a protein called Fel d 1, which is found in cats’ skin, saliva, and urine (

When cats groom themselves, the Fel d 1 on their skin and in their saliva gets transferred to their fur. But the length of the fur does not affect the amount of allergen present. Even a hairless cat will produce Fel d 1 that can trigger allergies when it licks its skin or sheds dead skin cells (

Some studies have shown slightly higher Fel d 1 levels in long-haired cats compared to shorthairs, possibly because their fur traps and holds allergens more. But the difference is quite small and not significant enough to guarantee someone allergic to cats won’t react to a shorthaired breed (

In summary, while a long coat may collect more allergens, the coat length itself does not change the actual allergen production in cats. People with cat allergies react to the protein Fel d 1, not the fur, so being short-haired does not make a cat hypoallergenic.

Neutering/Spaying Effects

Neutering or spaying cats can significantly reduce the levels of allergens they produce. According to research, spaying or neutering cats decreases allergen production. This is because the hormones testosterone and progesterone, which are reduced by neutering/spaying, play a role in allergen production.

In male cats, neutering reduces testosterone levels which decreases secretion from glands like the sebaceous glands. These glands produce Fel d1, the main allergen present in cats. In female cats, spaying eliminates cycles of progesterone which stimulates allergen production. Therefore, by neutering males and spaying females, overall allergen levels are reduced.

Studies show that a neutered male produces about 50% less allergen than an intact male cat. Spaying female cats can reduce allergen levels by up to 91%. So for those with cat allergies, neutering or spaying can significantly minimize allergy symptoms and reactions.

Grooming and Bathing

Regular grooming and bathing can help reduce allergens that build up in a cat’s fur. When cats groom themselves, they spread saliva and allergen-containing dander over their coat. Frequent brushing helps remove loose hair and dander before it has a chance to become airborne. Baths wash away dander, saliva, and other allergens on the skin and coat. For best results, use a cat shampoo formulated for allergies and bathe your cat once a week or every other week. Be sure to thoroughly yet gently scrub the coat to lift away allergens trapped near the skin. Rinse well with lukewarm water to prevent drying out the skin. Follow up with wiping your cat down with an allergen-reducing pet wipe between baths. Keeping your cat’s coat clean and dander-free through grooming and bathing can significantly cut down on allergen levels.

Allergy Management Tips

While male cats may produce more allergens than female cats, there are ways to manage allergies regardless of your cat’s sex. Here are some tips to help control allergy symptoms when living with a cat:

Wash your hands after petting cats. This helps remove allergens and prevent spreading them around your home. Use soap and wash for at least 20 seconds.

Vacuum frequently using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. This helps remove allergens from surfaces like floors, furniture and bedding. Vacuum at least 2-3 times per week.

Use HEPA air purifiers throughout your home. HEPA filters can remove over 99% of allergens from the air. Place air purifiers in rooms where you spend the most time.

Bathe your cat weekly. This reduces the amount of allergen your cat sheds. Use cat-safe shampoo and lukewarm water.

Try over-the-counter allergy medications. Antihistamines like loratadine can help manage allergy symptoms. Nasal sprays may also help reduce runny noses.

Get allergy shots. Allergy shots gradually make you less sensitive to allergens. They can significantly reduce allergy symptoms long-term.

Keep your cat out of the bedroom. This prevents allergens building up in the room where you sleep. Use high-efficiency filters in vents.

Use allergen-proof bedding. Cover mattresses and pillows in dust mite covers. Wash sheets weekly in hot water.

Consider air duct cleaning. Having HVAC systems professionally cleaned removes allergens. This may need to be done annually.

Adhere to strict hygiene. Designate an “allergy free” zone in your home. Keep this area off-limits to pets.

Getting Tested

There are a few allergy testing options available to help identify specific allergens that may be causing your cat’s allergy symptoms. Two common methods are:

  • Intradermal allergy testing (IDAT) – This is usually done by a veterinary dermatologist. Small amounts of suspected allergens are injected under the skin. Reactions at the injection sites indicate an allergy. This method can help identify environmental allergens like pollens or dust mites as well as food allergens.

  • RAST testing – Also called radioallergosorbent testing, this is a blood test that measures antibodies to specific allergens. Your vet takes a blood sample and sends it to a lab for analysis. The lab can check for IgE antibodies to many common environmental and food allergens. RAST testing is less invasive than intradermal testing.

Skin or patch testing is another option that can be done. Potential allergens are placed on the skin for 15-30 minutes to check for a reaction. This method is more limited in the number of allergens that can be tested at once compared to RAST or IDAT.

No matter the testing method, it’s important to discuss options with your vet to determine the right approach based on your cat’s symptoms and history. Testing can help identify specific allergens to avoid or options for allergy shots or medications (Source).

Seeking Hypoallergenic Breeds

While no cat breed is 100% hypoallergenic, some breeds produce fewer allergens than others and may be better tolerated by allergy sufferers. These breeds include:

Bengals – Bengals have a short, sleek coat that doesn’t shed much. The breed was developed by crossing wild Asian leopard cats with domestic cats, resulting in less production of Fel d 1 protein.

Siberians – Siberians have a triple coat that traps dander rather than releasing it into the air. They produce lower levels of allergens according to PetMD.

Sphynx – The mostly hairless Sphynx produces minimal dander. Lacking an undercoat, they release fewer allergens into the environment.

Russian Blues – The Russian Blue has a short, dense coat that doesn’t shed much. Their skin produces less sebum, resulting in less dander buildup.

Balinese – The long-haired Balinese shed minimally and produce less Fel d 1 protein according to studies, likely due to their Siamese ancestry.

Cornish Rex – The thin, wavy coat of the Cornish Rex requires little grooming and doesn’t shed much. Their reduced shedding may limit airborne allergens.

Devon Rex – Like the Cornish Rex, the Devon has a short, low-shedding coat that may release less dander and saliva allergens when properly cared for.

Oriental Shorthair – Developed from Siamese ancestry, Orientals have a fine, low-shedding coat that may produce fewer allergens.

Javanese – Similar to the Balinese, the Javanese have a long coat but tend to release less dander due to their Siamese roots.


In summary, while male cats do tend to produce more allergens than females due to hormonal differences, the effect is relatively minor. More important factors are coat length, with long-haired cats generally being worse for allergies, and neutering/spaying, which can significantly reduce allergen production in both sexes.

The best approach for those with cat allergies is to opt for a short-haired, neutered breed that is known to be hypoallergenic, such as a Siberian or Sphynx cat. Keeping the cat well-groomed and bathed can also help minimize allergens. Some people may still react, however, in which case allergy medication and keeping the home clean of allergen buildup are key for management.

While male cats can be slightly worse for allergies, they can still make wonderful pets for allergy sufferers when the right precautions are taken. Being aware of the factors that affect allergen levels, and taking steps to minimize them, allows most people to successfully live with cats despite having allergies.

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