The Truth About Orange Cat Allergies


Allergies to cats are a common problem for many people. Cats produce allergens such as the Fel d 1 protein that is found in cat saliva, skin and fur. This protein triggers allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. There has been a myth that orange cats or cats with darker colored fur are more allergenic than other cats. However, recent research has shown that this is not true, and coat color does not determine how allergenic a cat will be. While coat color itself does not influence allergens, other factors like length of fur, grooming habits, gender and neutering can affect allergen levels. Understanding the real factors that impact allergens can help those looking to adopt a cat that will provoke less severe allergic reactions.

Background on Cat Allergies

Cat allergies are caused by an allergic reaction to Fel d 1, a protein found in cat saliva, skin, and fur. When cats groom themselves, the Fel d 1 protein in their saliva gets transferred onto their fur. As the fur sheds, the allergen-containing flakes and particles enter the surrounding environment. When someone allergic to cats inhales or comes into contact with Fel d 1, it can trigger an immune system response resulting in allergy symptoms.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, cat allergies affect around twice as many people as dog allergies. They estimate that around 10% of the general population is allergic to cats. The allergy is especially common in people who also suffer from asthma. For cat-allergic individuals, symptoms often arise quickly when exposed to cats and their allergens. Cat allergy symptoms primarily affect the respiratory system, causing coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. They can also result in itchy, watery eyes and nasal congestion. In severe cases, exposure can trigger asthma attacks.

While all cats produce Fel d 1, the allergen levels can vary based on factors like gender and whether a cat has been neutered/spayed. In general, male cats shed more allergens than females, while neutered males produce less Fel d 1 than intact males. The allergen is found throughout a cat’s fur, but concentrations are highest in their sebaceous glands. Cats produce more sebum when unneutered, leading to higher allergen levels.


The Link Between Coat Color and Allergens

There is a common misconception that orange cats or tabby cats produce more allergens than other coat colors. This theory originated because cats with the orange coat color gene are more likely to be male, and male cats tend to produce more allergens than females. However, recent research has shown that coat color itself does not directly affect allergen production.

The major cat allergen is called Fel d 1, which is primarily found in cats’ saliva, skin and fur. All cats produce this allergen, regardless of breed or color. A 2019 study analyzed Fel d 1 levels in different cat coat colors and did not find any significant differences ( Other controlled studies have confirmed coat color does not correlate with allergen levels (

While coat color itself does not influence allergens, other factors like sex, neuter status, and age may affect Fel d 1 production. But orange cats or tabbies are no more allergenic than other coat colors when controlling for these other variables.

Scientific Research

Several scientific studies have investigated the link between cat coat color and allergen levels. In one study published in Veterinary Dermatology in 2019, researchers measured levels of the Fel d 1 allergen in the saliva of cats with different coat colors over time. They found that black cats produced significantly higher levels of Fel d 1 compared to cats with dilute colors like grey, lilac, and cream (Bastien et al., 2019).

Another study in Clinical and Experimental Allergy in 2000 evaluated allergen levels in hair, saliva, and urine samples from 300 cats of different colors. The results showed that dark cats had higher allergen levels in their saliva and urine compared to light or dilution colored cats. However, there was no significant difference in hair allergens between dark and light colored cats (Ablondi et al., 2000).

Overall, these studies provide some evidence that darker colored cats may produce more allergens than lighter colored cats. However, more research is still needed to fully understand this relationship.

Other Factors That Influence Allergen Levels

While coat color is one factor that can influence allergen levels in cats, there are some other elements that also have an impact:


According to research, male cats tend to produce more allergens than females. This is likely due to hormonal differences between the sexes [1].


Some cat breeds, such as the Sphinx and Devon Rex, produce fewer allergens than other breeds. This is due to genetic factors that result in less dander production [2].


Frequent grooming and bathing can reduce the amount of dander and allergens on a cat’s fur. Cats that groom themselves more often tend to spread around less dander in the environment [3].

Managing Allergies to Cats

For people with cat allergies, taking steps to reduce allergen exposure can help minimize symptoms. Some tips for managing cat allergies include:

Keep cats out of bedrooms – Since you spend a lot of time in the bedroom sleeping, it’s important to keep it as allergen-free as possible. Keep cats and their bedding out of the bedroom and shut the door (Source).

Bathe cats weekly – Bathing cats weekly with a pet-safe shampoo can reduce the level of allergens on their fur by around 84%. Be sure to use lukewarm water and dry thoroughly afterwards (Source).

Take allergy medications – Oral antihistamines like Zyrtec, nasal sprays like Flonase, and allergy eye drops can help reduce allergy symptoms from cats. Talk to your doctor about prescription medications if over-the-counter options aren’t enough.

Getting Tested

There are a few different allergy testing methods available to determine if someone is allergic to cats. The most common is skin prick testing, where small amounts of suspected allergens are pricked or scratched into the skin to see if they cause a reaction (VCA Hospitals). Blood tests like RAST (radioallergosorbent tests) can also detect IgE antibodies to specific allergens (LabCorp). These blood tests may be preferred for people who cannot stop taking antihistamines prior to skin testing.

Allergy testing can help identify which proteins or dander from cats triggers an allergic response. This can help determine the best way to manage allergies, such as avoiding exposure, taking medications, or considering immunotherapy. Testing early is recommended, as allergies can develop over time with continued exposure. Consulting an allergist will provide the most accurate testing and diagnosis of cat allergies.

Adopting a Low-Allergen Cat

When looking to adopt a cat that may trigger fewer allergy symptoms, there are some tips to keep in mind:

Prioritize cats with less dander-producing coats like the Oriental Shorthair, Balinese, or Cornish Rex. Their shorter, sparser coats tend to release less allergen into the environment (

Consider adopting an adult cat instead of a kitten. Kittens tend to produce more allergens as they shed their baby coats. An adult cat’s coat will be more settled (

Ask the shelter if they have any cats that have been tested to produce lower amounts of the Fel-D1 allergen protein. Some shelters may test cats prior to adoption.

Spend time with potential cats to see if your allergies are triggered. Have someone else handle and play with the cat first, then see how you react when interacting directly.

Adopt a female cat over a male if possible. Male cats tend to produce more allergens (

Consider adopting two cats from the same litter. Early studies show cats that grow up together produce lower allergen levels.


In summary, research studies have not found a clear link between a cat’s coat color and allergen production levels. Some early studies suggested orange cats may produce more allergens, but more recent and robust analyses have found conflicting results. The science is still evolving in this area. Other factors besides coat color seem to have a bigger influence on allergen levels, like sex, neutering status, and seasonal shedding variations. While a cat’s color does not directly cause more allergies, individuals with sensitivities should still take precautions when adopting any new feline. Meeting the pet first, getting allergy tested, and maintaining a clean environment can help manage symptoms. With care and preparation, those with allergies can still enjoy the companionship of a cat, regardless of its coat color.


American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, “Pet Allergy.”

Birhane, M.G. et al., “Investigation of the association between coat color phenotype and severity of allergy to cats.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2020.

Mayo Clinic, “Pet allergy.”

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