Some people can tell if a cat has recently been in a room. Their eyes become itchy and red. Then they are slowly consumed by a tingling, itching sensation all over their face. These people suffer from an allergy to cats, particularly the protein called felis domesticus allergen 1, also known as cat dander, which is produced in the skin and by the salivary glands. If you are thinking of getting a dog or cat, some animals and breeds within the species are better for allergy sufferers than others. While the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) doesn't promote keeping exotic animals, chief veterinary surgeon Jane Gray says: 'Reptiles and fish generally don't cause allergies, so they are an alternative to furry animals. Rabbits are not good for highly allergic people, and they can cause more allergies than cats or dogs. Guinea pigs and rodents are at the top of the allergy scale too.' For cats, Gray recommends big-eared Devon and Cornish Rexes as they have a short coat. 'If they have no body hair on their coat, there is less area to trap protein when they are licking their coat,' Gray says. 'They are less allergy producing, but I wouldn't say zero allergy producing.' Other breeds considered hypoallergenic are the Sphynx (also known as Canadian Hairless), the Siberian and the Russian Blue. If your male cat hasn't been neutered, Gray says desexing it tends to reduce the allergen protein on the male's body. But for female cats, spaying them does not seem to produce any significant difference. For an allergy-friendly Fido, Gray says dogs with short hair and a non-thick coat are best. Greyhounds and Italian Greyhounds have extremely short hair. 'And dogs that don't tend to shed hair, like the Irish Water Spaniel, Dandie Dinmont Terrier and Maltese, are lower in allergens.' Other low-dander breeds include Silky Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers, Shih Tzus and Bichon Frises. Poodles are one of the most common hypoallergenic dog breeds as they don't shed, have low dander and come in all different sizes, Gray says. If you aren't sure you are allergic to a certain animal, Gray suggests visiting a friend with the same pet or going to the SPCA's homing centre to interact with their animals. 'It's better to expose yourself to the allergen before you take on the responsibility [of owning a pet]. There's a whole gamut of reactions - some people have a few sneezes, but others can have a serious respiratory reaction.'