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5 best air purifiers for cat allergies we have tested

If your cat is causing you allergy trouble, check out these high-performance purifiers to get rid of pesky triggers and create a healthier environment for you to breathe in.
By
Published on March 18, 2024
Written by
Paul Allen
Paul is a staff writer for HouseFresh, with a focus on product recommendations and advice for smokers and apartment dwellers. He started writing in November 2020, when he joined the content production team at NeoMam Studios (our parent company).

Cat allergies are caused by a protein found in cat dander called Fel d 1, which can cause allergic reactions when breathed in. Although our feline friends are adorable, cat allergies are the second most common in humans. Luckily, you can actually remove dander from the air before it’s inhaled.

60% of pet dander are tiny particles you can’t see, with 25% measuring less than 2.5 microns. To deal with cat dander particles that small, you need a HEPA-grade filter combined with a high-power fan to remove them before they cause allergic symptoms. 

We made sure not to include any devices that use ionizers as part of the cleaning process, as they produce ozone, which can harm cats’ sensitive respiratory systems. Luckily, we’ve tested over 62 of the most popular air purifier models, so we can confidently tell you what the best air purifiers for cat allergies are right now.

Staff picks: top 3 air purifiers for cat allergies

Don’t have time to read the nitty-gritty details of our list? Check out this summary of our recommended models.

👑 BEST OVERALL💰 FOR TIGHT BUDGETS🛋️ FOR LARGE SPACES
Alen BreatheSmart FlexShark HP102IQAir Healthpro Plus
AIR CLEANING SPEED ⚡34 minutes38 minutes25 minutes
CADR 👩‍🔬225 CFM92 CFM300 CFM
FILTER TECHNOLOGY 💨H13 HEPA with an option for activated charcoalNanoSeal™ Filter (True HEPA Multi-Filter with Microban® antimicrobial coating)HyperHEPA and V50-CELL gas and odor filter
MAX ROOM SIZE 📏700 sq. ft.500 sq. ft. (but it can only do 1.38 ACH so we recommend a minimum of 200 sq. ft.)1125 sq. ft.
WEIGHT ⚖️15 lbs (6.8 kg)5.85 lbs (2.7 kg)35 lbs (16 kg)
OUR REVIEW 🔍Alen BreatheSmart Flex reviewShark HP102 reviewIQAir Healthpro Plus review
PRICE 💵$269.00$120.00$899.00

Last update on 2024-04-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

For a more detailed account of our tailored recommendations, check out the full list below. 

1. Best overall: Alen BreatheSmart Flex

Alen’s budget-friendly option comes with an H13 HEPA filter and impressive CADR to boot.

The Alen BreatheSmart Flex has all the hallmarks of a high-quality air purifier. It uses a medical-grade H13 HEPA filter, which offers incredibly efficient filtration. It removes particles as small as 0.1 microns from the air in a single pass, which is much smaller than even the smallest cat dander particles.

The filter is coupled with a clean air delivery rate (CADR) of 225 CFM, an impressive score showing how the Flex utilizes powerful fans to circulate and clean vast amounts of air quickly. It’s also great to see that the Flex offers protection at lower fan speeds, too, with a CFM of 53 at speed 1, 135 at speed 2, and 147 at speed 3.

What we really like

Excellent quality filters with no ionizer, which could potentially harm your cat
Lightweight design for easy transport
Lifetime warranty (with an active filter subscription)
Simple control panel with locking feature to prevent accidental changes to settings

What we think could be better

Limited features, with no Auto mode or app compatibility
No activated carbon filter included, but if you’d like to combat cat odors, you can upgrade the filter to the Fresh, Odor or Smoke option

Although designed as a cheaper alternative to the Alen BreatheSmart 45i, the Flex goes toe-to-toe with its higher-tier model regarding air-cleaning performance. There was only a minute difference between the purifiers when they participated in our clear air speed test (45i: 33 minutes vs. Flex: 34 minutes).

You’ll also find that the Flex has an ultra-quiet operating volume and is cheap to run, which is vital when combating allergies. Use your purifier around the clock and reap the benefits both day and night for a better night’s sleep.

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★★☆
Time to clean our test room:34 minutes
Air purifier technology:H13 HEPA with an option for activated charcoal (Fresh, Odorcell and Heavy Smoke options available)
Recommended room size:700 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):225 CFM (Smoke:  191 / Pollen: 245 / Dust: 209) 
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):25H x 15W x 8.5D inches (63.5 x 38.1 x 21.59 cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):15 lbs (6.8 kg)
Noise level (measured from 3 ft. away):Speed 1: 35.7 dB
Speed 2: 45.5 dB
Speed 3: 50.7 dB
Filter life:Every 9-12 months
Electricity consumption (kilowatt-hour):Standby mode: 0.8 kWh
Speed 1: 2.9 kWh
Speed 2: 6.3 kWh
Speed 3: 14 kWh
Speed 4: 24.2 kWh
Estimated running costs (electricity consumption + filter replacements):$94.23 per year
Manufacturer’s warranty:Lifetime (with product registration & active filter subscription)
Country of manufacture:China

2. Best performance per $ spent: Levoit Vital 200S

For less than $200, the Levoit Vital 200S offers incredible value for money.

The Vital 200S has a CADR of 245 CFM, meaning that each unit of clean air power costs just $0.77. This is reason enough to buy the purifier, but when you consider you also get HEPA filters and a range of smart features to make trapping tiny cat dander particles even easier, you soon realize what a good deal the Vital 200S is.

What we really like

Lockable controls and low operating volumes
Auto mode and app support for greater control over changing particle levels 
Reasonably priced H13 HEPA filters that last for 12 months at a time
Removable pre-filter to rinse and clean more easily

What we think could be better

If you have a severe allergy, it may be best to look elsewhere until Levoit has its H13 HEPA filter independently tested
The air quality sensor on the Vital 200 needs to be cleaned every few months. This is something that could affect the performance of the auto-mode if you forget

When combating cat allergens, you’ll want a purifier that works overtime to remove cat dander before it settles. During our clean air speed test, the Vital 200S removed all traces of the smallest PM1.0 particles in just 21 minutes, which puts it on par with units that cost two to three times as much.

Although the BBB challenged their classification, this is one of the only Levoit air purifiers that still touts its filters as meeting HEPA standards. Levoit has yet to support this claim with a third-party lab report, which dampens credibility quite a bit.

However, with this unit, you’ll also get a pelleted carbon filter which also tackles pet odor. I love that you can remove the pre-filter for cleaning. That feature is really useful in homes with plenty of cat fur.

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our test room:21 minutes
Air purifier technology:H13 TrueHEPA and activated charcoal filter
Recommended room size:375 sq. ft. (5 ACH)
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):245 CFM
– Smoke: 242 CFM
– Dust: 263 CFM
– Pollen: 240 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):15.6D x 8.5W x 19.8H inches (39.3D x 21.5W x 50.2H cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):13.2 lbs (5.9 kg)
Noise level (measured from 3 ft. away):Speed 1: 38.3 dB
Speed 2: 41.9 dB 
Speed 3: 53.8 dB
Speed 4: 57.7 dB
Filter life:12 months
Electricity consumption (kilowatt-hour):Standby mode: 0.97 kWh
Speed 1: 5.71 kWh
Speed 2: 8.01 kWh
Speed 3: 31.96 kWh
Speed 4: 44.55 kWh
Estimated running costs (electricity consumption + filter replacements):$97.83 per year
Manufacturer’s warranty:2 years
Country of manufacture:China

3. Best wall mounted: Smart Air SA600

Ideal for homes with curious cats, the SA600 delivers clean air out of reach from prying paws.

The idea of mounting a purifier on a wall is genius for those with limited space. But it’s even better for those with children or pets who might feel tempted to mess with your unit. However, this feature isn’t the only cool thing the Smart Air has to offer. 

The SA600 also uses an innovative double-sided filter, which draws in air from both sides of the unit for maximum reach in the room. Once air is drawn in, it passes through two pre-filters, two H13 HEPA filters, and two activated carbon filters to combat anything your cat throws at it. 

What we really like

Dual-sided filters
Reasonably priced high-quality filters that last a long time
Runs quietly at each fan speed
No performance drop-off when used at lower speeds

What we think could be better

Not as cheap as competitors like Levoit or Winix
No fancy features, although you can lock the control panel and use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature to kill the LED lights

Even with this extra filtration, the Smart Air has maintained strong airflow and impressive CADR figures. Even if you use this purifier at its lowest fan speed, it delivers 130 CFM, roughly the same as a max-speed Levoit 300S or Blueair 411. This CFM allows you to keep sound levels at a minimum and enjoy greater energy efficiency.

I will point out that the SA600 doesn’t have any smart features such as an auto mode or app functionality. It keeps operating the unit simple, but some extra features would be nice to make the most out of the investment.

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh rating:★★★★☆
Time to clean our test room:33 minutes
Air purifier technology:H13 TrueHEPA and activated charcoal filter
Recommended room size:450 sq. ft. (4.8 ACH)
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):– Smoke: 265 CFM
– Dust: 287 CFM
– Pollen: 299 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / cm):20 x 13.8 x 9 inches (51 x 35 x 23 cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):15.5 lbs (7 kg)
Noise level (measured from 3 ft. away):
Filter life:24 months
Electricity consumption (kilowatt-hour):
Estimated running costs (electricity consumption + filter replacements):$92.83 per year
Manufacturer’s warranty:1 year
Country of manufacture:China

4. Best for small spaces: Shark HP102

Short on space? The small but mighty HP102 doesn’t compromise on performance.

If you live in a smaller house or apartment, allergies can take a toll, and it feels like there’s nowhere to escape the pesky airborne cat dander. The Shark HP102 is a solid solution for smaller rooms, with impressive air-cleaning speed and a small footprint that fits neatly on a table or shelf.

What we really like

NanoSeal filter independently tested to IEST-RP-CC007.3, 0.1-0.2 microns, meaning it removes even the smallest allergens
Auto mode adjusts to indoor pollution levels quickly
High build quality with an array of valuable features
Comes with a detailed manual and lots of advice online on how to get the most out of the unit

What we think could be better

Loud considering its size
CADR-to-$ ratio is higher than its Levoit counterpart
Misleading specs, as the claim that the unit is suitable for 500 sq ft spaces would mean that it only provide 1.38 air changes per hours.

The manufacturer advertises that this unit can operate efficiently in rooms as large as 500 sq. ft, but in reality, it’s much more suited for 200 sq. ft spaces. If you do use it in a 500 sq. ft room, it won’t be nearly as effective as the company claims. So do yourself a favor and put the HP102 in a roughly 200 sq. ft room.

During our clean air speed test, the HP102 cleared all pollutants within 38 minutes inside our 728 cubic ft. test lab. That would mean that it beats other small-room stalwarts like the Medify MA-25.

The Shark HP102 doesn’t stop at speedy performance. It’s just as smart as it is snazzy. You’ll find an air quality sensor with a real-time, highly accurate feedback display, auto and eco modes, and a child (or cat) lock to prevent accidental changes to the unit’s settings. 

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our test room:38 minutes
Air purifier technology:NanoSeal™ Filter (True HEPA Multi-Filter with Microban® antimicrobial coating)
Recommended room size:500 sq. ft. (but it can only do 1.38 ACH so we recommend a minimum of 200 sq. ft.)
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):92 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):8.66D x 8.66W x 14.56H inches (22D x 22W x 27H cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):5.85 lbs (2.7 kg)
Noise level (low – high):41.7 – 56.5 dB
Filter life:6-12 months
Warranty:2 year limited warranty
Estimated energy consumption:$25.23 per year
Country of manufacture:China

5. Best for large spaces or serious allergies: IQAir Healthpro Plus

One of the best air purifiers on the market, also used by medical professionals.

IQAir is a pioneer in the air quality industry, creating purifiers and filters used in various hospitals around the world. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that the Healthpro Plus is an excellent choice for those with severe allergies.

What we really like

Filters that can remove the smallest allergens and last for four years at a time
Manually tested units to ensure they meet IQAir’s standards
Surprisingly quiet for such a large unit
10-year warranty

What we think could be better

Large size and could benefit from a more aesthetic construction
No smart features or app support that other expensive units have
Each unit costs $899.99

What makes the Healthpro Plus an ideal choice for those with allergies is IQAir’s HyperHEPA filter. Simply put, it’s the best filter money can buy, removing 99.5% of particles as small as 0.003 microns. Cat dander won’t have a chance. Couple this with a V50-Cell filter with over 5 lbs of carbon inside, and you can say goodbye to any pet odor, too. 

Although you won’t find smart features on this model, it has an easy-to-use control panel so you can cycle through its six fan speeds, set a timer, and get reminders to change filters. You’ll definitely need those reminders, as you only need to change filters once every four years with this unit.

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our test room:PurpleAir Touch: 24 minutes
PurpleAir Zen: 28 minutes
Air purifier technology:HyperHEPA and V50-CELL gas and odor filter
Recommended room size:450 to 1,125 sq. ft. 
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):300 CFM (510 m³/h)
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):28H x 18W x 16D inches (71H x 38W x 41D cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):35 lbs (16 kg)
Noise level (measured from 3 ft. away):Speed 1: 36.9 dB
Speed 2: 40.9 dB
Speed 3: 47.2 dB
Speed 4: 53.9 dB
Speed 5: 61.2 dB
Speed 6: 69 dB
Filter life:4 years
Electricity consumption (kilowatt-hour):Standby mode: 1 kWh
Speed 1: 16.5 kWh
Speed 2: 32.7 kWh
Speed 3: 47.3 kWh
Speed 4: 69 kWh
Speed 5: 94.3 kWh
Speed 6: 145.2 kWh
Estimated running costs (electricity consumption + filter replacements):$437.34 per year
Manufacturer’s warranty:10 years
Country of manufacture:Switzerland / Germany

Other air purifiers that we tested but don’t recommend for cat allergies 

Not all air purifiers live up to the hype. Here are some units that promised a lot but delivered very little. Avoid them at all costs if you’re looking to tackle cat allergies.  

  • Units with built-in ionizer functions. Blueair, Winix, and Coway purifiers all have ionizers. Ionizers create small amounts of ozone, which is harmful to immunocompromised people and pets. Cats are especially sensitive creatures, so it’s best not to introduce any technology that might disturb them when mechanical filtration, like HEPA, works perfectly well without the need for ionizer technology.
  • PuroAir HEPA 14 240: The PuroAir uses a H14 HEPA filter, which sounds awesome, right? Even the manufacturer claims that this makes the purifier ten times better. But the unit has comparatively weak fans, so you’ll be left with limited protection. Considering the device costs $229, its performance simply doesn’t justify the price.

  • Molekule Air Mini+: One of the worst air purifiers we’ve ever tried. We were shocked at how slow it removed pollutants and even more surprised at how much noise it made. Molekule claimed that their PECO technology would change the industry. Considering they’re currently fighting multiple class action lawsuits for false advertising and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, their days are definitely numbered. 

What to look for when buying an air purifier for cat allergies 

Cats make great pets, but as many as one in five people are allergic to these four-legged fluff balls. 

Cat allergens can come from proteins in urine, sweat, or saliva, but the biggest offender is dander. These minuscule skin flakes range between 2.5 and 10 microns, meaning they stay suspended in the air for hours at a time, and settled particles can recirculate easily. 

This also means the particles are small enough to be inhaled and cause sneezing, wheezing, and a whole host of nasty reactions if you have allergies. 

People often don’t find out they have a cat allergy until they own one. That’s also, unfortunately, one of the biggest reasons cats get sent to adoption shelters.

However, you may not need to take such a drastic step. Investing in an air purifier can help remove troublesome allergen particles from the air before they affect your health. 

Purifiers draw in vast quantities of air and pass it through a series of filters to remove microscopic particles before redistributing clean air back into your home. For the purifier to make a difference, however, you’ll want to look for HEPA filters, which are guaranteed to remove particles as small as 0.3 microns.

Air purifiers are excellent tools to remove airborne allergens. With the right unit at your disposal, you can expect to remove all traces of particles that trigger reactions, such as cat dander and fur.

To find the right purifier, here are a few key attributes to look out for.

1. Does the purifier use medical-grade HEPA filters?

HEPA filters are the best option to help mitigate any health concerns. These mechanical filters consist of tightly woven fiberglass strands that capture particles as they pass through. The HEPA classification ranges from H10 to H14, indicating how effectively the filter removes tiny particles.

H13 HEPA is commonly used in medical facilities as it’s highly efficient at removing particles while maintaining optimal airflow. This filter is guaranteed to remove 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns, so cat dander, which ranges in size between 2.5 and 10 microns, will be no match for the H13’s effective filtration. 

Most manufacturers wear an H13 HEPA classification like a badge of honor. So, it won’t be too hard to find them.  

2. How well does the purifier perform at lower fan speeds?

Maintaining a high level of cleaning performance at lower fan speeds is a tell-tale sign of a top air purifier. 

Not only does this show the unit has a highly efficient fan to circulate air inside your space, but it also means you can reap the rewards of lower operating volumes, which your cat’s sensitive ears will undoubtedly appreciate. 

Finding this information can be tricky, as manufacturers typically share top-speed statistics. You can read our reviews for our firsthand tests. Alternatively, you can conduct your own research to find a unit’s CADR at various speed settings.

3. Does the device have a control lock feature?

Cats are inquisitive creatures. If your cat is anything like mine, it’ll explore every inch of the home. A shiny new appliance that makes noise and blows out air will definitely grab their attention, so to prevent your pet from wreaking havoc with the unit’s settings, look for a purifier with a control lock.

4. How energy efficient is the appliance?

Cats always release and spread allergen particles. Those with allergies will also suffer when in bed, resulting in a worse night’s sleep. To improve your sleep quality, look for a purifier that uses minimal energy so you can leave it on throughout the night without exploding your energy bill.

Associations like Energy Star highlight efficient air purifiers. However, the best way to understand how much energy a unit uses is to look for its maximum wattage.

Here at HouseFresh, we measure each purifier’s wattage and estimate costs using the Department of Energy’s appliance energy calculator. We include our findings in each unit’s spec table or cover them in more detail on the purifiers review page. 

5. Can the purifier circulate air effectively in your room?

One thing you have to confirm before purchasing an air purifier is if it’ll be effective in your room. If you have a large room and buy an underpowered unit, you probably won’t notice much of a difference in air quality.

Most manufacturers share the recommended room size for their product. However, they often exaggerate based on the unit’s capability to perform a single air change per hour. 

As a general rule, you want your purifier to perform a minimum of 4.8 air changes per hour, especially if you suffer from allergies. 

Make sure to measure your room and identify the minimum power requirements using our CADR calculator below. 

Why you can trust HouseFresh

The HouseFresh team has bought, tested, and reviewed every purifier you see on the website.

  1. In our home lab of 728 cubic feet, we light an incense stick to generate particle pollution and VOCs.
  2. We set up our trusted Purpleair Indoor Sensor with the latest Bosch gas sensor to track levels of PM1ug/m3, PM2.5ug/m3 and PM10ug/m3 and VOCs in the air.
    purpleair
  3. We switch the air purifier to its highest speed and measure how long it takes to get our room air quality down to PM1 level to 0.
  4. We use an energy meter to measure precisely how much electricity is used when running the unit at the lowest and highest fan speed settings.
  5. We track sound levels emitted by the air purifier at different fan speeds with the help of a commercial sound meter.
    sound meter

We’ve tested over 62 different air purifiers. This gives us a ton of first-hand data so we can help our readers find the right device for them. In this case, we focused on air purifiers that can remove airborne cat dander to alleviate your allergies. 

If you have any questions about our testing process or our selection of devices, don’t hesitate to contact me personally: paul@housefresh.com

Common questions about cat allergies 

An air purifier that uses solely mechanical filtration is essentially a fan and a pleated filter, which poses no danger to human or cat life. 

Things get tricky when you introduce other filtration types like ionizers or UV lights. These can release VOCs such as ozone into your environment which is harmful to breathe in. Avoid these technologies and look for air purifiers that use HEPA filters instead. 

Your cat will also reap the rewards of living in an environment with pollution-free air, so investing in an air purifier really is a win-win.

To tackle odors from the litter box, you’ll need an air purifier that uses an activated carbon filter. These filters lock gas pollutants like odor to the porous surface of the carbon substrate inside. 

For these filters to be effective, they’ll need a lot of carbon. Look for activated carbon in pellet form instead of sheets, as pellets have a larger surface area to capture more gas pollutants and general nastiness.

Each purifier on this list includes a carbon filter or the option to upgrade to one. Alternatively, you can check out the best air purifiers for litter box smells here.

There is a lot of information online about specific breeds of cats that don’t trigger allergies. This is all incorrect information. 

Some breeds do shed less fur, but the primary allergic trigger is dander (skin flakes). All cats shed this, so there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat.

Wrapping up

You can still enjoy life with your feline friend without suffering from allergies. Good-quality air purifiers can capture cat allergens with ease and remove any airborne respiratory triggers. You can breathe easier, have a healthier home environment, and live happily alongside your pet!

Make sure you opt for a unit with medical-grade filters to reduce the risk of allergens passing through and look for quiet, ionizer-free devices that your cat will also appreciate.

Last update on 2024-04-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About the author

Paul Allen

Paul is a staff writer for HouseFresh, with a focus on product recommendations and advice for smokers and apartment dwellers. He started writing in November 2020, when he joined the content production team at NeoMam Studios (our parent company).