Yes, Bengal cats are hypoallergenic, in that they are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. But hypoallergenic does not mean allergy-free. Relative to other breeds, they cause less of an allergic reaction.
In this article, we will discuss what exactly makes the Bengal hypoallergenic, what to do if you want a Bengal but are allergic to cats, and other hypoallergenic cat breeds.
What causes cat allergies?
Cat allergies are caused by a protein found in cat skin cells, saliva, and urine called Fel d 1. The protein gets into the air through the cat’s dander.
When cats groom themselves, their fur sheds, carrying the protein with it. The protein is so lightweight that it stays airborne longer, which makes it more likely to enter a person’s lungs. It is sticky and stays on the surfaces around your house.
What makes Bengal cats hypoallergenic?
Bengals are hypoallergenic because they are single coated and shed considerably less than most cats. Therefore, the Fel d 1 protein has fewer opportunities to get onto the fur and enter the air.
Some Bengals have retained a pelted coat-quality that feels similar to rabbit fur. Their pelted coat is low-maintenance, helps the Bengal maintain cleanliness, and lessens its grooming time. Less grooming means less saliva on their coat, hence less dander with the protein allergen in the air.
What do I do if I want a Bengal but have cat allergies?
Before you commit to bringing a Bengal home, try exposing yourself to one. Visit a friend who owns a Bengal and note how you react. Visit them a few times and interact with both the adults and kittens.
If you have family members who also have cat allergies, take them with you.
This is important because you risk having to rehome the cat if you or a family member are allergic to Bengals.
Tips for Bengal lovers who are allergic to cats
All cats produce saliva, dander, and urine, so those are factors you need to learn to live with. Work to reduce the spread of the allergenic protein in your surroundings.
If, despite your allergies, you are still committed to getting a Bengal and making it work, there are some steps you can take to coexist.
1. Feed Bengals a breed appropriate diet
Bengals, like all cats, are obligate carnivores. This means that they prefer to consume fresh, raw meat. By feeding Bengals food that they need and keeping them well hydrated, the quality of their skin improves. Healthy Bengals have less dry, flaky skin and less dander, therefore fewer allergens for you.
2. Cleaning is key
Wipe down the exposed surfaces in your home every day. Concentrate on areas your cat loves to climb on, like furniture and countertops. Use a dust mitt or mop that has microfibers, which do well at picking up loose fur. Wiping surfaces with microfiber cloths means you are not using chemicals to clean, chemicals that are often allergens themselves.
Avoid having a carpet in your house. Dander settles into the material, making the allergens harder to remove.
3. Purchase a HEPA air filter
A high efficiency particulate air filter, or HEPA filter, is a mechanical air filter that works by forcing air in the room through a fine mesh that traps particles like pollen, dander, dust mites, and tobacco smoke. Because the Fel d 1 protein is so lightweight, it stays in the air for a long time. Investing in a good quality HEPA filter will lower the allergens in the air significantly.
4. Limit exposure to your Bengal
Wash your hands after touching your cat. Do not kiss or snuggle him. Keep him out of your bedroom to make sure you have a room in your house that is allergen-free. Ask another family member to clean the litter box. As long as you follow these tips, you can still bond with your cat.
5. Brush your Bengal
Bathing a Bengal can dry out their skin and may not be a pleasant experience for them. Dry skin means more dander, worsening the situation. Bathing also only reduces allergens for the next 24 hours, so it is not the best option.
Rather than bathing your cat, brush him regularly to remove any loose fur. Wipe him down with a damp microfiber cloth as a stress-free alternative to baths.
6. Keep the litter box clean
Have a non-allergic family member scoop out the litter box twice a day to limit urine-to-air exposure.
7. Medicate yourself
If none of the tips mentioned above worked, take allergy medication. There are different forms of allergy medication such as oral tablets, decongestants, and shots. Choose the one you feel the most comfortable taking.
What are other hypoallergenic cats?
Here are other cat breeds that cause minimal allergies:
- Sphynx – This breed has a unique hairless look. The allergenic proteins in their saliva cannot get trapped in fur, because they do not have any.
- Cornish Rex – This breed only has one coat of down hair. Less hair means less shedding, so they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
- Oriental shorthair – This breed has a short, fine coat and sheds very little.
- Russian Blue – This breed produces less of the Fel d 1 protein.
- Balinese – This breed also produces less of the Fel d 1 protein.
Bengal cats are hypoallergenic because they cause less of an allergic reaction than most other cats. If you are determined to get a Bengal despite being allergic to cats, there are steps you can take to coexist with them. Feed your Bengal a breed appropriate diet to keep their skin healthy. Keep your house free of loose fur and dander by wiping down surfaces and using a HEPA filter. Ask a family member to do litter box duty. You can also take allergy medication.
Image: istockphoto.com / fantom_rd