“Hypoallergenic” is defined as: relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. With this definition in mind, Bengal cats can be classified as hypoallergenic. But, if you have cat allergies, don’t assume that you will have NO allergic reaction to a Bengal. Relative to other cats, Bengals may cause less of an allergic reaction.
The cause of cat allergies
You’re not actually allergic to cat hair.
Cat allergies are caused by a tiny, lightweight protein called Fel d 1. This protein is found in a cat’s saliva, urine, and dander.
While cat fur doesn’t cause allergies in and of itself, it is a key way that saliva and dander are shed throughout the environment. When cats groom themselves, their fur sheds, and it carries the allergy-causing protein with it.
EVERY cat produces this protein, but some people have found that they seem to have less of an allergic reaction to certain cat breeds, including Bengals.
What makes Bengal cats hypoallergenic?
When most people pet a Bengal for the first time, they immediately feel that there’s something different about their coats.
Bengals’ fur is short and pelt-like—kind of like a rabbit’s! Although Bengals still naturally shed, it’s usually less than other cats. This means fewer allergens are spread around the house.
Bengals also tend to groom themselves less than other cats. All cats groom themselves for various reasons: they want to be covered in their own scent, they want to be clean, and they’re extremely sensitive to every hair being in its place. But since the coat of a Bengal is so sleek and low-maintenance, they don’t need to spend as much time grooming as other cats do. Less grooming equals less allergy-causing fur in your house.
While some online resources state Bengals produce less Fel d 1 than other breeds of cats, we haven’t found any legitimate studies that conclude this, and don’t recommend making this assumption.
However, it is known that male cats in general produce more Fel d 1 than females, and unfixed males more than fixed males. So gender is worth considering if you have allergies and are adopting a cat.
What to do if you have cat allergies & want a Bengal
If you or a family member has cat allergies, it’s extremely important to know how you’re going to react to a Bengal before you commit to bringing one home. Being re-homed is a rough experience for Bengals, and should be avoided if at all possible.
So, do what you can to expose yourself to Bengals before committing to adopting one. Visit a friend who owns a Bengal, and see how you react. Or, find a Bengal breeder to work with. Visit them a few times and spend time with the kittens and adults. Monitor your reaction level to the Bengals at that specific cattery before placing a deposit on a kitten.
Tips for the cat-allergic Bengal lover
If you’re absolutely set on getting a Bengal and you’re committed to making it work despite having to deal with allergies, there are things you can do to coexist.
All cats produce saliva, urine, and dander, so you simply can’t “fix” those. But by working to reduce the spread of the protein allergen in your environment, you should be able to reduce the level of your allergic reaction.
Here are a few tips on how to do this:
1. Feed a species appropriate diet
Think about what a healthy diet and good hydration does for your own skin—a lot!
The same goes for cats. By feeding your Bengal a quality, species appropriate diet, you can improve the quality of its skin. This means less dry flaky skin, less dander, and less allergies for you.
Diet can make a huge difference with allergies, so this should be one of the first things you address.
2. Clean, clean, clean
Be vigilant about wiping down the surfaces in your home on a daily basis. We recommend all Norwex products for this, especially the dust mitt and mop because cat fur clings to the microfibers extremely well. Additionally, you’re not unnecessarily using chemicals (which are often allergens themselves).
If possible, avoid having carpet in your house. Allergens settle into the soft and porous material. Hard surfaces are much easier to keep clean.
3. Use a HEPA air filtration system
The Fel 1 d protein is so lightweight, it can stay airborne for a long time. Consider investing in an air purification system.
4. Limit your exposure to your Bengal
Don’t kiss him. Wash your hands after petting. Keep him out of your bedroom, so you can avoid allergens while you sleep. Have another family member clean the litter box. Just make sure to tell your kitty “it’s not you, it’s me!” 😉
5. Brush your Bengal
Giving a Bengal a bath can be traumatic for them, and actually dries out their skin, causing more dander and worsening the situation. And bathing only reduces allergens for about 24 hours, so it’s not the best option.
There are two things you can do instead. 1) Brush regularly to remove loose fur, and 2) Wipe your Bengal down with a soft, damp microfiber cloth (this should help remove loose dander and fur and keep it from entering the environment—an easy, stress-free alternative to a full bath).
The most effective brush is the Furminator.
6. Keep the litter box clean
Have a non-allergic family member scoop the litter box at least twice per day to limit the urine-to-air exposure. You may even consider keeping a small air purifier running next to the litter box at all times.
7. Medicate yourself
If all else fails, allergy medicine for yourself is an option as well. There are allergy shots, antihistamines, and decongestants that you can try according to your personal comfort level with them.
No cat is allergen-free, but Bengals may cause less of an allergic reaction than other cats—you’ll just have to find out for yourself! Please find out before committing to owning one. 🙂
If you are committed to adopting a Bengal, there are a lot of things you can do to reduce your own allergic reaction to a manageable level!