Are Bengals Hypoallergenic?...
According to Wikipedia: “Hypoallergenic, meaning “below normal” or “slightly” allergenic, was a term first used in a cosmetics campaign in 1953. It is used to describe items (especially cosmetics and textiles) that cause or are claimed to cause fewer allergic reactions. Hypoallergenic pets still produce allergens, but because of their coat type, absence of fur, or absence of a gene that produces a certain protein, they typically produce fewer allergens than others of the same species. People with severe allergies and asthma may still be affected by a hypoallergenic pet.”
So are Bengals hypoallergenic? This is a question that I get often. There are some breeders that claim that the breed is hypoallergenic. In terms of what the actual definition of hypoallergenic is I could agree that Bengals are hypoallergenic. However, I believe that most people seeking the answer to this question interpret the definition as meaning that they will not have any allergic reaction to Bengal cats. This is not always the case, as some people are still highly affected by the Bengal.
What is it that people are allergic to?
There are a number of contributing factors towards cat allergies. There is the fur/hair, skin cells, saliva and urine, all of which contain a specific protein, Fel d 1. It is this protein that some people are allergic. Research says that all cats have this protein so any being completely hypoallergenic is not possible.
Varying Degrees of ‘Allergic’:
In regard to a typical domestic cat we know that there are varying degrees with which people are allergic. Some people may have a minor watery eye or sniffle after rubbing their face all over a cat while the next person will puff up like a puffer fish minutes after walking into a home where a cat resides.
The same goes for the Bengals, some people have very minor or no reaction to the Bengals, while others experience the same reaction that they do to a typical domestic. My husband is a good example of this. He is very allergic to cats and upon occasion will have sneezing fits. On the flip side, I have had people with cat allergies visit and intentionally rub a Bengal kitten all over their face in order to solicit a reaction and have not had one. Unfortunately, these scenarios make it very difficult for me to guide prospective buyers on the hypoallergenic qualities of the Bengal. There are more factors to consider, such as if your home has alot of carpeting, which will hold dander. So just because you do not have a reaction here while visiting, does not mean that once you take a kitten home, after time, that you will not have a reaction. This is not something we can guarantee and we don't like to jeopardize the possibility of a kitten being rejected and returned. It is not fair to the kitten.
Make a Breeder Visit Before Making an Investment:
Years ago, there were very few Bengal breeders in existence, making it difficult for prospective owners to make a visit to interact with kittens in person. However, there are now many breeders in each state so the possibility of making a day trip to visit a breeder and see if there is an allergic reaction, is the responsible thing to do. HOWEVER, please consider that a breeder is likely to have many more Bengals in their home than the average pet client, therefore the 'Test Visit' is unlikely to succeed.
We tend to schedule these visits in the warmer months so that we can be out in the Catio (this represents the closest we can come to having one Bengal in a home, like a pet client would) and we schedule the visits along with our other waitlist client visits since this is our home and we try to have some resemblance of a normal life. We like vacations too and visiting with family. The other concern we have is a family visiting several cattery in one day which can lead to them unknowingly dragging an illness from another cattery and jeopardizing the health of our clan so we would ask that a visit with us in the warmer months, be the only one for the day.
How to Lessen Daily Allergy Reactions:
There are plenty of people coexisting with pets that have allergies. Some things that have proven beneficial include pet hygiene and good housekeeping practices.
Much of the allergy reaction is caused from the saliva that has dried on the cat’s coat from self-grooming.
Feeding an all RAW diet can alleviate some of these allergens.
Having a good quality HEPA air filtration system can also be a help. Wet wiping the cat daily to remove the dried saliva greatly reduces allergic reactions, as does brushing the cat to remove shedding hair that would otherwise be deposited around the home.
Vacuuming furniture is the other game changer.
We regularly vacuum our carpets and sweep, but we vacuum our furniture much less often. Cats are known to camp out on the furniture so there is no question that there will be a build up of dander left behind.
One step further for those with more bothersome allergies is to keep bedroom doors closed to ensure the cat is not spreading dander onto bedding and pillows that will come into contact with the face. The issue with this is your isolating your cat when they want to be with you. Is that really fair?
Please consider the welfare of the kitten or cat over your desire just to have one. There are far too many rescues in shelters that don't deserve to be there all because of the humans who commit to taking care of them, and then don't.