ARE BENGAL CATS HYPOALLERGENIC?
For me, the answer is yes!!! (but it's not a scientific fact) That's exactly why I first became interested in Bengal cats and then started breeding them. I have had cats all my life, but have always been highly allergic. I could never let my cats get in my face, sleep in my bed, or pet them and then rub my eyes. I would often have serious sneezing fits and have to take antihistamines constantly.
Then I went to my sisters house and stayed over for the weekend. She had just bought two Bengals. They were the most beautiful cats I had ever seen! I realized after being there for awhile and petting them that I hadn't started to sneeze and my eyes were not watering. Finding that odd I decided to snuggle my face up to one of the cats to see if I would have a reaction. Nothing happened! I was so amazed that I actually wasn't having a serious allergy attack.
I continued to play with both the cats and one slept right next to me on the sofa and the other one right at my feet. I was so excited about not having the allergic reaction to them I decided I had to have one.....or two.....or eight! LOL
Not to mention these cats were the most social and amazing cats I'd ever seen! We got out a balloon and we would toss it in the air and watch the boy cat go flying through the air to get it. He jumped higher than I thought was possible for him. Then he brought me a ball of paper and I threw it and to my surprise he brought it back! Over, and over, and over! Just like a dog! Coolest cat I'd ever seen!
Also, I would like to mention that both my daughters were allergic to cats. I had to find a home for my Himalayan Coco when they were about six months old because I realized she was causing them to have allergy problems and I'm just not willing to have my kids take antihistamines everyday.
Why most people with allergies can tolerate Bengal cats...
Hypo is the Latin word for low, deficient or insufficient.
When hypo is combined with allergenic it forms an adjective, which is defined as having a decreased tendency to provoke an allergic reaction.
There does seem to be a consensus among Bengal cat breeders that Bengals produce either no reaction, or a reduced reaction in people who are known to suffer from cat dander allergies. So why is that? I have my theory, but first let’s find out exactly what causes some folks to have an allergic reaction to a cat.
The simple answer is dander.
Cat dander consists of microscopic pieces of dry cat skin and dried saliva. Cat dander particles are tiny, about one-tenth the size of dust mites. These dander particles easily become airborne and will quickly be present throughout a home where a cat resides. The problem isn’t really the dry skin particles themselves, but a glycoprotein in and on the dander, called Fel D1. Fel D1 is found in a cat’s sebaceous glands under the skin and in a cat’s saliva. This protein is the culprit for susceptible people who are exposed to it. They come into contact with a cat or an environment housing cats and their immune system is launched, which then releases an inflammatory chemical known as histamine. Typical reactions include sneezing, runny nose, congestion, itchy eyes, rash or hives and for those severely affected, asthma attacks.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence from breeders and pet owners alike, suggesting that Bengal cats are more easily tolerated by those afflicted with allergies. To my knowledge there has never been a scientific study done to determine if Bengals produce less Fel D1 than other breeds of cats, but that is certainly in the realm of possibilities. Myself, being someone who is mildly allergic to cats, but has no reaction to Bengals, I have my own theory as to why this is.
The Bengal cat is blessed with a very short pelt-like coat that requires little or no maintenance from the cats owner. The Bengal cat can maintain it's coat with much less grooming than many other breeds of cat, and it has been my observation that grooming is less frequent, and the sessions are shorter in duration. This leaves less saliva to dry on the hair to ultimately become dander. In addition, in a normal household situation, healthy Bengal cats shed considerably less than other breeds. This lack of shedding, keeps dander that is still attached to the hair shaft from spreading as easily throughout the home.
Several years ago I received a call from a woman who had heard that Bengal cats were hypoallergenic. She wanted to get a cat as a family pet, but her eight year old son was very reactive to cats and would break out in hives within five minutes of coming in contact with one. I cautioned this woman that Bengal cats are not allergen free and that her son may very well still break out. She insisted on coming over, with her son, to test it out. We herded the majority of the Bengals into another room and had the boy sit on the floor with just a couple of cats to pet, while we waited to see if he would start itching. Fifteen minutes passed and he was happily playing with the cats, reaction free. The mother was delighted and asked if all the cats could come out, as she removed the boy’s shirt. For the next hour her son basically wallowed around the floor, shirtless with the Bengals, and did not have even a hint of an allergic reaction.
On the other hand, the owner of the pet food store, where I buy our cat food, wasn’t as lucky as the boy. She had never seen a Bengal in person before, so one day I brought one of our cats in to visit. She had mentioned that she was allergic to cats and her reaction was always sneezing and congestion. She marveled at how gorgeous the cat was and pet him quite a bit. Sure enough she soon started to feel congested and got that need to sneeze sensation. Even though she stated her reaction was less severe than normal and there was no full blown sneezing attack, it was clear that in her case a Bengal cat would still cause her to suffer.
In conclusion, I think we can say that Bengal cats are hypoallergenic if you go by the true definition of the word. They do seem to invoke less of a reaction in allergy sufferers. However, breeders should not embrace the term, using it in advertising and to describe the Bengal cat, because Joe Public has been led to believe that hypoallergenic means allergen free.
Perhaps one day there will be a study to determine Fel D1 levels in Bengal cats and more light can be shed on exactly why this breed appears to be less allergenic than others.
By Nial Thomson for Bengals Illustrated
How can I reduce allergen levels in my home and cat?
The use of allergy wipes such as Allerpet, has proved effective in reduces cat allergens on the cat and thus your home (studies showed that it was effective for around 80% of its users).
Ensure your cat is spayed or neutered.
Wash your hands after handling your cat and refrain from touching your face or eyes.
Wash clothes frequently and wear more cotton and less wool.
Keep the house as clean as possible by washing floors and bed linen often with hot water to eliminate the allergens.
Wash clothes and bed linen using detergent solutions at 25°C (77°F) for at least 5 minutes - to extract cat allergen from bedding and clothing.
Use dusting sprays whist dusting to minimize dust spread.
Carpet is more likely to hold allergens - so if you can, remove it in favor of wood, vinyl, or tile floors.
Avoid heavy drapes that trap the allergens and dust.
Keep the cat out of your bedroom and laundry (keep it off your clean clothes) and provide it with its own bed.
Minimize other allergens in the house such as smoke, dust, molds, scented candles, chemicals and pollens etc. Multiple allergens are linked to the development of more severe allergic reactions and asthma.
Create outdoor enclosures for your cat so it can spend some time out side and not confined to an enclosed house and you get some fresh air in your home.
Keep the cat litter in a well-ventilated area and dip rather than pour when you empty it and use litter that is as dust free as possible.
Use high-efficiency air cleaners, either central or portable.
Check with your allergist for any anti-inflammatory therapy or possibly desensitisation ("immunotherapy") options.