Bengal cats are incredible creatures. If your ideal cat is a miniature puma, look no further than the Bengal. They’re medium-large cats with a lean, muscular frame. Bengals are sleek, graceful, intelligent and full of personality, with lovely markings and an elegant configuration. Unfortunately, if you are cat allergic, they’ll still make you sneeze. While they are said to produce lower levels of allergens than the average kitty, they’re not as allergy-friendly as popular legend would have you believe. It’s up to you, the cat-allergic cat lover, to decide whether the sneezing and wheezing is outweighed by the joy of owning a beautiful Bengal kitty.
Are Bengal cats hypoallergenic? In the strictest sense, no. Bengal cats are reputed to produce less Fel d1, the protein that’s chiefly responsible for triggering cat allergies. This may make them easier to live with for cat-allergic people, but they will still cause allergy symptoms.
You’ve landed on this page because you have questions about Bengal cats and allergies. What makes Bengal cats so special? Why are they believed to be hypoallergenic? If you have a severe cat allergy, could you live with a Bengal cat? What causes cat allergies, and how can you prevent them? If you’re a cat-deprived allergy sufferer, keep on reading.
You’ll find out all about cat allergies, and whether Bengal cats might be right for you or not. You’ll also learn to cope with pet allergies and reduce your symptoms.
Are Bengal Cats Hypoallergenic?
I really hate to break this to you, but there’s not really any such thing as a truly hypoallergenic cat. The main cause of cat allergies is a protein called Fel d1, which is present in cat dander (flakes of dead skin) and cat saliva.
All cats produce this protein to some degree, so all cats are somewhat allergenic. I’m as disappointed as you, since I myself am allergic to cats but can’t live without them. Before you buy a pet rock and resign yourself to a catless life, though, read the rest of this article. Grab a tissue and read on.
Bengal cats are the epitome of feline grace. A pure-bred pedigree Bengal isn’t cheap (a kitten from a registered breeder will set you back hundreds if not thousands of pounds or the equivalent), but in my mind they are worth every penny. These beautiful cats will take your breath away with their grace and beauty.
They can be quite challenging, as they’re highly intelligent and very energetic; I would not necessarily recommend one to a first-time cat owner. If you’re up for the challenge of caring for one, though, you will have an amazing companion who’ll enrich your life in countless ways.
Bengal cats are generally on the medium to large size, although you’d never know it to hear them walk. They are incredibly quiet and stealthy when they want to be. They have gorgeous eyes that are usually shades of green or gold, often ringed with a fine dark line that resembles eyeliner.
They have broad faces with dramatically high cheekbones, giving them a very striking appearance. Their heads and faces are striped, but the markings on their bodies are leopard-like spots. Their fur is short and very sleek, with a glossy appearance.
As far as personality goes, Bengal cats are what is colloquially referred to as “a lot”. They’re almost alarmingly intelligent, able to learn all sorts of useful tricks — and to get up to mischief. I don’t think I’ve ever met a Bengal owner who didn’t have a story about their cat learning to open the fridge, get into the treat cupboard, or make a sneaky bid for freedom out of an open window. They are noted for being one step ahead of their owners most of the time.
Bengal cats are quite talkative and can be rather noisy. They get especially vocal around mealtimes and when they want attention. Bengals produce a range of vocalisations, from meows and loud yowling to chittering and chirps. It’s almost as if they have their own language. They’re not usually lap cats, preferring to sit near you and hold a “conversation” or get you to come and play with them.
This is an energetic breed that needs lots of play and exercise, more than the average domestic cat. Without active play, they can become jumpy and moody, prone to destructive or aggressive behaviour. Bengal cats are prone to a condition known as psychogenic alopecia, which can occur when the cat is stressed or unhappy. It’s caused by excessive licking and grooming, and is more common in older males. Medication and behavioural interventions can help.
As they get older, Bengal cats can suffer from arthritis and joint pain. They may also develop a condition of the nerves called distal neuropathy; this is currently incurable, but can be managed to improve the cat’s quality of life. Bengals also suffer from ailments that are common across all cat breeds, particularly hypertrophic cardio myopathy (an enlarged heart). Regular vet check-ups and early interventions are key to controlling and managing these conditions. They’re generally fairly sturdy cats, with a long lifespan of at least 15 years. The oldest Bengal I ever met was a grand old lady of 21.
Are There Any Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds?
The short answer, I regret to say, is no. A longer answer is that some cats are supposed to produce less of the Fel d1 protein that triggers those all-to-familiar allergy symptoms, hopefully reducing the degree to which you’re affected. There are no cats that don’t produce any of this protein at all, so all cats will trigger your allergies to some degree.
Many breeds are suggested as a good match for the cat-allergic owner. These include the handsome, sturdy British Shorthair, the dainty Devon and Cornish Rex breeds, and the hairless Sphinx. While these are all wonderful breeds, they’re not truly hypoallergenic. They all produce Fel d!.
Neither are there any specific colours or patterns that indicate an absence of the pesky protein. Some say that tortoiseshell cats or tabbies are less of a problem for their allergic housemates, but I’ve honestly never noticed much difference. The research backing up these claims is dubious.
Attempts have been made to create a truly hypoallergenic cat. One group of researchers did manage to create a genetically modified British Shorthair mix that was supposed to produce a different form of Fel d1 that triggered fewer allergies. These Allerca cats commanded prices in the tens of thousands and had a years-long waiting list. Unfortunately the small Biotech firm behind them seems to have dropped off the map, after several would-be Allerca owners complained that they never got their kittens even after paying for them. Still, research continues.
How Can I Manage My Cat Allergies?
If you really can’t bear to live without a cat (I know I can’t, to the annoyance of my doctor), there are ways to mitigate the problem. Please note that these measures are only suitable for those with mild to moderate allergies; if your cats are making you severely ill, you really should consider rehoming them.
My main weapon in the fight against cat allergies is a strict antihistamine regimen. This helps prevent the symptoms of a cat allergy, such as inflamed eyes, sneezing, coughing, asthma and skin irritation.
It’s important to reduce the amount of Fel d1 in your environment. Keep your bedroom cat-free and change your bedding regularly. Air purifiers in your bedroom and living room can help a lot, as they pull the stray hairs, dander and other impurities out of the air.
Regular vacuuming is important. A standard vacuum cleaner is almost useless in my experience. They pick up visible hair but finer particles, including dander and dust containing Fel d1, is simply blown out of the exhaust. To really reduce the allergens inside your home, get a high-end vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. These prevent dust from exiting the unit, leaving your living space freer of allergens.
Hopefully this will be enough to keep your symptoms under control, letting you and your Bengal cat enjoy each other’s company without being interrupted by sneezing attacks.