Spots, stripes, and filled with endless energy, the Bengal cat is increasingly popular around the world because of their alluring looks and contagious personality. From going on hikes with a leash to joining you in the bathtub, the Bengal cat is a breed unlike any other.
So how exactly did Bengal cats come to be? Are they truly related to wild cats?
Bengal Cat Breed Origin & History
Bengal cats were once considered an exotic or big cat due to their wild cat roots. The United Kingdom just recently removed its licensing requirements for the Bengal in 2007. While the Bengal resembles wild cats in many ways, they are considered a domestic cat once they are bred consistently past three generations.
In the 1970s, Jean Mill acquired cat hybrids from Dr. Willard Centerwall, who was breeding them to study their genetic makeup at Loyola University. Asian leopard cats were then bred with the domestic Egyptian Mau to produce a breed that had the personality of a domestic cat but the exotic look of a wild cat.
Here’s how Bengal cat breeding works:
- F1 Generation: First-generation Bengal hybrids where one parent is an Asian Leopard Cat.
- F2 Generation: This Bengal would have one Asian Leopard Cat grandparent.
- F3 Generation: A Bengal cat with one Asian Leopard Cat great-grandparent.
- F4 Generation: A Bengal must be F4 or further generations removed from their Asian Leopard Cat ancestor to be accepted by the International Cat Association as domestic cats. Today, most Bengal cats are just bred with other Bengal cats.
The International Cat Association started recognizing an experimental version of the Bengal breed in 1983. It was eventually fully recognized in 1993 while gaining breed recognition by the Cat Fancier’s Association a bit later in 2016. The Bengal is also recognized as an official cat breed by the American Cat Fanciers Association, the Canadian Cat Association, and the United Feline Organizations, as well as the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.
Bengal Cat Breed Personality
Despite Bengals being so closely related to wild cats, they are actually quite affectionate with their family. They tend to attach closely with their owners and can become very loyal to their favorite people.
But this cat breed still possesses some wild cat-like traits that new owners need to be aware of. Intelligent, curious, and active, Bengal cats demand a lot of attention. That’s why a lot of people decide to get two Bengals when they adopt. But even then, Bengals that are left alone for long periods of time can become quite destructive. This includes opening drawers and cabinets and taking things apart.
This breed has also been known to be quite stubborn. Bengals will often do things you don’t like on purpose just to see your reaction or gain your attention — even if it’s negative attention! Sometimes Bengals also take pleasure from taking your things and hiding them.
Luckily, their attention-seeking nature also means that they are quite willing to be trained. Try clicker training to challenge Bengals and keep them entertained. They can easily learn tricks, like sitting and coming when called. They also thoroughly enjoy interactive toys that challenge and stimulate their mind.
Bengal Cat Breed Characteristics
The Bengal has become one of the most popular cat breeds around the world thanks to their stunning spots and their exotic facial features. They are elegant and graceful, with a long, muscular build. They often appear alert and inquisitive.
The Bengal cat has fur “unlike any other,” according to the CFA. While short, their coat is plush and soft. It’s often compared to a rabbit’s. But their silky fur is most known for their one-of-a-kind pattern.
There are two coat patterns: spotted tabby and marble tabby. The spotted tabby Bengal has striking circles filled with lighter fur throughout its torso like that of a leopard. Their legs and tail are more striped, with darker bands against lighter fur. The marble tabby is full of swirls, “with a pattern like no other breed.” The CFA states that the bold markings must be in high contrast with the Bengal’s base color.
Bengal cats can come in a variety of colors, including brown tabby, black silver tabby, blue tabby, seal lynx point, blue lynx point, blue mink tabby, black smoke, and lilac tabby.
There is also a variation of the Bengal that has long hair, known as a “cashmere” Bengal. Their fur should be luxurious and fine, laying flat against their body.
In case you didn’t think you could fall even more in love with the Bengal’s exotic looks, Bengals are known to “glitter” in certain light. This is a unique Bengal trait that their fans and owners often marvel at their sparkling golden-dusted fur.
The Bengal cat is a medium-sized cat breed that ranges from 8 to 15 pounds. They are between 8 and 10 inches tall and are 14 to 18 inches long. The males are often larger than the females, although both have a muscular build.
The Bengal has a face that mimics that of a wild cat, with a wide nose and prominent whisker pads. This cat breed also has high cheekbones, creating a more exotic look. Their ears have rounded tips, adding to big cat vibes. Their nose and bridge are often dark, contrasting greatly with the rest of their face markings. The Bengal’s head is a bit small in proportion to their body, with a thick and muscular neck.
Bengals have large oval eyes that are very often green, yellow, or gold. The lynx point variations have blue eyes and minks will have aqua eyes. Their brightly colored eyes always stand out against the darker tabby patterns around their eyes and forehead.
Legs & Paws
The Bengal has slightly, long muscular legs, with the back legs being a bit shorter than the front. They have large paws with prominent knuckles. The power of their legs blended with their larger paws better helps them explore high places and land gracefully when they fall.
Bengal Cat Breed Care
Bengals love to climb and they feel the most comfortable when they’re up high. To dissuade them from exploring your countertops and tables, provide your Bengal with tall cat trees, window perches, and cat shelves on the wall. Cat shelves come in a variety of colors and materials so luckily it’s easy to find some that match your home’s decor.
Bengals are also very fond of water. Some will even join you in the shower or bathtub! Others will figure out how to turn on your faucet in the kitchen and bathroom. You can provide a Bengal with a pet fountain when it comes to their drinking water, satisfying their craving for running water.
Like most domestic cats, this breed should be kept indoors since it will protect them from diseases and predators. Keeping them indoors will also protect the local wildlife from your Bengal. They are known to catch birds with ease.
To keep them active inside, make sure to play with them quite often. They are also known to love cat wheels and will often run on them for quite some time. Make sure the wheel you choose for your Bengal is made specifically for cats, meaning it has the right dimensions and materials to keep them safe.
While the Bengal cat has manageable fur, brushing them weekly will reduce shedding and help prevent possible hairballs. You may also want to trim their nails every few weeks, especially if they’re on the more destructive side. You can also brush a Bengal’s teeth frequently or provide them with dental treats to avoid dental problems.
Health & Health Problems
The Bengal cat, like most cat breeds, has the potential to inherit specific diseases. One possible condition is polycystic kidney disease, although most of the cats with this trait are removed from the breeding pool. Most breeders should be very proactive when it comes to diseases. A breeder should provide you with a health guarantee for kittens.
Something to look out for in Bengals is infectious diseases, like peritonitis and tritrichomonas foetus, which can lead to diarrhea. They can also become blind quite early if they suffer from the autosomal recessive disorder. Always bring your cats, including Bengals, to vet checkups to ensure they are healthy.
Bengals need a lot of protein, so always make sure the food you are purchasing for them has a named meat source. This means that chicken, lamb, turkey, salmon, etc. should be the first ingredient on the label. Think of the Asian Leopard Cat’s diet: birds, lizards, insects. While most domestic cat breeds rely heavily on meat, you may find that most cat food brands are lacking the appropriate amount for your Bengal.
Avoid commercial cat foods that rely heavily on carbohydrate “fillers,” like corn, rice, and soy. You can also add more meat to their diet by giving them a balance of dry food and wet food since canned cat food has more protein. You want protein to be about 50 to 80% of your cat’s diet.
Bengal cats love treats, especially when it comes to training them to do tricks. Remember to limit their treat intake to just 10% of their daily calorie amount.
Children & Family
Bengals are very social pets and will usually enjoy having another cat to bond with. Like with most cats, you will have to introduce Bengals to their new companion carefully, starting with them eating on opposite sides of the door from each other to get used to the other’s presence from afar. Keep them in separate rooms, switching them here and there so they can smell each other’s scent and become comfortable with it.
Since Bengals are usually described as “dog-like” due to their playful nature, a well-behaved dog who isn’t aggressive towards cats can also become a great companion for some Bengals. They will most likely play together a lot, with the Bengal being the more dominant of the two. This dynamic is great for alpha Bengals who need a buddy to boss around. Just make sure you’re there to supervise them whenever possible.
Ensure you keep aquariums away from Bengals, who are known to go fishing. You will also want to be wary of your Bengal being around small animals, like hamsters and rats. You don’t want them to end up as a Bengal’s snack.
Due to their affectionate and playful personality, Bengals are also great sources of friendship and entertainment for children. You can provide children with some toys so they can interact with the Bengal safely. As always, it’s important to keep a close eye on children around any pet, including Bengal cats.
More About This Breed
Unlike a lot of domestic cat companions, Bengal cats love being on a leash. They can even be leash-trained as an adult. While cats should be kept indoors, having your Bengal on a leash is a great way to help them explore the outdoors while keeping them — and the surrounding wildlife — safe.
Bengals are also very vocal. They may even “demand conversation,” asking you for food or playtime. They are a very expressive breed that thrives on attention — and this is just another way to get it.
Some states in America actually prohibit people from owning Bengals! Bengals are currently illegal in Hawaii and New York City. The cities of Seattle and Denver also have restrictions on Bengal cats. There are also states that allow Bengals, but monitor generations F1 through F4. You should always check your state’s local laws before reaching out to a breeder.
Bengal cats are one of the most expensive cat breeds on the market. They can be up to $5,000 in some areas because breeders can’t keep up with the constant demand. The average price for this uniquely exotic kitty is $1,500 to $3,000. Always make sure that you search for Bengal breeders registered with the CFA to ensure they meet breed standards.
Friendly, beautiful, active, and intelligent, the Bengal is a great companion if you prefer an active pet and don’t mind a little bit of a mischievous streak. Bengal cats love to run in wheels, walk on a leash, and even take a swim in the tub. If you’re looking for a unique cat with a one-of-a-kind look, the Bengal is for you. Just make sure to hide your jewelry and hamsters.
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Written by Olivia Richman at www.holistapet.com