The Bengal cat is a cat breed with great personality and beauty to it.
The coat of this breed is very particular; it can make you remember wild felines like the leopard.
Even, for some, it is similar to a “Domestic Tiger”.
The Bengal cat comes from The United States where it was cross-bred in around 1963, using a domestic cat and an Asian Leopard cat.
The character of the Bengal cat is usually very unique, so it is not advisable for everyone to have one as a pet if they are beginners or such.
They are usually fantastic animals to have though, sociable, playful and fun, but they require quite a lot of attention and are incredibly energetic at times when they want attention.
If you have no experience living with cats, it’s better to choose other domestic cats or cats with a tamer character, as this breed will require quite a lot of attention.
Still, it’s worth it as the result is a happy coexistence where you and your Bengal cat keep each other company and enjoy each other.
Nowadays, breeders bet on a touch of wild blood in hybrid cats like Bengali, to the point that they have become the latest fashion in cat breeding.
But what is their origin?
What do you need to know to be able to live with a Bengal cat at home?
What matters should you take into account?
After reading this article, you will know a little more about their origin, their character and their main characteristics.
Where do Bengal cats come from?
In the early 19th century, some hybrid cats of very exotic and large species were available in public and private European menageries.
For the zoos, they were not a very profitable attraction.
Nevertheless, they gave the jump to the world of the small felines with great success, a reason why the hybridization of wild cats extended like a prevalent practice between some fanatics of these races with more enthusiasm.
The best-known example within the vast range of existing hybrids is the Bengal cat, which was born from a tame household cat and a wild Asian leopard.
The outcome is a fascinating cat breed, which amazes more than one with its long body and extraordinary coat color, but which, due to the resemblance to its wild ancestors, it might require an expert by its side.
The Bengal cat is a relatively recent breed of a domestic cat. The origin of the breeding of wild hybrid cats is in the United States.
Jean Mill, a well-known geneticist, conducted, in 1963, the first experiment of crossing between a domestic cat and a “Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis“, the Asian leopard-cat, from South Asia.
The main objective was to achieve a breed of tame domestic cats with the original appearance of their wild cat ancestors.
However, this idea was not new, as the British journalist and artist Harrison Weir had already spoken, in 1889, of the cross between a household cat and an Asian leopard cat. (1.)
There is also evidence of Japanese and Belgian reports from the mid-’30s and the early ’40s concerning similar crosses.
However, Jean Mill was the most significant influence on the breeding of the Bengal, which credited her as the official founder of the breed, at that time known as Jean Sudgen.
By 1946 she was working on a research study on the crossing of races for the subject of Genetics that she taught at the American University UC Davis.
In the early ’60s, she put her knowledge and thoughts into fruition, but to provide a better understanding of what is involved, we will explain it a little more thoroughly.
Jean crossed household cats with Asian leopard cats.
The first generation resulting from a direct cross between a household and a wild animal is called F1; the offspring of a new cross between an F1 and a domestic cat is called F2, and so on. (2.)
The first two generations of cats (called F1 and F2) used to show the uncivilized behaviour of wild cats. Mill then crossed the F1 females with the parent again and got the second generation of cats (F2).
After the following three generations, the litters already showed similar behavior to domestic cats.
Jean Mill interrupted her experiments for some time because of the death of her husband; however, she resumed them at the beginning of the next decade.
In 1970 she had the opportunity to accept the hybrid females of scientist William Centerwall, another breeder who had made crosses between Asian leopard cats with household cats to take notes on an apparent resistance to feline leukemia.
He formally initiated the form we know of modern Bengal cat breeding, officially recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1983.
Initially, breeders also crossed them with breeds such as the Abyssinian, Egyptian Mau and American Shorthair to define the desired appearance of the Bengal cat.
Nowadays, only Bengalis are used for breeding, but only those of the fourth generation onwards are allowed in exhibitions (F4).
From this generation are considered cats with a character as tame as the domestic cat.
Since then, Bengal cats have gained many followers, and, in the meantime, TICA has registered more than 50,000 purebred cat breeds.
However, not all breeding associations support hybrid cats, e.g. the CFA (Cat Fanciers’ Association) does not recognize any races descended from wild cats.
Did you know that there is actually a huge debate in the cat world about how many types of cats there actually are?
You can read all about the types of cats here, it’s pretty interesting.
What is the appearance of a Bengal Cat?
Once you know their history, their appearance starts to be of great interest, because it is a hybrid race, what does it look like?
Being a mixture, Bengal cats are usually larger than other domestic cats but undoubtedly ultimately smaller than a wild cat would be.
Their body is agile and athletic, but they can reach a weight of up to 15 lb and measure up to 2 ft in length.
Its paws are long and muscular, and its head, compared to its long body, can be small but does not look disproportionate; it has high cheekbones and large eyes, usually blue or green.
The ears are little, with a rounded tip and wide base.
The most characteristic thing about this particular breed is its appearance really and their stunning and bright leopard like fur, which makes it very similar to that of a wild animal.
Its fur coat has large spots and rosettes, its belly is light-colored, and its stripes on the front legs give it an appearance very similar to that of its ancestors, thanks to which it has many fans.
It really is a magnificent and amazing creature without a doubt.
The base color can be orange, gold, dark yellow or beige, often with a gorgeous glitter pattern.
Marbled and spotted marks are well known.
- Marbled: the marbled Bengals will remind you of other races with a tabby pattern, or tabby. However, their spots will be as almost entirely different from those of a household cat.
- Spotted: The spotted coat is one of the most sought-after in the breed, as spotted Bengals, with their spots and dots, resemble wild Leopard cats. In this type, we can differentiate between the rosette pattern, with two-colored spots, and the pattern with single-color spots.
- Sparbled: A pattern that is neither marbled nor rosette is called a sparbled, although it is not yet officially recognized.
The chin, chest, belly and legs may be in ranges of colour from beige to white, contrasting with the colour of the back and sides.
Ideally, the eyes, lips and nose should be framed by thin black lines.
But it’s not only the wild appearance that makes this breed so special!
They have a unique and spectacular character that makes them unique on their own terms, and just like all the different cat breeds have their own distinct personality traits, this one is no exception to that rule.
How do Bengal cats behave?
Starting from F3 (their third crossing generation), Bengal cats are already considered tame, although they are very energetic animals with a strong personality, as a result of their wild heritage.
Apparently, it is not only their appearance who gives off wild vibes…
For this reason, it is wise to have them at home after a couple more generations; likewise, solely, these could be presented at some exhibitions.
According to the breed standard, the Bengal cat is “reliable, attentive, curious and amicable”.
Undoubtedly, they are fun cats and have proven to be extremely intelligent and bold, so they require a considerable amount of attention to get their instincts going in the right direction.
Their fans often say that typical games and pampering might not suffice to entertain a hybrid cat.
Training with targets and conditioning with clickers is suitable for creating an environment without a chance of boredom.
Bengal cats love climbing and…water!
Also read: What is a tabby cat?
Bengal Cats Like Water
These cats are quite unique because they actually love water most of the time and they don’t fit into the stereotype of a scaredy-cat who is afraid of water at all. (3.)
If you happen to have a cat like this you may have noticed their habit of following you into the bathroom at times when you are about to take a shower, and at times it may even look like they might outright try to get in there with you.
So you may want to remember to close your bathroom door, or you could have a wet unexpected guest to deal with in there.
These cats sometimes like to drink water from the tap when they get the chance to do so, and I have even seen these unique animals dip their paws in their bowl of water to lick it off their paws in a peculiar manner.
If you love animals, and have any other pets such as…a goldfish you may want to take some precaution there.
These cats do have a rather strong wild hunting instinct, and they enjoy trying to “fish up” goldfishes and such if they are able to catch them.
So do keep your water tanks secure and safe where they won’t get to them to practice their fishing skills.
Now, if you have something like Piranha’s then it is a whole other story.
You will also need to make sure your cat will NOT get close to the piranha tank or into it for any reason!
It won’t be for the sake of keeping your fishes safe though…
Why Do Bengal Cats Like Water Though?
Yes, why exactly is this one will probably ask.
It does have to do with where these cats come from and their “wild side” so to speak.
It is in their genetics really, but their ancestors were the Asian Leopard Cat, and those cats also happened to particularly love water and all things wet.
It does make sense for Bengal cats to be drawn to water considering this.
The Asian Leopard cats from which they come, liked to put their paws in ponds to clear up their water before drinking it. (4.)
Are They Outdoors Or Indoor Cats?
These types of cats are naturally intelligent and curious and they will be drawn to wanting to go outside, like most cats do at some point or another.
There are both reasons against, and for letting your cat be either an outdoor or an indoor cat, but it is a known fact that indoor cats do live longer lives as they will be generally safer….albeit they live more boring lives.
Bengal cats can do both, but they are definitely the type that would benefit greatly from getting to go outside to roam freely and explore the world on their own.
Since they are so smart and full of energy they would get a nice outlet from the outdoors, and a chance to play outside. (5.)
You do not want your cat to become bored for when they don’t get enough play time or mental stimulation they could start behaving badly and even become aggressive towards you.
Bengal cats are especially independent and adventurous in comparison to other cats and they like to sprint around, climb trees and explore properly, which they simply can’t get while stuck inside.
You should make sure to get a cat collar that can come loose instead of actually strangling your cat in case he finds himself in a sticky situation.
There are certain safety collars you can get out there that will fall apart instead of strangling a cat if it gets stuck somehow.
If they have the opportunity to go outdoors safely, they will not be bored and will be able to satisfy their desire for movement, which they need a lot of.
An ample space would be ideal, of course, but a protected balcony where they can find different objects to climb on is also a good option.
Having Them Around Other Cats
These cats are self-confident, rather domineering and frequently somewhat aggressive, which is why problems can arise if they are socialized with other cats that are also territorial.
However, it is never advisable to keep a Bengali on your own; some quiet breeds like Persians or British Short hairs can be excellent companions for him.
In any case, a good coexistence between two animals will depend on the character of each one of them.
When it comes to a hybrid breed, the breeding of each cat is especially important.
While it is true that inside every domestic cat resides a small beast, those with wild blood closer in line show this heritage more easily.
For example, Bengal cats from the first generation are not as trusting by default as other breeds, and it takes a lot of patience until they get used to new people and environments.
What should always be respected when buying a cat, whatever it is, is even more critical for Bengalis is this:
buy only from professional breeders who value the great importance of socialization and breeding and who can support you during the beginning of the life together.
A Bengal cat in the house
The initial four generations of Bengal cats are considered wild animals, and the legislation of some countries classifies them as a protected species.
Some of these laws stipulate some specific requirements to be able to keep them, such as having a minimum space, as it is true that the obedience of Bengalis of the F1 and F2 generations is different from that of household cats.
You can’t just keep such a type of cat in a tiny broom closet and expect it to be okay with it.
A professional who breeds first-generation Bengals must be able to offer them adequate conditions.
The Bengal cats of a later generation already possess a character more similar to that of other active cats without wild blood.
From this point on, having a hybrid cat is not much different from having any other energetic cat.
Being able to go outside safely or having a protected balcony with places to climb, play, scratch and hide is perfect for them to release their energy.
Change its environment from time to time to provide new stimuli; a bowl of water on the balcony, places to climb in a protected garden? Give free rein to your imagination.
After a few weeks of living with a Bengali, the terms clicker and target training will not sound strange to you.
They are fascinated by intelligence games, there are many specific to cats, although you may find some interesting among dog games as well.
Because they love water, cat pools are an excellent option for them to have a great time outdoors in summer or the bathroom if it’s winter.
Having a Bengali can be a very demanding job for someone used to more quiet cat breeds; however, being an intelligent and bold animal, it is enjoyable to hang out with.
Bengal cats and other animals
The Bengal cat gets along well with other animals.
The period of adaptation until reaching a harmonious state between two different animals takes between 15 and 20 days; sometimes though it can occur much earlier of course.
When they arrive home, during their first day, the Bengal cat can show itself in two ways: they can be uninhibited and leave the carrier in which they have traveled, purring and receiving pampering from their owner.
On the other hand, some cats are more sensitive to change, which will take them between 3 and 5 days, varying if there is only one cat or others, to adapt to their new environment and new cat friends.
Of the latter group, the vast majority will adapt in three days.
There is a minority of cats that need some more time; however, in the long run, and with the help of the new owner, the confidence of the Bengal cat will increase, and it will show an open and very affectionate character.
If, during the first day, it shows a hostile character towards other cats, it is not a reason to be alarmed.
It is a typical behavior; however, over time, they make excellent friends.
The Bengal cat and children
They create a good bond with children, as they both have a high sense of curiosity and playfulness.
Bengal cats often love to be able to play with children for long periods of time, but any kid must be taught to treat the cat carefully and nicely first though.
When a child caresses them for the first time, they are calm, and soon they will want to start interacting.
If the Bengal cat is young, it will try to play as if it were playing with another kitten, and they will want to hold the child’s hand to play.
It is vital to have our Bengali cat’s claws well-trimmed, and also to educate our children to treat them with love and let them rest when they have had enough playtime.
Are Bengal Cats Aggressive?
They are not aggressive, and if they feel overwhelmed by too much affection, all they will do is sneak into a more quiet place to be by themselves.
But, remember that these cats are very high energy and they need a lot of activities and play time to feel content.
It is a good idea to keep a lot of cat toys around and even some places where it can climb or jump onto, because if these felines do get bored or have too much energy than they know what to do with, they might become aggressive as a result.
Pretty similar to a human that would feel stressed out or cranky when not getting enough exercise, Bengal cats could become aggressive as a result of not getting to play or exercise enough.
So that is a key to keeping your little friend happy, since he is so energetic and needs his daily dose of fun.
As a whole, Bengal Cats are just like any other cat breed behavior wise.
They are not more aggressive than other breeds of cats, and they are not known to have any more problematic behaviors than the other types.
Of course each individual animal is different, but this generally holds true.
Health and nutrition of Bengal cats
As a recent yet ancestral breed, the Bengali cat enjoys excellent health.
Despite this fact, in 2011, studies gave light to a genetic disease that caused retinal degeneration during the early stages of life and could lead to blindness.
The best treatment a Bengal cat can receive is a proper diet for their species, as well as annual veterinary reviews.
Many owners of Bengals give them raw food, as a large number of them suffer from sensitivity to industrial food and food bacteria.
In principle, quality prepared food, sold in cans or pots, provides your cat with everything it needs to live a healthy, long life.
Should you choose to feed your cat raw food, you must become familiar with its characteristics and conditions.
With the help of proper natural supplements, you can be sure your cat’s nutrition is adequate.
Finding the right breeder
As you may have discovered, this breed is an exciting one.
If, after reading this article, you have been fascinated by this cat, one last step is missing: where to look for this exceptional cat?
As it is a new hybrid breed, it is often difficult to find a breeder with expertise, among other reasons, so it means having cats from a generation before F4 and, specifically, an active and ancestral breed like this one.
A trusted breeder will make sure that owning a Bengali cat is safe for your loved ones and yourself, by establishing a first contact between the kitten and its future family as soon as possible and accompanying the when it arrives at its new home.
If you’re a member of a breeder’s association, it means you not only attach importance to proper breeding but also take responsibility for the health of your kitten.
These measures involve checkups of the parents before breeding, diagnostic tests for genetic diseases, and veterinary checks on the mother during the entire process.
After birth, a veterinarian examines the kittens, vaccinates them, performs a vermifuge treatment, and determines the most appropriate food.
Of course, this healthcare has a cost, which reflects in the price tag.
Of course, this healthcare has a cost, which reflects in the price tag of your cat: a Bengali cat can cost around US$ 1200.
Of course it greatly depends and you might even get a cat for free, if you are very, very lucky that is.
You probably most likely won’t get it for free or cheap though and you can expect having to pay even 500 – 5000 dollars for these beautiful animals.
But this is a rather rare and sought after breed, which can make it quite expensive.
The price of a specimen destined for breeding can be slightly higher.
The profits are not going to make the breeder rich; they will only cover the expenses.
If this price seems too high, under no circumstances, turn to non-professional breeders who offer kittens without any documentation.
They usually spare the parents and their veterinary care.
They rarely socialize the kittens and do not often spend the time that the hybrid cats need to grow up healthy both physically and mentally.
The trust must be mutual, of course, so there is no need to be alarmed if the breeder sets certain conditions, such as castration or the guarantee that the cat will be able to enjoy an outdoor space.
As you have read, having an old breed like this one entails specific requirements.
The challenge now is to provide a life that meets their needs.
You’ll probably have a wonderful life with your Bengal cat.
Curiosities about the Bengal cat
For a Bengal cat to belong to this breed, it must be the fourth generation.
That is to say, three previous crosses with domestic cats must have taken place to guarantee that the kittens will also be domestic and sociable.
The first males that emerged from the crossing of the domestic cat with the leopard cat were sterile, which foretold a bad future for the breed.
However, after the following crosses of the female with other domestic cats, the males were fertile, so that continued to develop and evolve until today.
It is such a modern breed that, until 1985, it was not presented as such to the world.
Previously it had been recognized in some places, but it still lacked the recognition of the official associations.
There is a scarce variety of Bengal cat, called snow Bengal or white Bengal, which originated by crossing the Asian leopard cat and the Siamese cat.
However, it is infrequent to find specimens with a white coat.
The meow of the Bengali cat is very peculiar.
Sometimes it will be sweet and gentle like any other house cat, but it may also show a deep and serious meow, which will remind us much more of a wild animal.
An indication of her mood that is worth keeping in mind.
If you think that this breed is the best for you and you are thinking of buying a Bengali cat, the first thing you should do is find out about a reliable and professional Bengali cattery near you.
It shouldn’t be a problem to find competent professionals, but always make sure their breeding is controlled and ask other Bengali cat owners for advice and opinions.
Getting a Bengali cat involves a significant investment, both financially and in terms of time and effort.
But it will also be gratifying when you can hug your new friend, and you’ll understand that the effort will always be part of your relationship.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.