The exotic Bengals retains the striking wild appearance of their Asian Leopard Cat ancestors!
The Bengal Cats are hybrids, created by crossing domestic cats and wild Asian Leopard Cats. This mix has an alluring and desirable “wild-look” reflected in its coat pattern and body form, drawn from its Asian Leopard Cat parentage. Their exotic coats are short with fine fur that requires only a weekly grooming. The fur is thick and extremely soft, decorated with spots, two-tone spots, and rosettes. Some even have spots on their light colored underbelly.
Although these are domestic cats, in their overall appearance the Bengals retain much of the wild physical characteristics of the Asian Leopard. They are a large sized domestic breed reaching between 7 and 20 pounds. They have a long, well-muscled and powerful body with legs and a tail of medium length. The tail tapers, ending in a rounded black tip. Their large roundish head is complimented with large oval-shaped eyes, a large wide nose, and large rounded ears.
The Bengal Cat personality is drawn from its domestic cat parentage. Despite its wild ancestry, the Bengal is an affectionate, sociable breed. This is provided that they are separated by at least 3 generations from the original crossing between a domestic and Asian Leopard Cat. Closer generations, 1st through 3rd generations, are considered “filial” and are used for breeding and specialized pet environments and are not considered domestic pet cats. The 4th generation and later Bengals are social, extroverted cats that love human companionship and like being part of whatever’s going on. An energetic cat breed, they are are quite kittenish and enjoy playing games like fetch or hide and seek. They will often attach strongly to one person, demanding constant attention from that person.
The Bengal gets along with people, as well as dogs and other cats. This breed is lively, very playful, and enjoys interaction, making it a great cat for children. It is a great addition to families who have time to give it the attention it craves. Bengals enjoy playing in the water and are known for joining their owners in the bathtub or pool. It can be taught to fetch and walk on a leash. They are quiet, but have some wild characteristics. Bengals have a distinct voice from most other domestic cats. They like conversation and can be coaxed to speak with their keepers. They are also excellent hunters.
For information about keeping a pet cat, see:
Cat Care: How to Take Care of a Cat
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Felidae
- Genus: Felis
- Species: lybica
Bengals are hybrid cat breeds. The Bengal Cats of today originated from the United States, though their wild ancestry comes from Asia. Common names include Bengal and Bengali. This breed’s name was derived from the Asian Leopard Cat’s scientific name, Felis bengalensis. It has no affiliation with the commonly known Bengal Tiger. Currently it is a rare breed that can be found in America and Europe.
The creation of the Bengal breed began in 1963, when Jean Sugden, an American geneticist of Yuma, Arizona, crossed her female Asian Leopard Cat with a black short-haired domestic male in hopes of combining the wild physical characteristics of the Leopard Cat with the friendly disposition of the domestic cat. Though matings between domestic and wild cats usually produce only infertile offspring, the females from this cross were fertile. A female of this litter, named Kinkin, was bred with her father, and produced a litter of both plain and spotted kittens.
This breeding project could have been the beginning of the Bengal breed, but it was abandoned after the second mating, when Mrs. Sugden was widowed. However, later in1973, another geneticist, Dr. Willard Centerwall of California, began a new breeding project with Leopard Cats and short-haired domestic cats in order to determine the Leaped Cat’s resistance to feline leukemia. He gave eight females to Jean Sugden, now Jean Mill, after her remarriage, and she used them to start a new breeding program.
In 1983 the International Cat Association (TICA) accepted the first Bengal for registry. His name was “Millwood Finally Found”. The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) currently does not recognize the Bengal. Many different domestic breeds have been used in breeding programs for the Bengal, involving both natural breed cats and other hybrids, including the Siamese, Burmese, Egyptian Mau, Ocicat, Abyssinian, Bombay, American Shorthair, and British Shorthair.
The Bengal is a large breed, weighing between 7 and 20 pounds. It has a long, well-muscled and powerful body. The legs and tail are medium in length and the tail tapers to a rounded black tip. The head is large and rounded with a large, broad nose and large rounded ears. The eyes are large, oval-shaped, and wide set. The Bengal’s life span is approximately 15 years.
The Bengal’s fur is short and fine. The coat is thick and extremely soft. The coat is generally covered in solid spots, even on the belly, but some specimens have dark rosettes, or two-toned spots, instead. Bengals can also have a “marbled” coat, which means the pattern flows horizontally in a swirl. The color forms include Leopard (spotted tabby), Marble, Snow Leopard (ivory background with contrasting spots), Snow Marble, Sorrel (Golden), and Mink.
Care and Feeding
Housing Your Cat
This is a very active breed that needs a yard and plenty of room to run, play, and hunt. Kittens can be destructive, so preparations should be made to protect furniture and other items in the house. A variety of toys and a scratching post are also helpful in decreasing their destructive behaviors.
This breed is very social. It enjoys being around people, dogs, and other cats. This breed should not be left alone for long periods of time because it is likely to find furniture, curtains, or other items to shred in its boredom. If it is going to be left alone frequently, having another cat can help keep it occupied. However, the Bengal can also become jealous if it thinks another pet is getting more attention than it.
As mentioned previously, this is a very active breed that enjoys running, hunting, and playing with humans, cats, and other animals. These cats enjoy interactive play such as fetch or hide and seek, and they can learn to walk on a leash. They also love water. They will readily join their human companions in the family pool.
Most males are infertile, though the occasional male is able to reproduce. Females are fertile. The 1st through 3rd generations of Bengals are considered “filial”, and are used for breeding and specialized pet environments. The 4th and later generations are considered domestic and can be shown and registered.
Common Health Problems
This is a rare breed, but breeders are available on the internet and locally. Prices range from $300 for an adult pet quality cat to $650-$800 for a pet quality kitten to $1200-$2000 for a show quality kitten.
- See Animal-World References: Cat Breeds – Exotic Cats
- Hybrid Law, Hybridlaw.com
- Kurt Schmitt, Hybrid Cat Breeds, Cat Lovers Only, Copyright 2004 – 2011
- The Hybrid Cat Breeds of the World, Cat Breeds, Copyright 2009 – 2011
- About Bengals, Exotic Cat Network
- Bengal (cat), Wikipedia
Featured Image Credit: Jane Koshchina, Shutterstock