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All About the Legendary Bengal Cat

Lillee Rhose has been a cat parent and writer her entire life. Her heart's passion is to share her love for and knowledge of cats.

A baby Bengal—Bengal kittens are adorable!

A baby Bengal—Bengal kittens are adorable!

Interested in Getting a Bengal Kitten? Here's What You Need to Know

Bengal cats are captivating creatures. They are domestic cats with markings of their ancestors; they have beautiful coats and are curious, energetic cats who develop strong attachments to their owners.

In This Article

  • Early History of the Beautiful Bengal Cat
  • The Modern Bengal Breed
  • Bengal Cats: The Backstory
  • Legal Restrictions
  • Purchasing Bengal Cats: How Do I Pick the Right One?
  • Bengals' Heart Issues: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
  • Bengal Personality Traits
  • How to Raise a Bengal Kitten
  • How to Entertain Your New Companion
  • Bengal Cat Diet
  • Bengal Coat Colors

Early History of the Beautiful Bengal Cat

The earliest mention of an Asian leopard cat and domestic cross was in 1889 when Harrison Weir wrote of them in Our Cats and All About Them. The next recorded mention of an Asian leopard cat and domestic cat cross wasn't until 1924 in a Belgian scientific journal. The same year, a Japanese cat publication printed an article about one that was kept as a pet.

Indian leopard cat (P. b. bengalensis)

Indian leopard cat (P. b. bengalensis)

The Modern Bengal Breed

Jean Mill was a cat breeder who worked to protect the Asian leopard cat. She was also the originator of the modern Bengal cat breed. She successfully crossed the wild Asian leopard cat with a domestic cat and then backcrossed those offspring through five generations to create the domestic Bengal.

It is noted that Jean Mill was also involved in producing two other cat breeds: the Himalayan and the standardized version of the Egyptian Mau.

Honorable Mentions

There were three other breeders involved in developing the Bengal breed—Pat Warren, William Engle, and Dr. Willard Centerwall. Jean Mill is considered the originator of the breed because she created a domestic Bengal past the F4 generation.

Amur Leopard Cat (P. b. euptilura)

Amur Leopard Cat (P. b. euptilura)

Bengal Cats: The Backstory

Are Bengal cats considered hybrids or crossbreed “human-bred” hybrids, and what is the difference?

Two Types of Hybrid Cats

  • Natural hybrids: when the domestic cat (feral) of various breeds mate with a certain wild cat species
  • Human-bred hybrid: when two different domestic breeds are specifically selected and bred together

The breed created from hybrids of domestic cats and the Asian leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) and their ancestors is the small Asian leopard cat, which is a small wild cat.

Archaeological evidence from 5,000 years ago shows that the leopard cat was the first to be domesticated in Neolithic China in Shaanxi and Henan Provinces.

The Asian leopard cat is a native of Asia and lives in the east and southeast of the continent from Indonesia to the Peninsula of Korea and Eastern Russia to Pakistan into Eastern Afghanistan.

This species is derived from Felis silvestris lybica from the Middle East during the time of the Egyptian Granaries—12,00 years ago!

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The Bengal Cat Gets Recorded in Cat Registries

  • In 1983, the breed was officially accepted by the International Cat Association (TICA). Bengals gained championship status in 1991.
  • In 1997, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) accepted Bengal cats.
  • In 1999, Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) accepted Bengal cats into their registry.
  • In 2016, the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) became one of the last organizations to accept the Bengal cat into their registry.

In New York City, Seattle, and the state of Hawaii, Bengal cats are prohibited by law (as are all other hybrids of domestic and wild cat species). Several other states have restrictions or special requirements for owning Bengal cats.

Bengals of the F1–F4 generations are regulated in:

  • New York
  • Georgia
  • Massachusetts
  • Iowa
  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Connecticut
  • Indiana

In the United States, except where noted above, Bengal cats with a generation of F5 and beyond are considered domestic and are legal.

Purchasing Bengal Cats: How Do I Pick the Right One?

Although I would rather adopt than shop, here is what you need to be aware of before said purchase of a Bengal cat. Remember that the cat should be at least F4 to F5 generations removed from any ancestors with wild blood!

If F3 or lower, it would make for a not-so-great cat, and they are wilder than tamed and do NOT make great house pets. Please keep this in mind, especially if you have small children.

Ask all the questions you have and get the history of cats' parents and their great grandparents and so forth because you don't want a wild cat in your home.

Bengals' Heart Issues: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

What is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?

It's when the left ventricle wall in the heart grows thicker as the cat ages, and this heart disease can rear its ugly head at any time during the cat's lifetime.

Symptoms and Complications

  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Lethargy
  • Weak pulse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Short, rough, snapping breathing sounds (crackles)
  • Abnormal heart sounds (i.e., muffled, galloping rhythm, murmurs)
  • Inability to tolerate exercise or exertion
  • Sudden hind-limb paralysis with cold limbs due to clots in the terminal aorta
  • Bluish discoloration of footpads and nail beds (indicates a lack of oxygen flow to the legs)
  • Collapse
  • Sudden heart failure

This heart condition can be treated with the proper medication, prolonging your furry child's life.

This feline can be affected by several genetic diseases, one of which is Bengal progressive retinal atrophy, also known as Bengal PRA or PRA-b. Be sure to get your cat tested yearly and watch for any signs of illness.

Bengal Personality Traits

  • Playful
  • Athletic
  • Agile
  • Energetic yet graceful
  • "Talkative" and friendly
  • Water-loving (they wouldn't hesitate to get into the bathtub or shower with you)

Find out how much the kitty likes to "talk" because they are on the talkative side, and if you don't have the patience for a cat that meows all the time, you should get one that isn't as talkative.

On the other hand, if you want a "talkative" cat, then find out if they are talkers and make a list of any other questions you might have for the breeder.

How to Raise a Bengal Kitten

Bengal kittens are friendly, but keep in mind that they tend to get exceptionally large if cared for in the right way and may grow anywhere from 8–15 lbs.

Some Bengal cat parents have reported that their cats weigh in at around 20 pounds and are extraordinarily strong animals that hold a lot of strength and lean muscles!

In the first four weeks after purchasing or adopting a Bengal, you should be the only one to interact with this feline since they tend to bond with the one who interacts with them the most. After four weeks, you can introduce the cat to your kids or other people and pets.

While the kitten is young, if left alone with one of your other pets, it will bond with that pet, and you will be the secondary need of companionship!

So, spend as much time as you can with your new Bengal kitten so that they bond with you or whoever you want them to bond with the most.

How to Entertain Your New Companion

What kinds of toys are the best for this breed?

  • This cat needs a variety of toys and scratching posts with different textures (otherwise, they will claw your carpet or furniture).
  • You'll need a cat tree with lots of landing pads to jump and climb on and with vertical spaces with various levels.
  • Offer interactive toys and remove buttons, eyes, strings, ribbons, twine, or anything that could be swallowed!
  • Walk them daily with a harness and leash.
  • Buy a cat wheel, which provides all the exercise they need.
  • Lots of exercises are the key to these felines.
  • Remember, this breed is highly intelligent and can grow bored easily.
  • They need lots of brain stimulation to keep them out of trouble.
What should I feed my Bengal?

What should I feed my Bengal?

Bengal Cat Diet

What diet do I need to feed my Bengal cat? As soon as the kitten is in the process of being weaned off the mama, start feeding them ground raw meat. Once you start them on this raw diet, you won't have to worry about feeding them canned food.

Afterward, introduce them to nutritious, high-quality dry food. Since Bengal cats are highly active with lots of energy, they tend to need more food than your average domestic cat.

Bengal Cats Crave Raw Meat

Offer a mix of fresh meat and high-quality dry food (leaving dry food accessible all day). Be extra careful when feeding them raw meat; make sure to throw away what's left in the bowl after 20 minutes. Then, keep the meat in a large storage bag in your freezer.

Which Raw Meats Should You Feed Your Bengal?

  • Beef: Ground round, beef hearts, ground sirloin, and hamburger with high-fat content
  • Chicken: Bengals love their chicken cooked or raw

Which Human Foods Are Safe for Bengals to Consume?

Cats can have "people's food"; however, be careful because the last thing you want to do is make your cat sick.

Safe Human FoodsUnsafe Human Foods

Tomatoes

Onions

Apples

Garlic

Bananas

Grapes

Marshmallows

Raisins

Sweet potatoes

Spinach

Carrots

Swiss chard

Bread

Chocolate

Asparagus

Milk

Bengal Coat Colors

Bengal cats have vibrant green eyes, and their coats come in several colors:

  • Brown/black (the main color)
  • Black and silver, seal brown
  • Silver, charcoal, and blue

Enjoy Your New Companion

Overall, the Bengal cat is beautiful, strong, friendly, loving, and makes for a great companion! Just do your research and compile a list of questions for the breeder. It takes a special person to care for this cat breed, and I hope that person is you!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2020 Lillee Rhose

Comments

Lillee Rhose (author) from Sparks, NV on April 09, 2020:

Thank you, Ms. Peggy and Benny. And yes, I adopt than buy because there are so many out there that need new forever home and Benny, most cats are milk intolerant, it makes them have diarrhea really bad if given too much!

Blessings to you both,

Donna Rayne

Alianess Benny Njuguna from Kenya on April 09, 2020:

I have always admired Bengal cats. It was interesting learning their origin, how to take care of them and the disease they're prone to. I didn't know milk makes them sick. I thought all cats love milk.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 27, 2020:

These Bengal cats certainly do resemble their wild cousins. So far the cats we have had as pets have all been rescues of undetermined origin, but they made wonderful pets.

Lillee Rhose (author) from Sparks, NV on March 23, 2020:

I appreciate that, Lorna. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Blessings,

Donna Rayne

Lorna Lamon on March 23, 2020:

Such a stunning cat - beautiful. Your article is really interesting and an education in itself Donna. I loved the history and their remarkable lifespan. A really enjoyable read.

Lillee Rhose (author) from Sparks, NV on March 23, 2020:

Flourish, I believe in adopting before buying. Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate it.

Blessings,

Donna Rayne

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 22, 2020:

They are lovely to look at but given the potential medical and personality issues as well as the fact that there are so many homeless cats (including purebreds) dying in shelters, I would never breed an animal. Your article, however, is well written and I enjoyed it. I have actually trapped, neutered, and returned a feral cat a few months ago that had to have been part bengal based on his markings. He was strikingly gorgeous and so unusual, piercing green eyes and swirling spotted brown taupe coat.