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What Makes This Breed so Popular?
The Bengal cat is a hybrid breed of the domestic cat and the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC). The name comes from the taxonomic name of the ALC. They have a wild look because of their coat, which is completely covered with large spots or rosettes.
Bengal cats have a light/white belly, a small head and share the same body structure as the ALC. They are known for being very active (they love to play with toys), social, curious and intelligent (e.g. they figure out how to open doors). Families with a lot of action in their homes would do well with a Bengal cat.
The History of the Bengal Cat
It is widely accepted that the Bengal cat of today has its roots in the 1960s, but a similar cross was also mentioned in 1989 by Harrison Weir in his book “Our Cats and All About Them: Their Varieties, Habits, and Management”; he mentions that a hybrid between the wild cat of Bengal and a tabby she-cat could be seen at the Zoological Society Gardens in Regent’s park.
Jean Mill is the person who is credited with the development of the modern breed. She submitted a paper for a genetics class at UC Davis about crossbreeding cats in 1946. In 1963 she managed to successfully crossbreed a domestic cat that looked like the Asian Leopard Cat with one of them.
The modern Bengal breed originates from the cats that Jean Mill bred in the 1980s. Between 1975-1980 Jean decided to create this hybrid in order to save the original Asian Leopard Cat from being hunted down for their fur. Hoping that people would be dissuaded when their friends owned loveable cats with a similar look as their coats.
In the early 1980s, this breed was registered as a domestic cat at the Cat Fanciers Association (C.F.A.) At the same time breeders Greg and Elizabeth Kent started their own line of Bengals using the Asian Leopard Cat and the Egyptian Mau. As of today, many Bengals are descendants of this hybrid breed.
Physical Appearance and Stature
Bengals have the wild-looking coat of their parent-breed the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC). Like the ALC, Bengal cats have a boned face, but this is not in their advantage. Because they are a hybrid breed, they don’t always have all the features of the ALC; this results in them having ears that are too big and pointy and eyes that are too small and slanted. Their coats are covered in large spots or rosettes, and they have a light/white colored bellies.
Their body type is roughly the same as that of the ALC; their neck is long and strong (some have short and strong necks). Their body is heavily muscled, with the hind legs being a bit longer than the front legs. Their backs are straight and long, with a medium-length, thick tail with a rounded tip.
In short, the Bengal is of an athletic and muscled build—the males weighing 5 to 6 kilos. Even though this would suggest that they look ungainly, nothing could be farther from the truth. They carry a natural grace of controlled strength in them, and the females can actually be quite elegant.
Personality and Temperament
Bengals are very energetic cats and do not make good lap cats; they love to play with toys and appreciate the company of others. They are social cats and like to play with anyone and they are not known for being quiet or calm. They also follow people around the house and can always be seen in places where they can play.
Bengal cats grow attached to family members and need a lot of attention daily. Much like a dog, they like to communicate, are noisy and react to sounds (they will respond vocally if you talk to them). These cats are intelligent and very curious and confident so they will explore constantly. Their intelligence makes it possible to teach them a lot of different tricks.
You will find these cats constantly chasing, catching, leaping and running around. Another typical trait of the Bengal cat is their affinity for water. They are very attracted by running water and are not afraid to jump into the water at all.
Bengals are ideal for people who are in search of a dog without the usual dog hassles, like the necessary daily walks. If you are in search of an animal with the fiery look of the jungle combined with a warm and tender personality, you should consider a Bengal.
Bengal Breed Fact Sheet
Average Life Span
10 - 17 years
4.2 - 7.8 kg
42 - 56 cm
Not that much to average.
Activity and Playfulness
This is an active and playful breed that loves attention.
highly intelligent and curious
Health is average for purebreds, do suffer from more issues and weaknesses than street cats and mixed breeds.
Maintenance / Pet Qualities
Doesn't need that much maintenance and fairly easy to keep as a pet. Play with them and they'll do fine.
Bengal Cat Health
There are a couple of health problems from which these cats could suffer from, so it is important to read this text. This breed is created through selective breeding, including inbreeding, making them susceptible to genetic diseases.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
A serious health problem of the cats is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). This causes the cat eventually to go blind. Unfortunately, there is no way to screen for this gene, but it is confirmed to be caused by a recessive gene; meaning that both parents need to carry the gene for it to be activated in the cat. Another ocular problem is cataracts, this also causes them to go blind but this can be corrected with surgery.
Another condition that could surface in Bengals is cardiomyopathy, a heart problem causing them to become very ill.
Feline leukemia is something all cat breeds can suffer from, but Bengals are more prone to suffer from it. In most cases, it is fatal to the cat that suffers from this.
Keep in mind that Bengal cats have very sensitive stomachs and can become very sick from contaminated food. Therefore you should never give them table scraps and it is best to give them high-quality cat food only.
Take Care of Your Feline Friend
Their hair requires to be groomed regularly to avoid it from getting mats. These groom sessions should be done weekly for roughly five minutes. It’s best to let the cat get used to this routine by doing it when they are still a kitten. Cats generally love these sessions because of the attention they are getting, so expect a happy response.
They need toys to play with because they are extremely active; these toys should encourage them to jump and reach for them. Consider taking your cat out for a walk, but only if you started taking these walks with them when they were young. Give them only high-quality food to eat as they can get ill from table scraps.
I hope you've learned a lot about this curious and joyous cat species. When you give them the care they need they'll be fantastic friends for life.
- Weir H. Our Cats and All About Them Their Varieties, Habits, and Management; and for Show, the Standard of Excellence and Beauty; Described and Pictured. Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2011, 462 p.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Sam Shepards