The Bengal is derived from the breeding of an Asian Leopard Cat and a domestic cat. They are most noted for their luxurious short, soft coat which may appear in either the spotted or marble pattern. Some Bengal's coats feature something called glitter which imparts an iridescent sheen to each hair. The spotted pattern is most associated with the "leopard look" as the coat features clearly discernible spots and rosettes. The goal of the Bengal breeding program is to create a domestic cat which has physical features distinctive to the small forest‐dwelling wildcats, and with the loving, dependable temperament of the domestic cat.
Bengal cats are the only successful outcome of breeding a wild cat with a domestic one.
In 1963, Jean Sudgen Mill crossed the domestic cat with the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC), a spotted five to twelve pound shy wild cat species from Asia. They were originally bred for genetic study by Dr. Willard Centerwall, in relation to the Asian Leopard Cat's partial immunity against Feline Leukemia. This was the first effort to use hybrid offspring to create a breed of domestic cat with the loving nature of a favored fireside tabby and the striking look associated with Leopards, Ocelots and Jaguars. The modern Bengal breed traces to cats bred by Mrs. Mill beginning in the early 1980's. The breed's name is a reference to the scientific name of the Asian Leopard Cat, Prionailurus bengalensis.
Accepted as a new breed in TICA in 1986, Bengals gained championship status in 1991. They are now one of the most frequently exhibited breeds in TICA.
Only after the fourth (F4) generation is a Bengal considered a purebred. Through the process the elusiveness, omnivorous hunter and other wild traits have been bred out of the Bengal so that they are now a very friendly house cat and people companion.
Bengal cats love the company of humans. But, this does not mean they are lap cats, because they’re not. If you’re looking for a lap cat you’ll want to get one that’s a lot lazier and very happy doing nothing much. But just because Bengals don’t like laying for hours in your lap doesn’t mean that they aren’t affectionate. That couldn’t be further from the truth. They love to receive lots of attention and love to return the favor. But they prefer to do it in an active fashion and not passive like a lot of other domestic cats.
Bengals are cats that love to be active all the time and want to be stimulated. This could be one reason why they might not be suitable for every person looking for a cat. It requires a lot of time on your part to keep them happy and not let them get bored. They want your attention but most of the time in the form of playing with them, because the more stimulation that you give them the happier they are going to be.
Because they love to play and explore they love it when their humans give them places where they can climb and spots where they can hide. This is why it’s a good idea to have a good cat tree with one or two different levels with at least one enclosure that they can sneak into. This will provide them with a play area that will satisfy their need to climb, jump, scratch and even hide if they feel like it.
Since Bengals are extremely intelligent and love lots of play time, stimulation and activity often they’re the ideal pet for a family that’s lively and has children, other pets, especially dogs that are full of energy. Bengals do extremely well in environments that are lively and energetic with tons of activity going on. This is why you’ll notice that your Bengal will follow you all over the house, especially if you’ve been gone all day. They want to be involved and know what you’re doing so they can see if they can do it right along with you
Bengal cats are a unique breed because, although domesticated, they still have traces of their wild ancestry from the Asian Leopard Cat.
The average size of a domesticated Bengal cat is no larger than most other domestic cats you'd find. Somewhere between 8-12 lbs is normal and the closer you get to an F1 (first generation) rating, the larger they are. Full grown F1 Bengal cats can weigh as much as 30 lbs, which is about double the size of a regular cat.
The life span of a Bengal cat is no different than any other domestic cat. On average, most Bengal cats will live somewhere between 8 to 15 years of age.
Tendency to Shed
One of the most frustrating things about owning a cat is the amount of hair you find throughout the house, especially when your cat has hit "shedding season" and is growing a new coat.
The good news though is that the Bengal cat are not like other cats. Bengal cats don't just have "hair", they have "pelts". Meaning, the fur on their bodies is much more dense and unlikely to shed like a normal domestic cat. Many believe this is because of their ancestry with the ALC. That said, it's still a good idea to get a nice brush to groom them on a bi-weekly basis.
Tendency to Cause Allergies
Allergy sufferers will be happy to know that Bengal cats are one of an estimated 13 different cat breeds that are as close to "Hypoallergenic" as possible. This means that they are unlikely to cause allergies, even to people who are known to have allergies to cats.
The reason why people are allergic to cats is because they produce what’s known as pet dander. This pet dander contains a common allergen that is said to affect about 10% of the population that are allergic to cats. This allergen is a protein called Fel D 1 and it is found in all cat saliva.
While the Bengal cat still produces this pet dander, the level at which they do so is much lower than other cats. That being said, we suggest that if you're looking to adopt a Bengal cat, you should spend time with one and see how well you or your family member with allergies reacts. This will reduce the chances of you adopting or surrendering the pet back to the breeder and wasting a lot of money in the process.
Because your Bengal cat is descended from the wild Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) and as we know, the ALC and other wild cats don't have pre-made meals ready in the wild. Obviously, your Bengal cat is a little different because it's domestic, but that doesn't mean you should be lazy about your food choice. All cats, whether a Bengal or not, will benefit greatly from a well-balanced diet that's free of fillers. This means that in an ideal world, you would refrain from giving your Bengal cat any type of cat food at all and instead just feed them a raw diet.
That being said, we know that this isn't the most practical thing in the world. Because of this, we've written two blog posts that detail everything you need to know about the best Dry Cat Food for Bengal Cats and the best Wet Cat Food for Bengal Cats.
Make sure the food you feed is well-balanced
giving your cat a variety of foods will also help them with digestion.
Ingredients to avoid in dry foods:
BHA, BHT & Ethoxyquin – These three items are chemical preservatives that are effective in preserving dry food. However, they are suspected to be possible cancer causing agents. Many reputable cat food manufacturers have now moved toward using preservatives that are natural like vitamins C and E.
Meat By-Products – The American Association of Feed Control Officers define these products as “The non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, that are derived from animals that are slaughtered. This includes, and is not limited to things such as, lungs, kidneys, spleen, brain, livers, bone, blood, and partially de-fatted low-temperature fatty tissue, stomachs, and intestines.” Meat by-products normally should be considered a very inferior form of proteins.
Corn Meal as a Filler – Some dry foods can have as much as 50% grain in them and the carbohydrate content is far too high for any cat, especially for older cats and those with diabetes. A little bit of carbs is fine, but not the percentage that can often be found in dry foods.
Wet food is best
Potential Health Concerns
Bengal Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA-b)
This is an autosomal (any numbered chromosome other than sex chromosomes) recessive blindness. The disease causes the destruction of the cells that register light (photoreceptors) in the back of the eye (the retina). The loss of the cells begins around seven weeks of age and slowly progresses until the cat has very compromised vision by approximately two years of age. Because it is recessive two copies of the mutant DNA variant are required for the cat to be blind (i.e. one variant from mom and one variant from dad).
Erythrocyte Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PKD) in Felines
Inherited hemolytic anemia caused by insufficient activity of this regulatory enzyme which results in instability and loss of red blood cells. The anemia is intermittent, the age of onset is variable and clinical signs are also variable. Symptoms of this anemia can include: severe lethargy, weakness, weight loss, jaundice, and abdominal enlargement. This condition is inherited as an autosomal recessive.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
HCM is thickening of the wall of the left ventricle. Severe thickening results in scar tissue formation. The thickening and scar tissue make it difficult for the left ventricle to relax. If severe, this can result in heart failure, the accumulation of fluid in or around the lungs. This fluid accumulation, when severe, results in rapid and difficult breathing.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
FeLV is known as a retrovirus, meaning that it rewrites a cell’s RNA in order to copy itself onto the DNA. Once it has done this, it cannot be reversed, fixed, or otherwise cured. FeLV is also the leading cause of infectious disease death in domestic cats.
FeLV is contracted from long, frequent interaction between an infected cat and a non-infected cat. The virus is transferred through most of the natural secretions cats have, such as the moisture in their eyes, nose, and mouth. It is also possible for the virus to be transmitted through the urine and feces of an infected cat. But since the virus becomes inactive quickly after the secretion becomes warm and dry, a cat has to be around and interacting with an infected cat in order to contract FeLV.