This friendly house cat looks like it belongs in the jungle. If you think so, you are not completely wrong, as the Bengal came into being after crossing a domestic cat with a wild leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis). This energetic hunter distinguishes itself with a unique temperament and appearance. Of course, not every Bengal is the same, but in this blog we describe some of the characteristics that make this cat breed special.
The wild Asian Leopard Cat
The Asian Leopard Cat has the widest geographical distribution of all felines. They are spread over a large part of Asia and are mainly found in forests. They are about the size of an average house cat, but their size and colour can vary greatly. Although this animal is about the size of a domestic cat, it stands out because of its long legs and long, slender body with a narrow head with very large eyes. This hunter is mainly active at night and prefers to be alone. Many characteristics of the Asian Leopard Cat can be recognised in Bengals, especially in F1 and F2 crosses (see: “Differences between generations”).
Origin and history
Although wild leopard cats are mainly found in Southeast Asia, the Bengal originated in the United States. Jean Mill, a geneticist and founder of the modern Bengal, crossed a domestic cat with the wild leopard cat in 1963 and thus created a new cat breed. However, Mill was not the first to have the idea of crossing a wild cat with a domestic cat. Even as early as the 19th century these cats were reported by the British journalist Harrison William Weir. Finally, the breed was recognised by the CFA (Cat Fanciers’ Association) in 1996.
Differences between generations
As with other crossbreeds (such as the Savannah cat), there are large differences between the various generations of the Bengal cat. An F1 Bengal is a direct cross with a wild cat, and with each generation the breed becomes ‘tamer’. See below the differences:
F1: A first generation Bengal has a domesticated house cat and a wild Asian Leopard cat as parents. A direct descendant of a wild cat. Because this generation of cats is a direct descendant of a wild cat, they are not considered ‘domesticated’. Therefore, in many places it is illegal to keep an F1 Bengal. In general, these cats are not suitable as pets. This is reflected in the character: F1 Bengals are very wild and energetic/
F2: A second generation cat is already a lot tamer than an F1, but still illegal to adopt in many places. Raising this energetic cat is still not an easy job, although they do like to fetch toys!
F3: If you cross an F2 with a domestic cat, you get a third generation Bengal. In this generation, these cats start to get more character traits of domesticated house cats, but still retain the unique appearance of the wild Leopard Cat.
F4: Fourth generation Bengal cats are a lot more social and tame than first or second generation. This is logical, because the wild temperament of the Asian Leopard Cat is almost completely bred out. But fortunately, traces of this behaviour can still be found in this beautiful companion. Read more about this in the heading below.
Ever wanted to play fetch at 3 a.m.? Then this pedigree cat is for you! Bengals are known for their restless temperament and endless energy. No curtain is safe from this climber. This is of course because the ancestors of this breed were night hunters. It helps to have a high scratching post (like this one: Diana 260) in the house so they can climb, but that does not mean you can leave them alone all day. This panther demands a lot of personal attention! The Bengal is a smart and curious breed that needs a lot of stimulation. No vase is safe for this Rebel. These cats are even used to water. There are many Bengals that will jump into the shower or the bath without hesitation.
Although the Asian Leopard Cat often wants to be left alone, the Bengal is very affectionate. If you leave them alone, make sure they have enough to do. Many Bengals like to have another cat for company, as long as that cat is not too territorial and dominant.
This breed loves to go on adventures outside. If you have or want a Bengal, make sure that the cat can go outside responsibly. Bengals are often very expensive and a popular target for thieves. To give your cat a taste of the great outdoors, make sure your garden is cat-proofed, you have a cat run, a secure balcony and/or plenty of resting places inside in front of the window so your cat can look out.
What many owners will tell you is that these cats love to make noise. Meowing, chirping and singing among other things. Also, these cats are very good at telling you exactly what they want. Marylin Krieger, a cat expert, often sings with her loyal Bengal herself. “Of course not all Bengals are loud, but mine makes a lot of different sounds,” she says.
Appearance: coat and build
Bengals are muscular, athletic slim cats with a relatively small head. They are on average a bit bigger than the average house cat and usually weigh between 3.5 and 7 kilograms. Like the ancestor of this beautiful cat, the Bengal has long muscular legs and large eyes. The beauty of this lovely breed is difficult to translate into pictures or text. Thanks to its special build, this panther is at its most beautiful in motion. Few cats move as effortlessly and vainly as the Bengal.
The fur is the most recognizable feature of this breed. With this beautiful pattern, it looks like you have a panther in your house! But this fur is not only beautiful, but also very practical. Because the fur of the Bengal cat is very short, it needs little care. Weekly brushing is recommended, but of course a short-haired cat needs to be brushed less often than a medium or long-haired cat such as a Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat. Some owners even say that the coat of this cat feels like that of a rabbit, so super soft! But this soft coat has even more advantages: it is hypoallergenic, water-repellent and hardly shaggy at all!
This breed comes in many different colours and patterns. A comprehensive documentation of the colours and patterns of this cat can be found here: https://bengalcats.co/bengal-cat-colors-patterns/
Diseases and disorders
This is a relatively healthy breed, with a lifespan of up to 16 years on average. Most of the health problems of this breed are caused by inaccurate breeding. So always get your cat (not just Bengals, but any cat) from a respectable breeder or shelter where the parents have been scanned for health problems.
This breed is sensitive to anaesthetics, so be careful with any operations such as spaying and neutering. Furthermore, like many other breeds (such as the British Shorthair), they can suffer from a heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy when older. Bengals can also get an eye disease that slowly blinds them (progressive retinal atrophy).
And of course, this breed, like any cat, needs some basic tracking. Think of a good diet to prevent over- or underweight, multiple litter boxes, fresh water every day, enough distractions like a nice scratching post, and a yearly check-up at the vet.
Facts and Figures
– Some celebrities that have a Bengal are Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Seinfield, and Kirsten Stewart.
– The “Rolls Royce of cats” was a $50,000 Bengal.
– Bengals are relatively easy to train. They can learn tricks and get used to a harness quickly.
– Some Bengals have a gene that makes their fur glitter.
Petrebels is not a vet or a behaviourist: all content, information and tips on this blog are meant to inspire you and are of an informative nature. Does your cat have complaints or problems? Or do you have doubts about your cat’s health? Always go to the vet or a behaviourist.