ALL CAT BREED PROFILES

Bengal Cat: Stealth, Grace, and Confidence Wrapped in Warm Affection

Beautiful Bengal Cat walking on a wall
Jeremy Vaughn
Written by Jeremy Vaughn

Think of wild cats like leopards, margays, and ocelots. These felines possess an enchanting, untamable beauty that speaks to many of us. There’s something about these mysterious felines that draws us to them, but the closest we can get to them is when we’re at the zoo. This was an irrefutable fact right up until the discovery of the amazing Bengal cat.

A direct descendant of the wild Asian Leopard cat, Bengal cats were bred to replicate the beauty and elegance of wildcats in a domestic cat. The breed intricately combines the dashing looks of the wild with a good dose of affectionate domestic cat personality. Thanks to their unique heritage and loving personality, this fascinating feline has achieved a status of stardom among cat lovers.

studio image of a bengal cat

Are you curious about the finer details of this breed? We have compiled all the relevant information for you. Read on as we explore Bengal cat’s history, personality, potential health problem, care features, feeding schedule, and much more.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: High

  • Grooming: Low Maintenance

  • Health: Average; some potential health problems to watch out for

  • All Around Friendliness: Good; friendly but not lap cats

  • Exercise Needs: High; these are hyperactive cats

Cat Breed GroupShort-Haired, Crossbreed
SizeMedium to Large
WeightMales: 10-15 lbs

Females: 8-12 lbs
Lifespan14-16 years

Breeding efforts for this feline took off in the 1970s when a breeder in California known as Jean Sudgen received a unique breed of cats. These cats came from Dr. Willard Centerwall who worked at Loyola University.

Dr. Willard had been carrying out experiments with the Asian Leopards (wild Asian cats) due to their partial immunity towards Feline Leukemia. He had, in the process, crossed the Asian Leopard with domestic cats.

When Dr. Willard finished his experiment, he started looking for suitable homes for the resulting cats. At that time Jean had a keen interest in the Asian Leopards and was willing to adopt some of the cats.

bengal kitten in a studio

Jean particularly opted for those that exhibited a domesticated personality coupled with a wild spotted coat. Despite facing great discouragement from her fellow breeders, Jean was set on perfecting a breed that combined both the spotted coat of the Asian Leopard with the comeliness of domestic cats.

After a long period of selective breeding, she successfully achieved the Bengal breed. It was agreed that these felines have to be at least four generations away from their Asian Leopard parent.

Bengal cats are long, well-muscled, athletic felines that are medium to large in size. Bengals have short, dense coats which are very rich in color and soft to the touch. Their coat is easy to groom and only requires weekly brushing.

Close-up of a Magnificent Bengal Cat

Their coats are either spotted or marbled. The spotted coats may also form leopard-like rosette patterns (spots formed by more than one color). Some Bengal coats have a golden glitter. The Bengal’s athletic and muscular bodies exude the confidence of wild cats. They are intelligent and active—often looking for places to climb and harness their hunting prowess.

Although their gait and features are very similar to those of wild cats, the Bengal cat personality is far from ferocious. These cats are affectionate, inquisitive, and playful. Bengals make great family pets as they love playing with children.

They are highly intelligent and active. They enjoy stimulating games and tricks. Bengals need plenty of stimulating activities as they are high energy cats. These felines can get destructive around the house when bored. Cat trees, scratch posts, puzzle toys, tricks, and games are some of the best ways to keep Bengal cats busy and happy.

Main Highlights

  • Bengal cats derive their name from the Asian Leopard’s scientific name: Prionailurus bengalensis.

  • The breed was formed after careful and selective breeding between the Asian Leopard and domestic cats in the 1970s.

  • Bengal cats are considered hypoallergenic, meaning that they are better tolerated by some cat allergy sufferers. This is attributed to their short coats that have fine fur. These felines, therefore, spend less time grooming. Thus, minimal amounts of saliva are deposited on their coats.

  • Bengal cats have an insatiable obsession with water. They love playing with running water. They benefit more if provided with drinking fountains as opposed to being offered water in bowls. They also prefer wet food.

  • Bengals were officially accepted as a new breed in The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1986. In 1991, they were later accepted for championship.

  • Their body sizes are medium to large with male Bengals being significantly bigger than the females.

  • To be accepted as an authentic Bengal, the feline has to be four generations away from their Asian Leopard parent. This is the breeders’ way of ensuring that the Bengal cat temperament is maintained as domestic.

  • Bengals are intelligent and active. They are high energy felines that need plenty of stimulating games and toys. Some can be trained on dog-like activities like playing fetch and walking on a leash.

  • Bengal cats make great family pets as they get along well with children and other pets.

  • Though Bengals are warm and affectionate, they are not necessarily your ideal lap cats. Due to their curious and explorative nature, they are constantly on the move and do not like to be constrained.

Breed History

Bengal cats trace their origin back to the 1970s as the result of an experimental crossbreeding between wild Asian Leopard cats with domestic cats. Though attempts to form this breed started in the 1960s, it was later on in the 1970s that these attempts bore fruits.

Dr. Willard Centerwall, who worked at Loyola University, had been carrying out experiments with Asian Leopard cats. Due to their partial immunity to Feline Leukemia, he crossed them with domestic cats in hopes that this beneficial trait would be inherited.

At the end of his project, Dr. Willard looked for suitable cat parents for the cats. A breeder by the name Jean Sudgen from California was famous for her interest in the Asian Leopard wildcat and was offered the chance to keep some of the cats.

bengal cat in a garden

Jean chose several cats that exhibited a domestic personality yet had a wild-looking, spotted coat. This formed the basis of her efforts to create a breed that combined both the fascinating looks and gracefulness of wild cats with the calm personality of domestic cats.

Her efforts were, however, frowned upon by her fellow breeders who were opposed to a feline breed that combined the two traits. Jean was, however, relentless in her quest. After years of calculated selective breeding, the Bengal breed came about.

The breeding process involved crossing an Asian Leopard with domestic cats. The resulting cats would then be crossed back to domestic cats. For Bengal cats to be considered authentic, they have to be at least four generations separated from their Asian Leopard parent. Bengal cats were formally accepted by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1986 and later in 1991 for championship.

Size

Bengal cats are muscular, athletic, and elegant. They can be medium sized although most are large in size. Male Bengals are notably bigger than the females. Males weigh 10-15 lbs while females weigh 8-12 lbs.

bengal cat sitting in the back of the car

These cats have a wide, arrow-like head with high cheekbones, wide eyes, and small ears. They also have extended whisker pads. There are defined with horizontal lines along their eyes and another set on their forehead that mimics the letter M. Their hind legs are longer than their front legs. Their bellies are light-colored.

Personality and Character

Despite the wild heritage they draw from the Asian Leopard wildcat, Bengal cat behavior is a delight for many cat owners. Bengals are warm and affectionate. They are friendly and get along very well with children and other pets. Bengals are also very active and highly intelligent. They enjoy venturing and experimenting with new toys and games. Seeing as they are a ball of energy, they need constant stimulation.

Bengal Cat in green surrounding

Owners should ensure that there are plenty of places and activities for these felines to direct their energy and curiosity. Scratch posts, cat trees, and puzzle toys are some of the best ways to keep Bengal cats busy.

Furthermore, Bengals are highly intelligent and can learn dog-related tricks like playing fetch and walking on a leash. Because Bengals are curious and very energetic, they are not lap cats. They are not entirely opposed to sitting in their owner’s laps but will often be too busy exploring their surroundings.

Health and Potential Problems

How long do Bengal cats live? Cat lovers that fancy this breed may want to be sure about their health status before adopting them. The good news is that Bengal Cats are generally a healthy breed. They have an impressive lifespan of 14-16 years. There are, however, various illnesses that have been reported in this breed. They include the following:

Health and Potential Problem #1: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in felines is when the left ventricles muscles become weak. This in effect compromises the left ventricles’ ability to pump blood into the aorta.

Meet Suki, the Bengal cat who's living out her best forest dreams

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a progressive ailment and may ultimately cause heart failure. Notable symptoms of this ailment in cats are:

  • Poor appetite

  • Lethargy

  • Difficulty in breathing

  • Limb paralysis

  • Heart Failure

  • Blood clots

Treatment for this disease may include hospitalization with a series of medication. The vet may put the affected feline under oxygen therapy to help them with breathing. You may also be advised to change your feline’s diet.

The vet may also recommend that you allow your feline to recover in isolation from other pets and humans.

Health and Potential Problem #2: Progressive Retinal Atrophy

This is an ailment triggered by the wasting away of cells in the retina of the eye. Normally, the feline would have good vision at birth that degenerates with time. The feline would either go blind or develop an impaired vision.

close-up of a Bengal-cat

Some common symptoms among felines suffering this ailment are:

  • Poor vision at night

  • Abnormal response to light

  • Blurred vision under bright light

  • Dilated pupils

If this ailment is detected early, it is possible to reverse it by administering taurine supplements. Taurine is an amino acid in the body that helps maintain good vision. Good quality cat food should contain sufficient amounts of this amino acid.

Health and Potential Problem #3: Cataracts

Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye thickens and becomes cloudy. Light is, therefore, unable to pass to the retina—thus causing partial or total blindness.

bengal-cats-playing with a food toy

Cataracts in felines may be caused by the following factors:

  • Exposure to toxic radiations

  • Old age

  • Diabetes mellitus

  • Low calcium levels in the blood

Symptoms exhibited as a result of cataracts are:

  • Watery eyes

  • Change in eye color

  • Cloudy spots on the eyes

  • Changes in the pupil’s shape/size

  • Poor vision

If diagnosed early, surgery will help restore the feline’s vision.

Health and Potential Problem #4: Distal Neuropathy

Feline distal neuropathy is a nervous disorder that tends to be present in some Bengal cats’ first year of life.

Bengal kitten playing in a cat tree

Symptoms of this disease include:

  • Constipation

  • Weakness

  • Decreased motor control

  • Wounds that don’t heal

With close veterinarian treatment, some cats are able to recover while others become paralyzed from the disease. Unfortunately, some felines that recover from this nervous disorder may have it recurring later on.

Care Features

Bengal cats should be kept as indoor cats to shield them from various hazards like being run over by cars. Since they are active cats that love to explore, they are bound to get into harm’s way if they are mainly outdoors. A safe way to take care of their high energy and curious nature is to provide cat trees, scratching posts, perching places, and lots of stimulating toys and activities.

Bengal kitten and her owner

Bengals should never be allowed to wallow in boredom. Otherwise, these hyper cats will invent ways to keep themselves busy—which more often than not will include destroying things in your houseSince Bengals have an obsession with running water, owners should provide them with drinking water fountains instead of offering them water from bowls.

Like all felines, Bengals are very particular about hygiene. Their litter boxes should, therefore, be kept clean at all times. Bengal cat owners should also ensure that their felines are kept up to date with all their vaccinations and veterinarian visits. Since Bengals are prone to Progressive Retinal Atrophy, their owners should ensure they feed on foods that are high in Taurine—an essential amino acid for proper vision.

Feeding Schedule

Bengals do not require a special diet, but like all felines, they require high-quality cat food to thrive. The food should have meat as the primary ingredient. Additionally, high-quality feline foods will help nourish both their coats and muscular bodies.

Bengal kitten lying down

These active felines burn through calories very quickly, so the risk of developing obesity and lifestyle complications should be minimal. Still, owners should exercise caution not to overfeed these felines. Stick to the recommended portions according to their life stage and activity level. Bengals should be allowed access to fresh drinking water, preferably from a water fountain.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

The Bengal’s beautiful coat is one of the breed’s most fascinating features. Their coats are either intricately spotted or display marble patterns. Some Bengal coats even have leopard-like rosette patterns.

Bengal cat walking in the garden

Additionally, some Bengals have their coats displaying a spectacular golden sheen, as if their hair strands have been sprayed with gold. Their coat colors and patterns are varied and can be classified as below:

  • Brown. Brown body color with tinges of orange, yellow, or red matched with black spots or marbles.

  • Silver. Metallic silver-colored body matched with black spots or marbles

  • Snow. Cream-colored body matched with dark, tanned spots, or marbles

  • Melanistic. Black-colored body matched with more defined black spots or marbles.

Bengal cats have short-haired soft coats that require minimal grooming. Brushing them once a week should be more than sufficient. They rarely require you to offer them a bath, but when they do, no need to dread the process because these water-loving cats aren’t difficult to bathe.

Daily dental care using feline toothpaste and a soft cat brush will help keep away gum diseases. Their ears should be cleaned weekly, and their nails should also be trimmed weekly.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

Bengal cats make great family pets. Since they possess a playful and active nature, they get along well with children. They also get along well with other pets. Other pets should, however, be slowly introduced to them.

Bengal-Cat-On-Tree

Having said that, we do not recommend keeping this cat in the same vicinity as that of small animals such as birds, hamsters, or lizards. Considering their wildcat heritage, it will be difficult for them to recognize these animals as friends instead of prey.

Wrap Up

Bengal cats have become a favorite choice among cat lovers that fancy wild-looking cats. The formation of this breed was initially resisted as many breeders of the time felt it was not prudent to cross the Asian Leopard wildcat with domestic cats.

Today, however, the Bengal cat stands out for their unrivaled beauty, majestic gait, and warm personality. These cats, however, have to be four generations away from their Asian Leopard cat parent. Bengal cats are donned in beautiful short-haired coats that are either spotted or marbled. Some Bengals even have a golden sheen to their coats.

bengal-cat-lying down in a cat tree

Bengal cats are ideal family pets as they get along well with both children and other pets. They are playful, explorative, and affectionate. These felines are generally healthy. There are, however, a number of illnesses that have been reported among them. Therefore, new owners should aim to adopt their Bengals from reputable, registered breeders.

The Bengal cat is a relatively new breed that has won the hearts of many. Are you among them? Do their beautiful spotted coat and elegant gait appeal to you? Do you like their high energy and curious nature or would you prefer a cat that is more laid back? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

About the author
Jeremy Vaughn
Jeremy Vaughn

Jeremy Vaughn is a member of Canadian Professional Pet Stylists, who lives in Winnipeg. Creating new looks for cats and other pets is his passion. Jeremy shares his house with the wife and wonderful Siamese cat.

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