Welcome to our Bengal Cat facts page where we’re going to tell you all about the wonderful and exotic Bengal cat! Not only are we going to let you know all about these beautiful felines, we’ll also hopefully bust some of those myths you may have heard about the breed!
We’ve written another article about the differences between a Bengal cat and a tabby cat so if you’re wondering if your cat has some Bengal genes, it may help you to decide – all you need to do is check out our article: “Is my cat a Bengal cat?” on our Advice Centre pages
A Very Brief History
The original Bengal cats are a hybrid of the Asian Leopard Cat and domestic cats. They were developed by various people, most notably Jean Sugden Mill, in the 1970s and 80s with the aim of harnessing the beauty of the wild cat, yet maintaining the temperament of the domestic cat. Through careful breeding, this aim has definitely been achieved!
Physical Appearance: The Famous Bengal Markings!
The first thing most people notice about the Bengal cat is the wonderful coat! Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it’s also very soft and sleek and many Bengals also shine in the light with a glitter that permeates through every hair shaft!
Bengals have two basic fur patterns: the more common spotted pattern and the wonderfully swirly marbled. Both spotted and marbles are often tri-coloured with various shades forming the unique markings.
The tri-colouring is what can give spotted Bengals “rosettes” – where each individual spot has an outline of a darker colour, giving a look similar to that of a Jaguar, for example. Not all Bengals have defined rosettes – they have spots more like a Leopard, with no outline of colour.
Both spotted and marbled Bengals come in a variety of colours: Brown, Snow, Silver and Blue are the most common though newer colours such as chocolate, charcoal and cinnamon (must be something about Cs?) are also becoming more popular.
Snows are also known as Seal Lynx Point, Seal Mink and Seal Sepia. Seal Lynx Points have Siamese cats in their ancestry, so will always have blue eyes, whereas the Seal Sepia was derived from Burmese and will never have blue eyes. A Seal Mink has both Lynx Point and Sepia genes so the eyes can be any colour, though they will never be as bright blue as the Lynx Point’s.
Just like in the wild with Panthers, you can also get black Bengal cats, these are known as melanistic. They do have spots or marbling, though you may only be able to see their markings in certain lighting conditions.
It’s desirable for Bengals (except melanistic) to have light or white tummies, just like many of their wild cousins!
Bengal cats are usually quite large: males weigh on average between 10 – 15 lbs (4.5 – 6.8kg) and females 8 – 12 lbs (3.6 – 5.4 kg). Of course you will get some even bigger than that and a few who are smaller too, so don’t be concerned if your Bengal is outside of those averages.
Other Physical Features
The head of the Bengal should be quite small in comparison to the body, with small ears too, reminiscent of their wild cat ancestry.
The ears should have a “thumbprint” – a patch where the fur is very short, in the shape of a thumb! Many tabby cats also have this thumbprint.
Also in common with most tabby cats, Bengals have a clear “M” on the forehead
Bengals are strong and agile cats and should be slim and athletic. The back legs are slightly longer than the front ones, which give an arch to the back when standing in a certain position.
Bengal (mis) Behaviour!
OK, we admit it! Bengals are not your laid-back lap cat! They are often quite naughty and can be a handful, they are not for the inexperienced or nervous cat owner!
The Bengal is also very intelligent for a cat and needs lots of things to keep that brain occupied, lots of interactive play with toys (like the dragonfly you can find on our store) and if you’re out a lot, another cat is often a great playmate.
Bengals are also very vocal and loud – they will always tell you when they want something such as food or the litter box to be cleaned out (did I mention they can be fussy over these things?). The Bengal miaow is not easily ignored!
Although Bengals can be naughty and loud, they are also great fun and love to play with their humans. They are affectionate and it’s not unusual for them to form a great loyalty to a single member of the household.
Their intelligence means they are easy to train and many react well to clicker training. It’s not uncommon for Bengal owners to train their cats to go for a walk on a harness and leash (we have safe and strong harness jackets for sale in our store).
They love water and many will drink straight from the tap (faucet) and watch their humans in the shower or bath tub! Beware! If you’re shy and you close the bathroom door – that loud miaow will soon be heard! There’s no escaping from the curious Bengal
If you want an active, affectionate, naughty cat who will make you smile and even laugh every single day then a Bengal is for you!
Bengals are generally very healthy cats if you have bought from a reputable and registered breeder. The life expectancy is the same as many other cats: 14 – 16 years. In line with other pedigree breeds, there are some diseases that they have a slightly higher risk of – HCM (heart disease) and PkDef (chronic anaemia) being two of them. But if you go to a breeder who screens for these things, the risk of your Bengal getting them is much reduced, small though it is in the first place.
Bengal Myths – Busted!
The Bengal cat is named after the Latin name for the Asian Leopard Cat – Prionailurus bengalensis – and not the very distantly-related Bengal tiger.
Bengals are no more aggressive than your average domestic kitty! As for any cat, they must be well socialised from young kitten-hood which a reputable breeder will do. If you buy from a back yard breeder who doesn’t ensure this is done, you may get behavioural problems – but this is true for any breed of cat, it’s not exclusive to Bengals!
The Asian Leopard Cat is a shy and timid creature, and relatively small – not very “wild” when you compare them to their big cat cousins!
Bengals are NOT immune to Feline Leukaemia. It is thought that the Asian Leopard Cat is immune, and some of the early hybrids were bred to see if this immunity could be replicated in a domestic cat, but it wasn’t possible.
Are Bengals hypo-allergenic? Probably not, though anecdotal evidence suggests that some people who are allergic to cats do not have a reaction to Bengals. We have seen this from our own experience, so know it to be true, though we have also heard of allergic people that have reacted, so we would never risk human health and say that 100% of allergic sufferers would be unaffected by the Bengal cat.
Not every cat who has a spotted or marbled coat pattern is a Bengal or even a Bengal mix. See our article on “Is my cat a Bengal?” for more info.