Bengal Cat: Cat Breed Information, Characteristics and Facts
Bengals are a breed of cats with lengthy, muscular, and average to the big-sized body, large head, and muzzle, as well as prominent whisker pads and very high cheekbones. They have a distinguished look with wide and rounded eyes sporting dark markings (like mascara) as well as little ears that come with rounded tips. They do not belong to the category of delicate feline; they are of athletic build, with a natural gracefulness as well as agility. Besides, their sturdy, muscular body is more befitting for a jungle cat. In spite of their physical appearance, which is best described as wild, this species of cats are quite warm and affectionate with the family that adopts it. Again, they are also known to have a huge reserve of energy but with a playful and fun-loving side. What they need is a home that is a match for their boisterous nature as they are frequently active. Continue reading for more facts about this cat breed along with their characteristics.
History of the Bengal Cat
People who are hearing of Bengal cat for the first time will naturally think that it is a smaller version of the wild Bengal tiger. Of course, its classic stripe might lend credence to the claim, but there are some that come complete with the spots of a leopard. In the past, animal lovers have been fascinated by the independence and loveliness of wild cats and have made unsuccessful attempts to domesticate some wild members of the cat family like cheetahs, ocelots as well as lions. The Bengal species was developed by Jean S. Mill to try and satisfy that desire for wild appearance but in a way that is safe for humans. However, at about the same period at Loyola University, another crossbreeding program was going on with Dr. Willard Centerwall who was busy crossing some domestic cats with Asian leopard cats.
Despite this coincidence, Jean began in 1963 when she launched her Bengal breeding program by cross-breeding domestic shorthairs and small feral wild Asian Leopard Cats. Her aim was to produce a cat with all the striking physical traits of an Asian wildcat and at the same time, retain the vigorous, welcoming, and confident temperament of a domestic feline. The name Bengal came from the scientific name of the Asian leopard cat called Felis bengalensis. In fact, the primary aim for creating Bengals was to wow the crowd. Today, we have Bengals which are descendants of her program.
According to reports, the Californian breeder Jean Mill never wanted to create a new breed of cats; it was all an accidental occurrence. She just got a leopard cat to keep company with her black tomcat, whom she believed was lonely, however, it came as a great surprise to her, as she didn’t initially believe that the unrelated species were capable of mating, the two felines bred beautiful kittens and Jean reserved one of the spotted females whom she mated back with the father. The resultant effect was a litter of sturdy and spotted kittens
Even when Jean was forced to give up due to life changes, she later returned to the project, acquiring some hybrids from Dr. Centerwall and breeding them with suitable males. The wildness in the Bengal breeds diminished with time, and today, the breed is considered as exactly the same with your regular domestic cat and any recent Bengal acquisition ought to be at least 4 generations removed from their origin and ancestors with untamed bloodlines.
Despite their origin, we should not confuse Bengals with the leopards which are descendants of the genus Panthera. Its body size might be as small as the domesticated feline, but the Asian leopard cats come with more elongated limbs and slimmer body than their domesticated cousins. Its distinguishing features are well-defined webs between its toes. This species of domesticated wild cats are majorly seen in East, South as well as South Eastern parts of the Asian continent while its cousin, the leopard is found in the jungles of Africa.
The exact time that the first set of Bengals breeds came into existence is not certain but they were first recognized in 1983 when The International Cat Association granted the breed an experimental status. The full recognition followed in 1991. Other associations that have recognized the Bengal breed include; the Canadian Cat Association, the American Cat Fanciers Association as well as the United Feline Organization.
Quick Facts About the Bengal Cat
- Bengals have become one of the most sought after breeds in recent times; in fact, one English woman had to pay the exorbitant amount of $50,000 for her Bengal purchase in 1990, dubbing the species the “Rolls Royce” of the feline world.
- Bengal cats stand out in the cat family for their thick, luxuriant and extraordinarily soft coat. The breed is distinguished by leopard-like markings and spots which come randomly, but in most cases, the spots align in a horizontal arrangement with rosettes, creating a semi-circle. But there are still cases where the markings fall into a marble pattern.
- The Bengal cats are known to come in different beautiful colors ranging from brown, black, and snow white. The most common colors are either brown or black spotted with the rest coming in brown or black marbled design, but with further cross-breeding experiments, we now have snow marbled, or snow spotted designs or patterns on Bengal cats. Other colors still exist, and the spots usually come in very sharp contrast to the color of the background. There are still others like orange, rust, golden, buff, sand as well as ivory. The markings and spots also come in varying colors of black, brown, cocoa, charcoal, and chocolate.
- There are still many of the breeds that come with remarkable rosettes or decorations with more than a single color. More often than not, it is a secondary color creating a darker outlining to the normal spot. The ones that come with marble-patterned decorations have a color or two whirled into the background. Many can be found in the brown dotted tabby pattern as well as the marbled pattern which is popularly referred to as classic tabby. Additionally, the coat of the Bengal cat is hairy with a glistering sheen, making it appear like it has been sprayed with glitter.
- The Bengal breed may have started as a crossbreed between a house cat and a jungle feline, but it has come to be one of the most domesticated kitties available. Its alien features may appear somewhat wild as 50% of its origin comes from the Asian leopard wildcat but the breed still retains the friendliness and liveliness of a domestic kitten.
- The Bengal felines are known to weigh up to 15 pounds in body mass; however, there are still some that come with lesser weight but not less than 8 pounds.
- Talking about the lifespan of this special feline breed, they can survive for up to 10 years but the max life expectancy peaks at 16 years.
- The head comes with a wedge shape, wider at the tip but narrows down towards its chin, though the contours always come rounded. The ears are positioned towards the side of its head. As for the eyes, they are usually oval-shaped, but most are simply rounded. The feline’s coat is best described as dense with silky and soft fur. It is a known fact that there are some Bengals which come with a special coat that reacts to light, glittering like precious gems whenever light reflects on it.
- The breed has been described by experts as a mildly allergenic and low-shedding cat that is quite undemanding to groom, even with its high activity level.
- Bengals are tolerant of other domestic pets and are known to be sociable with the canine population.
- The positive characteristics find expression in the grace of this wild feline, coupled with its natural ability to move with stealth and also without making a single noise. The hind limbs come a bit longer than the forelimbs, which makes the shoulders side a little shorter than the back end. This emphasizes the cat’s appearance and its athletic muscular build has been credited to be one of the cat’s most significant features, and besides, the Bengal has never been known to be delicate.
Things You Should Know About the Bengal Breed
Just like the pedigree cats, mixed breeds such as the Bengal also experience varying cases of health problems, many of which are naturally genetic. Although Bengals are known to be generally strong and healthy, many diseases have been observed in the breed. They include the following;
- Distal Neuropathy – This type of feline disease comes in the form of a disorder in the nervous system that results in constant weakness. The ailment can occur as early as 12 months in Bengals. Fortunately, the majority of the feline population is known to recover without any medication or external help, but there are still a few that relapse.
- Flat-Chested Kitten Syndrome – This has been observed as a form of physical deformity ranging from mild to very severe cases. There is usually no sign of it once the kittens are able to survive into adulthood as the condition continues to tone down with maturity
- Hip Dysplasia – This is another feline malady which has been known to cause lameness in very difficult situations.
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy – these kinds of cases are majorly hereditary in most breeds, it is known as a sort of heart disease.
- Patellar Luxation – It is a condition that occurs at the kneecap in the form of dislocation which is hereditary. This kind of ailment also ranges from mild to severe conditions which usually call for a surgery section to correct.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy – Vets refer to this condition as degenerative eye disorder or disease.
Just like every other species of cats, the Bengal breed needs to be fed with cat food of good quality with emphasis placed on animal proteins. Many kitty diets are known to come with plant protein, which is perfectly acceptable; however, proteins from plants should not constitute their major daily ingredient as they don’t often come with complete amino acids like taurine. With the very high activity level of the Bengal feline, it becomes necessary to check the calorie content of their daily meal. Cat owners who choose to go slow on calorie-dense cat dishes are more likely to end up with a lazy kitty. Feline nutrition should be taken seriously, especially when it comes to Bengals with luxating patellas. Weight management and food control go a long way in taking care of the health and wellbeing of this exotic feline.
Animal lovers who keep Bengals as pets should learn to take care of their feline companion. The care for Bengals is as follows;
- Take care of the short and dense coat of your cat with brushing or combing which can be done on a weekly basi The essence is to get rid of dead hair as well as distribute the feline’s natural oil on the skin. Baths are not really necessary.
- Just like the body, the cat’s dentition needs to be taken care for prevention of periodontal diseases. Dental hygiene can be observed daily, but you can still brush weekly instead of not brushing at all.
- Their nails should be trimmed bi-weekly.
- Remove discharge from their eyes by wiping the corners with a damp, soft cloth. Try not to run the risk of infection by using a different side of the cloth for each eye
- The two ears must be inspected on a weekly basis, and any wax needs to be cleaned with either a cotton ball or a soft cloth dampened with a mixture of warm water and cider vinegar. Cotton swabs are not good as they can damage the inner ear.
- The litter box should be kept spotlessly clean as the feline population is meticulous about bathroom hygiene. They might suddenly take to sleeping in other places if they perceive their litter box to be dirty.
- To be on the safe side, Bengals should be kept only indoors to keep them away from any cat disease that might be spreading around. It still keeps them from being attacked by coyotes or dogs or any dangers faced by outdoor cats, like being involved in accidents with cars.
- The best thing to do is to construct a big outdoor enclosure for your cat where it will be safe to climb and jump. Cases of Bengal thefts have also been reported as people who desire to own such exotic breed without financial commitment readily take advantage of any opportunity.
The Bengal feline is very easy to groom, despite their short and dense coat; the skin only needs to be subjected to weekly combing or brushing to distribute its body oils and remove dead hair. Inspect the cat’s hind and forelimb bi-weekly to clip overgrown nails. Its ears and eyes should also be catered for as this breed is vulnerable to cataracts and several other eye defects which call for a weekly inspection of the cat’s eyes. Because of the impracticability and difficulty you are likely to encounter while observing dental hygiene for your feline companion, recommendations are that you try brushing its teeth two times in one week.
Owing to the Bengal’s feral ancestry. It is usually seen by many as a difficult cat to handle; however, this has been found to be false, especially with the insistence of breeders who are of the opinion that the exotic breed can be easily tamed which is even made easier by its affectionate personality. But it is essential to note that the Bengal is not suitable for a lap cat, but it has the tendency to enjoy some human company and does not stay far from its family members. The Bengal is particularly known to find pleasure in the company of little kids as it loves to exert energy, playing games with the children.
The Bengal cat has been known to shed its wildness as generations evolve, but it has managed to retain one trait of its ancestry which is the hunting instinct – The hunting prowess of the Bengal does not just stop with small animals on land, it also extends to sea creatures. Just like the Asian leopard with sharpened instinct and capability to fish in the sea, the domesticated Bengal carries the same character trait but in a less aggressive way. It can play as well as swim alongside the owner, taking a bath or showers, or it might just prefer to play in the sink.
Its highly energetic nature demands that you give your Bengal plenty of time and space to jump and climb to very high locations. So keep all fragile objects away, especially out of open shelves and places where they can easily fall and crash.
- Bengal Cats – CatTime
- Bengal – VetStreet
- The Joys and Hazards of Living with a Pet Bengal Cat – Pet Helpful