Meet The Bengal: The Miniature Leopard of The Cat World
If you're looking for a cuddly cat that will purr and snuggle its days away in your lap – then don't get a Bengal! These Miniature Leopards, although very friendly, are exceptionally energetic and curious, agile, intelligent and constantly on the move. Bengal is a joyful kitty that will fill your home with laughter, lots of playing and some mischief.
The main features
Often affectionately referred to as the "Miniature Leopards" among the domestic kitties, the Bengal is a unique breed designed to resemble the exotic wild cats such as leopards, ocelots, margays and clouded leopards. They are medium-sized, generally weighing from 8 to 15 pounds or more. They have a broad head, relatively short ears and a long, muscular neck. The body is relatively lean and muscular, supported by medium-length legs and topped with a long, thick tail. The coat is short, thick, soft and luxuriously silky. The coat pattern is spotted or marbled and can be brown (any shade from orange-brown to light- brown) or silver (white). The background colors are variable though and can range from golden and rusty tones to sand, buff and ivory. The spots and rosettes are contrasted and vivid, and can be multicolored too. Sometimes the fur can have a sheen, creating a shimmery or glittery appearance of the coat.
Bengal cats were developed through selective breeding of hybrids of the Asian leopard cat (lat. Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis) and domestic cats mainly in California, US. The hybrids were backcrossed to domestic cats in order to create healthy and friendly cats who preserved the vivid, contrasted coat marks and resembled the temperament of a domestic cat. While there are multiple records of the Asian leopard cat being crossed with domestic cats even before the breed was officially established, one of the people who is thought to have had a great impact on the development of the breed is Jean Mill. Jean Mill didn't cross the cats intentionally, however. In 1940s, Mill got an Asian leopard cat and she allowed her black domestic Tom to keep her company, so the cats wouldn't be lonely. Little did she know, the cats bred and produced beautiful hybrid kittens. Mill kept one female kitten, who she then backcrossed to her father.
In 1970s, Willard Centerwall also started breeding the hybrids for his genetic studies at the Loyola University, as the cats were found immune to feline leukemia virus. After Centerwall's illness, Mill took upon some of his hybrids and continued the breeding program. There were other people involved in the development of the breed too, such as Greg and Elizabeth Kent (who crossed the leopard cat with Egyptian Mau). While many breeders were involved in the development of the breed, Mill's influence is thought of as the most important, as she was the one who worked hardest to get the breed officially registered. The breed was officially accepted by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1983.
Bengal kitties are not likely to be lap cats. They are very social, but constantly on the move looking for new adventures and mischiefs. They love to fetch, go for walks, play with water and they are known to be able to master numerous tricks. Bengals are great with children and dogs who treat him nicely and want to engage in play with them. They will cherish every moment you have to spare to play and interact with them.
Health and care
Bengals are known to be affected by several genetic diseases, such as Bengal Progressive Retinal Atrophy (or PRA-b), erythrocyte pyruvate kinase deficiency (PK-Def) and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a group of diseases characterized by progressive, bilateral degeneration of retina which causes a progressive vision loss and blindness. In Bengal cats, an autosomal recessive, early onset, PRA has been characterized (Ofri et al, 2015). Pyruvate kinase deficiency is an inherited metabolic disorder characterized by disrupted survival of erythrocytes (red blood cells). The disease is caused by the deficiency of the enzyme pyruvate kinase and it is caused by autosomal recessive mutations in PKLR gene encoding for the pyruvate kinase enzyme (Grahn et al, 2012). And finally, Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a disease that affects the heart muscle (myocardium). The exact cause for HCM in cats remains unknown. Scientists have, however, found that feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can be inherited.
When it comes to care, list most domestic kitties, Bengals require weekly grooming, dental hygiene as often as possible, and high-quality diet. They often love water, so it shouldn't be too difficult to convince them for an occasional bath either. There are exceptional self-groomers though, and will tend to their fur very well by themselves too. Because they are so neat, you will have to keep their litter boxes spotless, or they may do their business elsewhere. Additionally, due to their high energy and playfulness, you may want to invest in some interactive toys, cat towers or even an outdoor enclosure to provide them with places where they can climb, run around, play, fetch and scratch.
Fun facts about the breed
1. A Bengal cat is domesticated after 4th generation. In order to design a purrfectly happy, confident and friendly kitty, the breeding rules oblige that the breed is domesticated only after 4 generations of crossbreeding with the Asian leopard cat. This way the vivid coat patterns of the wild relative are preserved, while the breed resembles the temperament and personality of a typical domestic cat.
2. The silver variants are known as Snow Bengals. The Snow Bengals are a result of crossbreeding of the leopard cat with the Siamese cats.
3. There are long-haired variants of this breed too. Although semilong-haired variants have been appearing since the beginnings of this young breed, this variant has so far been recognized only by the New Zealand Cat Fancy registry.
4. They are exceptionally intelligent. Because of their curiosity and high energy, Bengals are exceptional learners. They often learn to open doors or bins by themselves, and they've shown to be highly trainable too. With a little bit of effort and patience, you can teach your kitty wonders. To help you get started on the training journey, here are our few tips and tricks on How to Train Your Kitty.
Bengal is a joyful kitty that will fill your home with laughter, lots of playing and some mischief. Their eye-catching, luxurious appearance and exceptionally funny personality make them for some of the coolest and most exotic companions we could ever dream of. Don't expect this kitty to purr by your feet for too long, with a Bengal you are in for an adventurous and exciting ride! Are you proudly owned by a Bengal? Share with us on Social Media, we would love to meet your purrfect companion.
If you're interested in learning about the breed composition of your unique little furriend, consider purchasing our CatKit and start unraveling the cat secrets today!
1. Grahn RA, Grahn JC, Penedo MCT, Helps CR, Lyons LA. (2012). Erythrocyte Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency mutation identified in multiple breeds of domestic cats. BMC Veterinary Research. 8:207.
2. Ofri R, Reilly CM, Maggs DJ, Fitzgerald PG, Shilo-Benjamini Y, Good KL, Grahn RA, Splawski DD, Lyons LA. (2015) Characterization of an Early-Onset, Autosomal Recessive, Progressive Retinal Degeneration in Bengal Cats. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 56(9):5299-308. doi: 10.1167/iovs.15-16585.