A bengal house cat is as wild as its predecessor. Or is it an ordinary, kind domestic cat? Why is it so expensive than? Below you’ll find the answers for these and many other questions.
History of the breed
The story starts in the USA in 1961. Jean Mill is the founder of the breed. She was a biologist-geneticist. When at university she has already been studying the task of cat line breeding. One of her university works was devoted to analysis of possibility of Siamese and Persian cats breeding.
In 1961 Jean Mill was on a business trip in Bangkok, South-East Asia. It was natural habitat of wild cats Felis Bengalensis that resembled domestic cats in their size.
At that time this species faced with extinction due to poachers, who were killing adult animals because of their valuable fur and the kittens were sold to tourists as a live souvenir.
Jean bought a kitten there and brought it to the USA, and gave it a name Malaysia.
Malaysia, who grew up in the house, still had a wild cat temper. She was distrustful, wary, she didn’t show or accept affection, preferred solitude, though she didn’t demonstrate any aggression. She went to sleep somewhere high to be beyond the reach.
When Malaysia had her mating call she showed favor towards a black cat who lived in Jean’s house. In 1963 to everybody’s amusement a healthy crossbred cat appeared as a result of this bigeneric crossing.
She inherited her mother’s spotted coloring and her name was Kin-Kin. Jean decided to continue working on breeding of cat variety, which will resemble the exotic forest cats, but have a temper of a family pet.
When Kin-Kin grew older she was mated with the same black cat. At this stage Jean’s work on creating a special cat was interrupted by her husband’s death. Malaysia was put into the zoo and Kin-Kin died of pneumonia.
15 years later Jean (now her surname was Mill) found out about the studies carried out in the USA California State University laboratory intended to compare immunity of wild and domestic cats. During the study scientists revealed that some wild cats are immune to feline leukaemia virus.
What was left to define is whether this immunity is inborn or it is acquired during a cat’s life in the wild. To carry out this study interbreeding of wild leopard cats and domestic cats of different breeds was performed.
Jean Mill turned to Dr. Willard Centerwall, the head of the scientific group, asking him to give her several hybrid female cats of the 1st generation (F1) and she was given 9 female cats. This is where a serious study began aimed to create a domestic (in every sense of the word) Bengal cat.
In the process of the breed formation the hybrid female cats F1 were mated with domestic cats of different breeds, among them were бирма and мау. In 1982 Jean luckily bought a small wild cat with spotted golden-orange coloring. She found it in one of the zoos in New Delhi, India.
Although the cat didn’t have a tail since it was squashed by a rhinoceros. Jean brought him home, named Dehli and registered in CFA (Cat Fanciers Association).
When getting older the cat became a perfect match for Jean’s cats. All kittens that appeared after this mating had incredibly shining fur, with so called glitter, which stayed fixed in cat breed.
And Jean has continued her work on creation of the cat of her dream. The difficulty was that 70—80 % of male cats of the first three generations were sterile.
Besides not all the kittens had this nice leopard spotted coloring. Then Jean started using wild cats in her stock breeding. In 1991 cats first participated in TICA championship.
First three generations of crossing with Asian Bengal cat are called generations F1, F2 and F3. Cat males born in these three generations usually are sterile. The fourth and the following generations of Leopard cat are called SBT, they are domestic ones and they can participate in cat shows.
First posterity of Bengal cats was officially registered in TICA in 1983 and in 1985 cats first appeared at American cat shows and impressed everyone greatly with their wild beauty and grace.
It took years to create breed. It was a long and difficult process, in which not only Jean Mill took part, but also other breeders; and only in 1991 breed standard was officially confirmed.
Nowadays the breed is acknowledged by almost all felinological organizations.
Any description of Bengal cat appearance creates an image of a wild forest predator.
They are rather muscular, strong with firm skeleton. The cats have good health and they are quite enduring. All the appearance shows a perfect hunter, who can patiently stalk its prey, jump high and climb trees.
Cat body is elongated; its hind paws are a bit taller than its fore paws. The cat has large paws with retracted claws to quietly haunt the prey. It can sit frozen for quite a long time and wait for the moment to jump.
Not a tiny movement shows its presence.
The cat has a small and nice head on a muscular neck. The almond eyes are large and eloquent. When the cat creeps up on a prey they become squinty cold eyes of a killer.
Sometimes you may see some strange primal longing in its eyes, as if something is calling the cat into the fields and forests, a call of their faraway homeland. The cat’s nose is large, wide with a pronounced tip of the nose.
The ears are short and rounded with wide hearset, a bit leaned forward, as if the cat is on the alert. Bengal cat has high cheekbones, prominent chin and wide pronounced подусники whiskers.
However what impresses most is the cat’s fur – gorgeous and soft it feels like real silk. Bright dappled fur is decorated with contrasting spots upon warm colored background that varies from sand to reddish-brown.
One of the features of cat’s fur is its «glitter», that is usually seen on clean, not ticked fur.
These cats have a special fur structure by nature – it has unusual light reflection. Maybe this is due to some tiny cavities in its hair. The abovementioned effect can’t be called neither shining nor sparkling, but really glittering.
When you look at the cat it seems as if some very thin rays of light come through its fur and it starts to glitter. This feature is rather desirable one for the breed.
The cat body can have 2 types of patterns: spotted and marbled.
The preference is given to more contrasting patterns with clear and well-defined spots and stroke marks. Contrast is created by two and sometimes three or more colors and tints. Large rosettes and marbled coloring lines on bright background are set off with the third color and the pattern becomes more fanciful.
Cat’s snout has a natural “make-up” on it: light fur around its eyes (so called “glasses”) and ideally almost white chin and подусники whiskers. Letter “M” on its forehead transforms into sophisticated hieroglyph of screech beetle shape.
There are lots of torn “necklaces” made of spots on the cat’s neck. The lips, eyelids and tip of the nose have dark contour of black or brown color and the paw pads are colored the same according to the main color of the cat’s fur. It’s neck, chest, abdomen, inner side of the paws are significantly brighter than the fur on cat’s sides and back.
For the cat it’s desirable ideally to have almost white colored abdomen and inner side of its paws – this is peculiar to wild Asian Leopard cats. At that the cat’s abdomen, limbs and tail are covered with small or elongated spots.
Light and dark spots in turns come along the cat’s tail; they may turn into rings close to its tip which is necessarily black or dark brown depending on the cat’s coloring.
Wild Asian Leopard cats have spotted fur coloring. Small round or triangle spots are disorderly or horizontally placed along the cat’s body. The same pattern you may observe on domestic Bengal cats’ body, it’s called a spotted one.
But sometimes wild cats had more complicated patterns of triangles, comas and curved stripes. Mixture of wild and domestic cats’ genes under controlled breeding gives incredibly amusing patterns and instead of simple spots you may see nice rosettes on the cat’s fur.
Rosettes may be ring- and half-ring-shaped, they may resemble a paw mark or a bunch of grapes. Large round separate spots of solid coloring are also called rosettes. The preference is given to the patters that consist of similar spots located uniformly and separately from each other.
It’s important that they don’t merge into vertical “tiger” stripes, since this is a drawback according to the breed standards. Large rosettes also should be separated from each other.
Round spots or curved stripes go in rows from the cat’s shoulders along its chine up to the tail.
The second pattern is called marbled and it speaks for itself – it looks like marble. Twisted curved horizontal lines and fanciful stroke marks resemble marble patterns a lot. As for nice round spots and concentric circles that usually domestic cats have and are called “oxeye” by Americans – such patterns are not allowed. The same is about “tiger” stripes.
Lots of kittens go through “fuzzy uglies” stage when growing old. At the age of 3 weeks kittens are bright and contrastively colored, but being 4-5 weeks old they become overgrown with ticked fur, the basic coloring gets pale and the spots fade.
This is due to genetics that helps to protect Asian Leopard cat youngster from possible dangers they may face in the jungle.
The fur gets cleaner and becomes contrast colored again after the kittens become 12 weeks old and it becomes bright again approximately at the age of 6-7 month, the coloring stops changing and gains its final look when the kitten is 1 year old or sometimes later.
Classical coloring of Bengal cat is brown spotted tabby. There are also black silver spotted tabby and seal spotted lynx point, but they are encountered more seldom.
Brown spotted tabby
- Bengal cats with such coloring are the most good-looking and the most numerous. Spots and patterns color varies from brown or dark-brown to black upon lighter basic background color.
- The fur basic background color may vary from light-beige and golden sand to reddish-brown. The tail tip is black or dark brown depending on the coloring.
- The standards prefer intense yellow and golden colors. The paw pads, eyes contour, tip of the nose and lips should be black. Nose tip should be testaceous. The eyes color may be golden, copper, green, bronze, brown or hazelnut.
Seal spotted lynx point:
- The fur basic background color varies from cream to ivory. Spots and pattern lines color varies from light brown to brownish-black.
- Tip of the tail is brownish-black. Tip of the nose is testaceous with dark brown edge or it may be completely black. The eyes are of intense blue color.
Black silver spotted tabby
- The cat’s main background color is pure silvery blue and the underfur is white. Spots and patterns are black as well as the cat’s nose, eyes and lips edging.
- The paw pads are velvet black or black-brown. The eyes color varies from golden to emerald green; vibrant bold colors are preferable.
Although that cats resemble wild ones a lot, their temper is rather sweet, communicative and very friendly. Obtaining cats with such a combination of temper and appearance was the aim of Bengal cats breeding program. Aggressive or timid species were removed from the program.
They are very trustful and affective by nature – they continuously need human company and attention. Usually the cat has two or three people in the family they adore, who they always follow everywhere; they try to be a part of all family events.
These cats like talking, but they know when to stop. Very sociable they get along well with other pets in the house, very patient with kids, but again – they have their limits.
Bengal have preserved natural intellect and astuteness of their predecessors – they are very clever and quick on the uptake. These cats can use their forepaws to hit objects and bring them. Their intelligence charms, especially when they bring their toys to show that they want to play.
Also these cats have unexplainable affection to water – they like drinking it or they may even have a shower together with their owner.
Bengal aren’t timid, but they are rather independent, it’s hard to make them obey. The cat just leaves, if it feels a stronger personality.
We should also mention that they are very active and curious animals, they continuously search new games and occupations, therefore don’t leave them unattended for a long time.
They’ll teach you very fast to close all drawers and closets – they like hiding, especially in boxes and packages.
Be sure that your cat appreciates a little house with a scratcher, so it’ll have a place where to have fun and all the furniture in the house will be fine.
Bengal are very loyal and sympathetic; they get used to their owners very fast and accept all conditions of living in the house. These cats are rather trustful therefore they need human company a lot. You should talk to them out loud.
They are talkative, but they never bore their owner. They don’t like being cuddled.
As we’ve already mentioned the cat gets on well with other animals in the house – they easily play and befriend with dogs. Despite the rumour about the cat’s predator nature, it likes kids and can play with them all day long.
They are quite cautious with strangers and guests in the house. The owner should first of all tell his guests not to take the cat in their arms, since it may scratch or bite them.
Bengal cat doesn’t need any special care, so I’ll give you some general recommendations that can be used when taking care of any domestic cat.
So, you’ve brought a kitten into the house. Don’t let him walk all around the whole place at once. Limit the territory where he can walk with one room or a kitchen. Put him a bowl with his food and another one with some water and a cat litter box with the filler the cat has got used to.
It’s desirable to put some used filler from his previous litter box, so he can smell his urine in it. Scratching mat is a must, so find a place for it, too, and give the kitten one or two toys. At first the kitten may hide in some nookery, it may be anxious and mew pitifully. The little one doesn’t understand where he is, he’s calling his mother and siblings.
Try to separate the kitten from kids and other animals for a while. Don’t get angry with him for disturbing your peace, try to calm him down instead or distract him with toys.
Kittens are very curious and soon this curiosity will prevail. If the kitten sees that he is loved and nothing threatens him, he’ll forget his previous home and love you in return, play with you and with his toys.
It’s advisable to feed the kitten only with the food recommended by the breeder. If for some reason you aren’t satisfied with this food, ask the breeder for advice before changing the food. After that gradually add new food in small portions to the one, the cat has used to.
The whole process of the food changing should take not less than 5-7 days.
At that you must continuously monitor cat’s defecation. In case of any problems contact the breeder. Clean water should always be available and don’t forget to pour a new portion every day. It’s better to use ceramic bowls, since cats like water a lot.
If your kitten always spills water from his bowl, don’t scold him, just put the bowl into some other tray and the spilled water will stay there leaving the floor dry.
It’s better to buy a large cat litter box at once, since cats are rather large as well. There may be not enough space for the large cat in a small litter box and the “result” may be on the floor. These cats prefer hidden litter boxes, something like a small house with litter box in it.
As for me I prefer wood filler. It is the most eco-friendly one, it absorbs the smell very well and it can be thrown away into a toilet bowl. If you want to start using some other filler, this should be done gradually as well.
At first don’t throw away all the used filler, leave some in the box and then add the new filler – this way the kitten will know where is his toilet.
Bengal cat’s fur needs no care at all. The fur is very short and smooth – it is kept clean naturally by the cat himself. Unless you may use a rubber brush while the cat is changing its coat.
Attending a vet with a Bengal is the same, as for other cats: they need regular examination plus vaccination one a year. 10-14 day before the vaccination you should give the cat some helminthicide. For cats which are fed with ready to use food or boiled natural food it is enough to perform anthelminthic treatment once in 6 month, for those who eat natural raw food this should be done at least once in 3 month.
If you let the cat walk outdoors when being in your country house, it’s necessary to vaccinate the cat against dermatomycosis (bald ringworm) and treat your cat’s fur regularly with some medicines against cat flea and mites. All of these will save your cat from parasites and illnesses, and you’ll avoid unnecessary problems.
Flowers create a unique warm and cozy atmosphere in the house, they decorate the house, but sadly, they may be dangerous for cats.
From time to time they need to clean their stomach by chewing some paper, cellophane package or some house plant, which may be not just harmful, but even poisonous for the animal.
You must know which plants are dangerous and make them unreachable for the cat.
Bengal have their young once a year. It’s better to mate these cats on a male cat’s territory, since a female cat guards her territory rather fiercely. Quite often the female cat may be rather aggressive towards the male cat at the beginning and she may not even let him close.
But in few hours or sometimes the next day they start to play with each other and show friendlier attitude.
The cat gestation course is the same as that of all other cats – it lasts 58-65 days. These cats bring up their kittens very thoroughly and teach them a lot of things. Kittens are very active, playful and they like running all around.
Time for games takes turns with sleep period several times a day. Quite often the cat may bring toys to its owner to ask him to play with the kittens.
Training the kitten
You should start cat training as early as possible. The main thing here is to talk with the cat. These cats are rather socialized ones and by means of a human voice they get to know the world around and learn to understand us.
Besides, these cats can remember words and obey commands just like dogs.
You should play with cat as much as you can, especially when the cat is young. Due to these games the animals create their behavior pattern and satisfy their prey drive. Each time the cat shows aggression, you should snap your fingers in front of the cat’s snout.
Please remember, the more attention you pay to a small young Bengal cat the more intelligent and tactful adult animal it’ll become. Don’t scare these cats or threaten at them. In the majority of cases it’s quite enough to clap your hands or to say “out” to stop the cat from doing something wrong.
Another important thing when training a cat is to get it used to your hands. You should take a kitten in your arms it develops mutual trust.
Adult cats don’t like to be cuddled too often, but they ask their owner to ruffle their fur or to cuddle them from time to time.
Bengal cat can be successfully trained. It can bring objects in its teeth, stand on its hind paws, easily gets used to a collar and walks on a leash.
Training is always performed by means of a dialogue, games, praising and selective rewards for successful execution of commands.
Sergey is a founder and author of Meethepet.com. He’s been fond of aquarium husbandry since his early childhood.
His favorite aquariums are biotopes (Amazon River), with Echinodorus and Angelfish. However, through the years he’s had experience of keeping almost all types of freshwater fish and shrimps.