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September 17, 2021 |0 min read

Bengal Cat Breed: A Complete Guide

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

The beauty of the Bengal cat is in its polished complexion—literally—the marbled pattern of this short-haired domestic cat is known to sparkle in the sunlight.

Bengal cats are beautiful cross-breeds between the domestic cat and the Asian leopard cat, a wild feline known for its dark stripes, white streaks, and narrow white muzzle.

But what does it take to raise a healthy and happy Bengal cat? Read on to find out more about the Bengal cat breed and how to care for your Bengal kitty properly. 

Breed Overview: Bengal Cat Breed

Here are a few stats to get you started as we explore this amazing cat breed:

  • Weight – 8 to 15 pounds
  • Length –  14 to 18 inches
  • Coat – Short-haired, shiny, with spotted or marbled patterns
  • Eye Color – Yellow, green, gold, aqua, or blue
  • Life Expectancy – 12 to 16 years

Bengal Cat Characteristics: The Basics

Bengal cats have personalities all their own but they’re known for these characteristics:

  • Affection – High
  • Friendliness – Medium
  • Kid-friendly – High
  • Pet-friendly – High
  • Energy Level – High
  • Intelligence – High
  • Vocalization – Medium to high
  • Shedding – Medium 

Fun Facts

Bengal cats are an incredibly unique breed of cat. Interested in learning a few fun facts? We’ve got you covered:

  • Bengal cats don’t meow—they have a raspy voice that sounds more like a bark.
  • These cats’ DNA is naturally resistant to feline leukemia.
  • Bengal cats are incredibly agile and can even be taught to flip light switches on and off.

The History of Bengal Cats

The history of the Bengal cat dates back to the late 1800s when a British artist, Harrison Weir, bred what’s known as the first domesticated Asian leopard hybrid cat. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the breed became more popular, primarily due to its immunity to feline leukemia. 

However, the breed wasn’t officially recognized by the International Cat Association until 1983 and didn’t gain breed recognition from the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) until 2016.

Due to its unique heritage, the Bengal cat has been bred through multiple generations, causing discrepancies in Bengal cat colors and disposition. Typically, you can identify the generation of your Bengal cat by referring to the Filial scale. 

Filial Scale

The Filial scale notes how many generations removed from the wild a Bengal cat is and consists of four categories:

  • F1 generation – First generation Bengal cats, one parent is an Asian leopard cat
  • F2 generation – Second generation Bengal cat, one grandparent is an Asian leopard cat
  • F3 generation – Third generation Bengal cat, one Asian leopard cat great-grandparent
  • F4 generation – Fourth generation Bengal cat, one Asian leopard cat great-great-grandparent

To be recognized by the International Cat Association as a domestic cat, your Bengal kitty must be at least a fourth-generation breed or further removed from its Asian leopard cat ancestor. 

The F rating of your Bengal cat can largely influence many of the cat’s characteristics, such as:

  • Interest in spending time outdoors
  • Preference for raw cat food
  • Inclination to playing in the water
  • Appearance
  • Socializing skills

More specifically, F1- and F2-generation Bengal cats will typically demonstrate more “wild” characteristics and behaviors, including a preference for independence, loud vocals, and, at times, aggressive behavior, depending on its socialization as a young cat. 

On the other hand, F3 and F4-generation Bengal cats are far more domesticated and demonstrate more relaxed temperaments.

Today, most Bengal cats are bred with other Bengal cats, further removing them from their wild feline counterparts. 




Behavioral Characteristics and Personality of Bengal Cats

Generally, the Bengal cat personality is dynamic and intelligent. You can often equate owning a Bengal to owning a small leopard: They’re playful, curious, and rambunctious kitties who love to explore, jump around, and get your attention. They also have a love for water and an ability to get along with other pets.

Bengal cats are also incredibly loving and devoted creatures, and form strong attachments to their loved ones. Many Bengal cat owners adopt two of the breed with the intention of providing constant companionship to their wild ones. 

However, Bengal cats can also show unpredictable temperaments from time to time—they have strong physical and emotional attention needs that require you to provide your kitty with consistent mental stimulation, such as:

  • Cat gyms
  • Interactive puzzles
  • Cat wands
  • Treasure hunts
  • Automated toys
  • Learning tricks

If left alone for too long, Bengal cats can also become destructive, often opening cabinets and dissembling certain household items such as toilet paper rolls. Some will even take your items and hide them to get your attention and many love to watch their humans brush their teeth.

The Physical Characteristics of Bengal Cats

Bengal cats are gorgeous felines with unique characteristics you often can’t find in other breeds of domestic cats, from their shiny coat to their bright eyes. 

Coat

The Bengal’s coat is perhaps its most distinctive feature. Their short hair is plush and soft,—making for a silky cat cuddle sesh—and it often requires little to no grooming. The pattern of their fur can be defined as either:

  • Marbled tabby – The body markings are typically thick bands that curve and swirl across the cat’s coat. There are often two distinctive bullseye patterns on both sides of the cat and the marking of an “M” on the forehead. 
  • Spotted tabby – Small and large spots typically mark either side of the cat and often resemble mackerel stripes, which resemble those of a tiger.

Oftentimes, the fur of Bengal cats is known to shine in the sun and comes in a variety of colors, including:

  • Brown tabby
  • Black-silver tabby
  • Seal lynx point
  • Blue lynx point
  • Blue mink tabby
  • Black smoke
  • Lilac tabby

Size

Bengal cats are average to large-sized cats that are often long, lean, and muscular. 

Most often, they’re larger than the typical house cat, weighing anywhere from 8 to 15 pounds. In terms of height, Bengal cats can range from 8 to 10 inches tall and can be as long as 18 inches. 

Eyes

Bengal cats often have large, oval-shaped eyes that give them sharp nocturnal sight. The majority of Bengal cats have green, yellow, or gold eyes. 

However, Bengal minks typically show bright aqua eyes and lynx points often have blue eyes.

The 5 Types of Bengal Cat

If you’re looking to become a Bengal owner, there are five different types of Bengal cats that are most commonly available. The discrepancies between each type of cat are largely visual and won’t have an effect on their personality or temperament:

  • Snow Bengal Cat – Often characterized by their white base coat and black rosettes that resemble the markings of leopards, jaguars, and ocelots
  • Spotted Bengal Cat – One of the most recognizable colors, often showing up in brown-colored tabbys 
  • Marble Bengal Cat – Another recognizable pattern, marbled patterns often look like an extended blur of the Clouded Leopard’s markings
  • Mink Bengal Cat – Characterized by a brown-white color that’s the result of one Seal Lynx gene and one Seal Sepia gene
  • Lynx Point Bengal Cat – Sporting the lightest fur colors, the Lynx Point is a relative of the Siamese cat

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How to Care for a Bengal Cat

Caring for a Bengal cat is a full-time job. Their adventurous and athletic nature lends themselves to be quite the handful—but a loving one, at that.

When caring for a Bengal cat, or domestic cat of any kind, it’s important to provide them with the essentials:

  • Cat shelves or towers – Cats, especially Bengal cats, love to perch on high levels. It provides your cat with a safe place to settle down and observe the world around them. Cat trees or shelves may also discourage your curious kitty from exploring kitchen counters or cabinets.
  • Water fountain – Due to their wild nature, Bengal cats are prone to favoring running water, because it’s safer to drink in the wild. Additionally, in nature, most cats get their water from the prey they catch. Since your home (hopefully) is not swarming with mice or flocks of birds, you can entice your cat to hydrate with a trickle of water instead. You’ll also want to add a food bowl to the mix.
  • Toys – Bengal cats especially need mental stimulation. Fill your cat’s toy inventory with a variety of fun things, including balls, catnip toys, feathers, and household objects like ribbons or string. 
  • Litter box – A litter box is a kitty must-have. Typically if you have one cat, you’ll want two litter boxes. If you have two cats, you’ll want three. Sounds smelly? It doesn’t have to be. Pretty Litter offers odor-trapping litter made with silica, and it also keeps tabs on your kitty’s health with color-changing technology—your Bengal cat won’t be the only flashy newcomer to the household. 
  • Cat carrier – For vet visits, groomers appointments, and road trips, you’ll want to get your Bengal a spacious, yet cozy cat carrier that keeps you and your kitty safe during car rides, long or short. 
  • Cat bed – An enclosed cat bed will help your Bengal feel safe and comfortable after a long day of running, jumping, and leaping. Bed preferences typically depend on your cat’s temperament—while some cats may love to curl up in a cozy, plush bed, others will opt for a cardboard box. Try out a few options to make sure your kitty is sleeping soundly.

Bengal Cat-Specific Essentials

A Bengal cat is just as unique as its coloring. As such, it’s important to equip your kitty with a few breed-specific needs too, including:

  • Designated and safe territory to call their own – This could be your home, but if you have other animals running about, you may also want to designate a specific room that your Bengal can call their own to provide them with a sense of comfort and safety. 
  • Outlet for their energy – If your home has plenty of square footage, that should satisfy your active kitty. However, if you live in a smaller space, consider investing in a cat wheel to give your kitty proper exercise. 
  • Companionship – Bengal cats are social creatures. As such, consider adding a feline friend or two to the mix so your kitty doesn’t have to spend long hours alone. Consider adding a cat with a similar energy level, such as another Bengal breed. Bengal cats also get along swimmingly with dogs too (just as long as the dog is cat-friendly)!

How to Feed a Bengal Cat

When preparing a meal for your Bengal cat, you’ll want to incorporate quality, breed-appropriate food into their diets. All cats are carnivores, meaning the healthiest food to feed your Bengal cat is a balanced diet of meat.

More specifically, a cat’s digestive system is designed to handle raw meat, which is much more easily digested than store-bought dry food. The best option is pre-made raw meats with a balanced ratio of meat, bone, and organs. 

However, if the thought of scooping raw meat from a plastic container during every breakfast and dinner preparation makes you shiver, you can also feed your Bengal cat cooked meats as a second-best option. When cooking meat, be aware that you should never cook bones and that some enzymes and nutrients in the meat may be destroyed by the heat. 

Bengal Cat Health Issues

Naturally, Bengal cats possess a gene that makes them relatively immune to feline leukemia and they’re also hypoallergenic. However, they’re also prone to a few health issues. 

Specifically, based on 2016 Nationwide pet insurance policyholder claims, the most common illnesses experienced within the Bengal cat population include:

  • Lymphosarcoma (cancer in the lymphoid tissue) 
  • Kidney disease
  • Upset stomach 
  • Pancreatitis Feline, or lower urinary tract disease 

If the cats are bred in non-sanitary conditions, they may also be prone to Feline Infectious Peritonitis, caused by a viral infection of feline coronavirus. Symptoms of the infection are often difficult to notice, but include:

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fluctuating fever

Bengal Cat Legal Restrictions

If you’re considering adopting a Bengal cat, be aware of your state’s restrictions regarding the breed. For example, the cat breed Bengal are not allowed in New York City or the state of Hawaii. 

Additionally, Seattle, Washington, and Denver, Colorado have a few restrictions on Bengal cat ownership that cat-lovers should investigate before adding a Bengal to their home. There are also regulations on F1, F2, F3, and F4 Bengal cats in:

  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • Delaware
  • Connecticut
  • Indiana

Generally, Bengal cats that are categorized as F5 and beyond are considered domestic cats and are generally legal in most states. 

Did You Know?

Bengal cats didn’t actually get their name until the 1970s. Up until then, the breed was known as a Safari cat. However, the name was changed to better reflect the scientific name of their wild cat ancestor, the Asian leopard, which scientifically goes by Prionailurus bengalensis.

Pamper Your Bengal Cat with Pretty Litter

The beauty of Bengal cats pales in comparison to their playful personalities and loving devotion. To properly care for these beauties, it’s essential to factor in their inclination toward the wild side with exciting toys, activities, and companionship to keep them happy and healthy.

Add Pretty Litter to the mix, the World’s Smartest Cat Litter. Our silica cat litter traps odors that free your home from undesirable stenches. Pretty Litter also changes color to indicate any health problems your cat may be experiencing before it develops into a more urgent medical situation.

With Pretty Litter, you can care for your fur baby and the place they call home with free shipments that arrive every month. 


Sources: 

The Cat Fanciers’ Association. About the Bengal. https://cfa.org/bengal/ 

VCA Hospitals. Feline Infectious Peritonitis. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/feline-infectious-peritonitis

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!

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