20 facts about the Bengal Cat

Bengal cat
Bengal cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick.
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  1. Jean Mill of the Millwood Cattery is the American breeder who created the Bengal cat. She had two goes at it; firstly, in the 1960s when against advice she created a female Asian leopard cat x black domestic cat hybrid female that she called ‘Kin Kin’. She bred this female back to her father. A kitten was born. She then gave up. She restarted in the 1980s and the resulting kittens became the foundation cats of today’s entire Bengal breed.
  2. The Bengal cat is intelligent with a nice disposition. The disposition of Bengal cats is emphasised because there was a fear that the character of the Asian leopard cat would be too dominant in this wildcat hybrid. And the Asian leopard cat is quite a fierce and highly independent animal. So big efforts were made to ensure that fourth generation from the wild Bengal cats have nice temperaments.
  3. In order for the Bengal cat to be shown at The International Cat Association (TICA) shows the cat must be four generations away from the Asian leopard cat a.k.a. Asiatic leopard cat.
  4. Most people know the appearance of the Bengal cat; they are strong, powerful and quite large-boned. The size and athleticism depend on their filial which means how far they are from the wild ancestor. First and second filial Bengal cats will be larger with a character which is a little bit more towards the wild cat character. Fourth and fifth filial cats behave like normal domestic cats, pretty well, except they might be a little bit more athletic and sharper mentally.
  5. Male Bengal cats range in weight from 10-18 pounds, while females may be slightly smaller.
  6. They should have small, round ears set back on the head with strong facial markings and large round eyes combined with a wide nose and puffy whisker pads. The spot should be high contrast and clear in the form of rosettes or arrowheads. They might also have marble patterns which is the classic tabby pattern.
  7. The Bengal cat is recognised by the cat associations in the tabby division, spotted tabby (spotted or rosette) and marble patterns. In terms of colour, they are recognised in brown tabby, seal sepia tabby, seal lynx point and seal mink tabby (note: this may well have changed as breed standards evolve)
  8. They acquire their true adult colouration at the age of one.
  9. Gloria Stephens, a breeder and show judge, says that the “polygenes change the ground colour and banding from a drab beige to almost burnt sienna colour.”
  10. Breeders love to create Bengal cats with glitter. You’ll see photographs of glittering coats which are quite extraordinary (see gallery below).
  11. The spots on a Bengal cat are unusual in that they align horizontally instead of vertically or in a circle (in following the classic tabby pattern).
  12. Rosettes i.e. the doughnut-like spots on the Bengal cat can also vary in colour from light brown to reddish brown.
  13. The seal lynx pointed Bengal cat, sometimes be referred to as “snow leopards”, are the result of the pointed gene i.e. the same gene that produces the Siamese cat pointed coat. They have brilliant blue eyes.
  14. Sepia Bengals have deep yellow or gold eye colour. Mink Bengals have an aqua eye colour.
  15. The breed standard states that the temperament must be ‘unchallenging’ to emphasise the need to create Bengal cats which have a sweet disposition. If a Bengal show cat is challenging, they are disqualified.
  16. They must not threaten to harm in a cat show when being judged.
  17. They should be confident, curious, alert and friendly according to the TICA Bengal standard.
  18. They are a curious and entertaining cat. Some like to play in water, perhaps a throwback to their wild ancestor. Many like freshwater and drink from running faucets, often using their paws.
  19. The Bengal is a talkative cat with a range of vocalisations from a low gravelly voice to a “loud string of strong meows”. Quote: Gloria Stephens.
  20. It is perhaps the beauty of this cat and their connection with the wild which above all else makes them so popular.

My thanks to Gloria Stephens’ Legacy of the Cat.

Asian leopard cat
‘Tigger’, the 6-month old female leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) referred to in the story below. Photo: WFFT – they rescued the cat from the owner because they could not cope.



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