What is Bengal cat glitter?

I wrote about Bengal cat glitter in 2008. More is known about this phenomenon nowadays. I thought, therefore, that I would revisit the subject. In simple terms, it refers to a coat which appears to glitter in the light as if somebody has sprinkled some stardust over it.

Belle Ami Bengals provides a nice explanation. Firstly, not all Bengal cats are fortunate enough to benefit from Bengal glitter. Astonishingly, when show cats having this characteristic were first shown at cat shows, some judges tried to rub off what they thought was some sort of fairy dust sprinkled over a breeder’s cat to make them more attractive. It was that mysterious at the time. I can believe it because when I was at a cat show in Oklahoma I remember a white Persian cat being covered in white powder which settled onto the table top platform when the cat was being photographed.

There appears to be two types of glitter. In one type, the glitter effect is in the tip of the hair. Looked at under a microscope it appears that tiny flecks of a “reflective silicate crystal called mica” is present inside the hair shaft. This type of glitter is called “Mica (gold-tipped)“. In the other type it appears that the mica is present throughout the entire hair shaft which refracts light to produce a “pearly effect”. This is known apparently as “oyster”. This type of glitter is called “Satin (hollow-air)“. The “hollow-air” reference is to pockets of air along the entire length of the hair shaft which refracts light and also gives the coat a smooth silky appearance. They can become elongated making the coat even softer and silkier.

It used to be thought that this phenomenon on is due to a recessive gene. It is now believe that it is due to an “accumulative gene”. The phrase appears to mean that the effect accumulates and becomes more pronounced in offspring if you breed to cats both of whom benefit from Bengal cat glitter.

Bengal cat glitter
Bengal cat glitter. Photo: Belle Ami Bengals.

As expected, glitter is a very highly sought after feature. It appears that the phenomenon first appeared in a cattery run by Gene Ducote called Gogees. Gene said:

Our bloodlines have become famous for producing and perpetuating the wonderful gold-tipped glitter that is so unique to the Bengals. There were times, when we were showing Warhawk [their first glittered cat],that judges were trying to wipe off the glitter, thinking we had sprayed his coat with something to make him sparkle.

Link to Belle Ami Bengals

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