The first thing you’ll notice about the Bengal cat is its leopard-like spots. Mrs. Jean Mill developed the breed in the U.S. in the late 20th century when she crossed an Asian Leopard cat with an American Shorthair. However, the breed changed slightly when the Asian Leopard was crossed with the Egyptian Mau, Burmese, and the Abyssinian. These combinations produced a different type of cat.
Because the male of the species in the first three generations is usually not fertile, and because at least four generations from the Asian Leopard cat are required for the offspring to be accepted as Bengal, it is one of the rather rare cat breeds. It’s name is not derived from the Bengal Tiger, but rather the Latin appellation for the Asian Leopard cat: Prionailurus Bengalensis.
One of the wild-looking cat breeds, the Bengal has been refined to keep the spots, giving it this wild appearance, while keeping it’s gentle nature. Yet, Cat Fanciers’ Assn. doesn’t recognize the Bengal as one of the bona fide cat breeds. In fact, in the United Kingdom, owners had to register their Bengal cats under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, until quite recently.
In addition to their spots, which make them as distinctive in cat breeds, the Bengal might have a marbled coat, rather than the rosette spotted coat, though the latter is more highly prized. Yet, the spots, whether rosette or marbles, appear only on the cat’s back and sides. Its belly is often white, but usually lightly colored. Its tail and head are striped.
When compared to other cat breeds, the Bengal is medium in size, and its body is long and muscular. They weigh about as much as an American Shorthair. Yet, the Bengal’s muscular, athletic look sometimes make them appear to be one of the larger cat breeds.
A Bengal’s face and head are wild, much like that of their ancestor, the Asian Leopard. It will have small round ears, and very strong whiskers. The mascara effect is produced by horizontal stripes beside its eyes.
Though they may look wild, Bengal cats are one of the affectionate and friendly cat breeds. They may follow you around, but at a distance. They aren’t usually lap cats, but they do enjoy play very much. They’d much prefer a good game of chase the feather than being stroked and held. Playing with a Bengal a couple of times a day for a half hour will give you a very strong bond with your pet.
Play is actually a very good way to train Bengals. They’re highly intelligent and learn well through play. Some even equate them with dogs when it comes to personality because they love to welcome their master home, and they can learn tricks, such as fetch, shaking hands, and rolling over. And once you bond with them, you may even be able to teach them to walk on a leash outdoors.
Bengals are not one of the cat breeds that should be left inside all day. They are easily bored, and can become destructive. Though they may enjoy another cat being around, be careful lest you make your Bengal jealous. If they don’t feel they’re getting enough attention or that the other cat is usurping their position in the family, it could mean fighting and disaster.
One very interesting thing about Bengals, unlike most other cat breeds, enjoy water, especially when it’s running water. They like to play with running faucets and some even jump into the tub!
Bengal cats need lot of love and attention, but once you bond with a Bengal, you’ll enjoy many happy years with a close and loving friend.