The Bengal cat is a truly unique cat breed. After all, it is a ‘house tiger’ in the most literal sense of the word: the breeders use part of the blood of wild cats. The mixed wild cats such as the Bengal or the Savannah are the latest craze in the breeding world! What makes a cat a mixed wild cat and what should one be aware of with a cross of a wild cat in the living room? Our variety report provides answers.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, large wild cats were found in European zoos. What proved to be impractical for zoos eventually ended up in the small cat world: so-called crossed wild cats are more and more enthusiastically crossed with home cats.
A well-known example of this is the Bengal, which originated from a cross between a tamed, black domestic cat and an Asian leopard cat. The result is a cat breed that, with an elongated body and an exceptional coat color, shows convincing similarities with its wild relatives, but sometimes needs an experienced hand.
A fascinating new breed
The Bengal cat is a very modern breed. The crossbreeding of wild cats originally came from the US, where geneticist Jean Mill conducted the first breeding experiments in 1963 with the Asian leopard-cat Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis and a domestic cat established in South Asia. The goal was a domestic cat with the appearance of his wild, original ancestors.
However, the idea was not entirely new: as early as 1889 the British artist and journalist Harrison William Weir reported a cross between the Asian Leopard cat and a domestic cat. Similar crossings in Belgian and Japanese publications were reported in 1934 and 1941. Jean Mill, at the time known as Jean Sudgen, however, had the greatest influence on the official basis of the Bengali breed.
In 1946 she was involved in a research for her genetics lesson at the Davis University in the US with the theme ‘crossings’, in Dutch: ‘Breed crossbreeding in domestic cats’. In the early 1960s she put her ideas and knowledge into practice: she crossed domestic cats with Asian leopard cats. Direct crosses between wild and domestic cats are called ‘F1’ animals. A cross between an F1 animal and a domestic cat is called an “F2” animal and so on. F1 and F2 animals often show the wild behavior of wild cats. Jean Mill crossed female F1 animals again with the father and got F2 cats.
After another two or three generations, kittens behaved accordingly to the house cat. As a result of her husband’s death, Jean Mill briefly interrupted her breeding experiments, but continued them in the 1970s when she was able to take over female crossed animals from scientist William Centerwall. William Centerwall had crossed Asian Leopard cats with domestic cats to investigate their immunity to feline leukemia. This was the beginning of the modern Bengali breed, which was officially recognized in 1983 by the TICA (The International Cat Association).
Initially other breeds were also crossed, such as the Abyssinian, Egyptian Mau and the American Shorthair, to refine the desired appearance of the Bengal. In the meantime the Bengal cat is bred pure. However, only cats from the fourth generation (F4) are shown at shows. Only this generation is considered ‘tame’ and is comparable to the character of a domestic cat.
The Bengal cat now has many friends and more than 60,000 purebred animals are registered with TICA. However, not all breed associations are fans of mixed breeds. For example the CFA (Cat Fanciers’ Association) that does not recognize breeds derived from wild cat species.
Appearance of the Bengal
But enough about the history of the Bengal, which deviates so much from the development of many other purebred cats. What does such a mixed cat look like now?
A mixed breed such as a Bengal cat is often larger than domestic cats. The flexible and athletic animals weigh up to 7 kilograms, with a height of up to 70 centimeters. Her powerful body is supported by long, muscular legs. In proportion, the head of the Bengal cat is quite small. The head is dominated by high cheekbones and almond-shaped, large eyes. The large eyes of the Bengal are often green or blue. The ears are rounded and small, but have a broad base.
The most striking is the ‘wild’ drawing of the Bengal. With large spots, a pink, light belly and the stripes on the front legs they have many similarities with their wild ancestors. The Bengal has many admirers because of this appearance!
Bengal come in the colors orange, gold, amber and sand, often with a ‘shine’. The drawings are ‘marbled’ and ‘spotted’:
Marbled: ‘Marbled’ refers to the striped drawing of other cat breeds. The drawing of the Bengal reminds you as little as possible of a domestic cat.
Spotted: The fur drawing ‘spotted’ is specifically asked: ‘Spotted’ Bengal cats with their large spots and spots resemble the wild leopard cat, thereby distinguishing two-colored speckles (‘rosetted’) from single-colored speckles.
Sparbled: A drawing that is neither marbled nor spotted is considered ‘sparbled’. This fur drawing is not officially recognized.
Chin, chest, abdomen and legs have basic colors from cream to white and contrast with the color of the side and back. Eyes, lips and the nose are ideally framed by narrow, black lines. Not only the original appearance of the Bengal cat, which evokes memories of the partial wild blood, makes this breed so special!
Bengal cat Character
From the third generation, the Bengal is considered ‘tame’. Yet, thanks to their wild heritage, they are active, temperamental animals. Bengal cats should therefore only be kept as pets from the fourth generation! Also breeding animals may only be shown from this generation at shows. The breed standard of the Bengal are ‘reliable, considerate, curious and friendly cats’!
The Bengal is a cat that always makes fun! It is considered smart and docile, which means that it requires a lot of attention to be able to meet their activity urge. Cat lovers often state that simple hugs and games are not enough to keep the cat busy.
Target training and working with a clicker, just like a cat-friendly environment in which there is no room for boredom. Bengal cats love to climb and find water particularly fun.
Secure freedom ensure that the Bengal does not get bored and can express his urge to move. A large garden is of course ideal, with quieter animals a secure balcony with many climbing possibilities is also sufficient.
The Bengal is a self-aware, dominant and sometimes slightly aggressive cat. Companionship of other, more territorial cats can therefore lead to problems. Nevertheless, a Bengali should not be kept alone. Quiet cat breeds such as the Persian or British Shorthair cat are suitable as companions. In case of doubt, a good living environment, but also the special character of the cats play a role.
In a mixed breed, raising individual animals is very important. Because even though they are domestic cats, wild animals are still inside. This heritage is especially evident in cats whose wild cat blood does not go far back in the pedigree … For example, first generation Bengal cats are not as reliable as other cat breeds and sometimes it takes a lot of patience to provide these cats to new environments or people to get used to it. What is important with all purebred cats, especially applies to the Bengal: buy your cat from a professional breeder, who emphasizes socialization and raising his kittens so that he can assist you in living with your Bengal!
Loving a Bengali
Wild cats from the first to the fourth generation are considered as protected species. For protected animal species, certain restrictions apply to the keeping of the animals: wild cats, and their direct descendants, must have at least 15 square meters of outside space at their disposal. In the end, keeping crossed 1st and 2nd generation Bengal cats distinguishes themselves with domestic cats. A breeder who breeds the Bengal cats of an early generation must be able to meet the specific living conditions of his animals.
The character of later generations of the Bengal cat is similar to that of other active breeds without wild cat blood. Keeping ‘mixed’ cats also differs little from the animal welfare of active cats.
A safe garden or a secure balcony with lots of play, climbing and crab, and hiding possibilities is ideal, so that the Bengal cat can continue to express his urge to activity. Vary the environment of the Bengal cat and stimulate her again and again. A water bowl on the balcony? A small pond in the garden? Let your imagination run free! After a few weeks with a Bengali, the clicker and goal training are no longer strange words for you …
Intelligent toys and word games are particularly well appreciated by the Bengali! There are now also intelligent toys for cats, but the products offered for dogs are also satisfactory. Because the Bengal loves water, you can purchase a flat, large water bowl for games and fun, in the summer for outside and in the winter for in the bathroom!
Keeping a Bengal cat can therefore be very challenging for cat lovers who are used to quiet breeds. Because the Bengal is an intelligent, docile breed, it is very nice to spend time with them!
Bengal cat Nutrition and Health
As a young, original breed, the Bengal is extremely healthy. Nevertheless, a genetic disease was diagnosed in 2011 that can lead to blindness due to degeneration of the retina in the first year.
The best health care for a Bengal is a species-specific diet and an annual ‘check-up’ at the vet. Many holders of mixed breeds feed raw food because many Savannah and Bengal cats are sensitive to industrial cat food and because there seem to be bacteria in the food. In principle, high-quality cat food from a box or can gives your Bengal everything it needs for a long and healthy cat life! If you opt for raw food , thorough training is essential. With the right natural supplements you know for sure that you are feeding your cat healthy.
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This way you will find the right breeder
You see: the Bengal is a very fascinating breed! If, while reading our breed report, you started to love the ‘mixed’ cat, the question remains: where do you find such an exceptional tiger?
With a relatively young, modern, wild breed such as the Bengal, it is often not easy to find a professional breeder. This is partly due to the requirements of living conditions for wild cats and animals up to the fourth generation, but also to the special needs of an active, original breed such as the Bengal. A responsible breeder ensures that the attitude of the Bengal cat is really good for you and your family! He represents as early as possible contact between the kittens and their future family, and guides his kittens in their new home.
As a member of a breeding club, he not only ensures that his cats meet the desired breed, but he also takes responsibility for their health. This also includes parental healthcare, even before cover, tests for possible genetic diseases and guidance of the mother cat during pregnancy. After the kittens are born, they are examined, vaccinated, wormed and specifically fed by the vet.
All of this costs money, of course, and is reflected in the purchase price of a Bengali. A Bengal often costs around a thousand euros. Animals used for breeding are even more expensive. This does not even make a breeder rich, it only covers the costs incurred …
Even if the purchase price of the purebred cat hurts a little, you must at least prevent you from purchasing a ‘propagator’ who buys ‘undocumented purebred cats’! In general, savings are made in selecting parents and health care. Only rarely do the mixed-breed kittens get socialization and the time it takes to grow into a physically and mentally healthy cat.
This trust naturally applies to both parties. So don’t be surprised if a breeder of Bengal cats has defined special delivery conditions for the animals! This can be a castration or keeping it in great freedom. As you have already read, special breeds such as the Bengal have special requirements to give her the best possible cat life!
We wish you a lot of pleasure with your Bengal!