An additional benefit has been the broadening of the genepool and increase of genetic diversity within the Bengal breed, which correlates strongly to genetic health. The Asian Leopard Cat or "ALC" (not to be confused with Asian Leopards!) is common throughout most of their range, from the Philippines to Siberia. Only the Philippine subspecies is considered endangered. The ALCs used in the development of the Bengal were zoo surplus animals, of unknown subspecies or a mix between different subspecies. These animals are considered by biologists to be useless for the preservation of species or reintroduction programs. The first females used by Jean Mill of Millwood, upon which the breed was founded, were the result of a medical research program in which ALCs were crossed with non-pedigree cats. Blood samples taken from the parents and offspring yielded genetic knowledge that was hoped would help unravel the mystery of leukemia, since the ALC is immune to Feline Leukemia.
The name of the Bengal breed and the scientific name for the Asian Leopard Cat is from the region of India in which the ALC was first seen by Europeans. The purebred domestic Bengal cat is designated by the registration code "SBT", which means that the cat is at least four generations from either the ALC or any other cross used in the development of the breed. Only SBT Bengals may be shown. The first three generations from the wild cross are called Foundation Bengals, known as "F"s. In the first three generations, only the females are usually fertile. The litter size of these early generations is more typical of natural species, averaging only two or three kittens. Together, these factors made the development of the domestic Bengal a challenging, (and expensive!), project.
Bengals of all colors typically have a coat of exceptionally soft texture, which breeders refer to as "pelt". The pelt may be close lying and tight to the body reminding one of "silk", or more "velvet" in texture, or thick and "plush". All pelt types are equally desirable. Many Bengals also have a sparkle to the tips of each hair, called "glitter". While this trait is found only in Bengals, it is a domestic trait not found in wild cats of any species. Other Bengals without glitter still exhibit an intense richness to the colors and have a distinctive "sheen" to their coat.
Nearly all Bengal kittens, regardless of color, go through a fuzzy kitten coat stage, beginning around five weeks of age, during which the colors and markings become much less vivid. This is similar to the protective camouflage coloring seen on many species of wild kittens at the time they start to venture away from their dens. The Bengal kittens' coats start to become sleeker and more colorful again around twelve or sixteen weeks. However, it can take up to a year, or even longer, for the full rich adult color to develop.
Adult females average
7-11 lbs while adult males usually range from 13-18 lbs.