About the Bengal

Origins | Color & Coat | Characteristics | Temperament

 

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Origins
Rapidly gaining in popularity, this relatively new breed of domestic cat was accepted for championship competition by The International Cat Association in 1991. The Bengal was developed from crosses between the Asian Leopard Cat (felis bengalensis), a small shy species of cat common throughout Asia, and various purebred and non-pedigreed cats. The goal was to evoke the beauty of various exotic species in a friendly housecat, in order to sensibly satisfy the urge many of us have had to own one of those magnificent wild creatures. At the same time, it was hoped that public awareness would be raised of the plight of the many fascinating small wild species of cat threatened or endangered by loss of habitat and other human pressures.

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.

Colors and Coat
Although the markings on each Bengal are unique, the breed standard recognizes two basic patterns and two "color schemes". The spotted, or "leopard" pattern exhibits spots of various sizes and shapes, preferably aligned either randomly or horizontally. The "marble" pattern is made of three distinct shades of color swirled across the coat. The "classic" colors have burnt orange, mahogany, or black markings on a tawny, gold, orange, copper-red or red-brown colored background. Their eyes may be green, gold, or hazel. Genetically these are all brown tabbies, with black paw pads and tail tip. The "snows" have markings in shades of brown on an off-white or ivory colored background. The seal lynx point variety of snows have blue eyes, the seal mink snows have aqua or green eyes, while the seal sepia snows ideally have gold eyes.

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.

Characteristics
The "wild" beauty is more than skin deep. The shape of the head, the large "nocturnal" eyes, the long muscular body, the strong boning, thick tail and stalking gait all contribute to the impression that this cat has just stepped out of the jungle and into your living room!

Adult females average 7-11 lbs while adult males usually range from 13-18 lbs.
Cats of both genders that are altered before sexual maturity grow to a larger size-we have seen neutered male Bengals up to twenty pounds.

Temperament
Moderately active and gracefully athletic, Bengals stay playful and kitten-like into adulthood. Properly raised by a responsible breeder, both the males and females are typically friendly, outgoing, and people-oriented. Members of this breed tend to form strong bonds with their owners, enjoy playing in water, and most of them readily learn to walk on a harness and leash. They prefer interactive play with you to going off by themselves. Many enjoy games of "fetch". With proper introduction and appropriate supervision, Bengals are wonderful with other pets and children. The health care and nutritional requirements are the same as for any other domestic cat.


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