He’s King of the Jungle or at least the living room. The Bengal is a domestic cat breed developed to look like an exotic jungle cat such as a leopard, an ocelot, or a margay. He is an athletic, agile, and graceful kitty with a strong, muscular body, befitting a cat who looks as if he belongs in the jungle. The Bengal could never be called delicate.
But. with his distinctive spotted coat and large size, the Bengal may look like a wild cat and although one of his ancestors is the small, Asian leopard, he’s a domestic cat through and through. Let’s get to know this fascinating cat breed.
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A Brief History of the Bengal Cat
10. The Bengal breed began in the 1970s, when amateur breeder Jean Sudgen, of California, became the recipient of a group of cats that had been bred for use in genetic testing.
Dr. Willard Centerwall of Loyola University had been testing Asian Leopards (a shy and relatively small wild cat) for their partial immunity to feline leukemia and began cross-breeding them with domestic cats for possible genetic viability in immunization development.
Rather than destroy the cats after the program was completed, Dr. Centerwall searched for appropriate homes for his cats.
For her part, Ms. Sudgen had begun her first experiments in cat hybridization while studying genetics at UC Davis in the 1940s. She took to working with Dr. Centerwall’s Asian leopard hybrids with enthusiasm.
Ms. Sudgen, who had by now remarried and taken the name Mill, had been cautioned that the offspring of her crossings would be sterile, and this did prove true for the males, but she had better luck with the female hybrids.
Before she could fully immerse herself in her new breeding program, however, Ms. Mill needed an appropriate male cat to cross with her female Asian leopard hybrids.
In 1982, her patience paid off when a curator for the New Delhi Zoo, in India, pointed her to a leopard-like street cat that was living on his own in the rhinoceros’ exhibit.
Although the cat was feral, it proved to be an excellent mate for her hybrid females, and shortly Ms. Mill had her successful, though still fledgling, breeding program well underway.
The Bengal cat is named after the Latin name for the Asian Leopard Cat – Prionailurus bengalensis – and not the very distantly-related Bengal tiger.
Today, no leopards are used in breeding programs, and most pet Bengals are several generations removed from their feral progenitors.
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9. The Bengal is a lot of fun to live with, but he’s definitely not the cat for everyone, or for first-time cat owners.
Extremely intelligent, curious and active, he demands a lot of interaction. If you won’t be home during the day to entertain your Bengal, plan to have two of them or don’t get one.
When a Bengal gets bored, he is capable of taking things apart to see how they work and opening drawers and cabinets to see what interesting toys or food might be available for him.
8. This demand for his owner’s attention makes him one of the easiest cat breeds to train to do tricks.
With a little bit of patience, positive reinforcement techniques, and some treats, your Bengal can be taught simple dog-like tricks such as rolling over, sitting up or jumping through hoops.
Playing fetch comes simple to him, and many can even be taught how to turn a light switch on and off.
But be careful not to make this too easy for him if you don’t want to deal with your lights become a disco strobe.
The Bengal’s flying abilities mean he can jump up to 3 times his height and can easily gain access to all of the tall furniture in your house. He’s also an excellent climber.
7. He may look innocent but if you have a hard time finding your necklace or house keys, it’s probably kitty who went on a hunt to steal all that glitters. Bengals certainly earn a capital “B” for burglary.
The Bengal is notorious for being a sneaky little cat burglar. If you have something that you don’t want him playing with and hiding, even jewelry, be sure to keep it in a safe and secure place so your Bengal doesn’t run off with it pretending it’s his.
6. The Bengal cat is known for his distinctively patterned fur, which is short, silky, and often “sparkles” at the tips when the light hits it the right way.
No two cats’ markings are exactly alike, but the Bengal’s coat comes in two main patterns: spots and two-toned markings called “rosettes,” or marbled, which means the cat has long stripes that swirl around their bodies.
The most popular Bengal colors are brown/black, but the cat can come in a variety of shades, including black and silver, seal brown and silver, charcoal, and blue. His eyes are typically green, gold/yellow, or aqua/blue.
The Bengal is a large, well-muscled feline. He isn’t enormous like a Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat, but they can weigh between 6 and 15 pounds; some people even claim that larger Bengals can weigh in at 18 pounds.
5. Most cats do not like the idea of being leashed, but even an adult Bengal doesn’t mind going for a stroll with his owner.
It’s suggested to use a harness as not to hurt his neck, and don’t be too surprised if he spots a bird he’d like to hunt and kicking his wild DNA into overdrive.
Bengal Cats are Not Immune to Feline Leukemia
4. Despite Dr. Centerwell’s intention, the Bengal is NOT immune to Feline Leukemia. While it is thought that the Asian Leopard Cat is immune, and some of the early hybrids were bred to see if this immunity could be replicated in a domestic cat, in the end achieving this immunity wasn’t possible.
But overall, Bengals are generally very healthy cats if you have bought from a reputable and registered breeder.
3. Want to purchase a Bengal cat? Make sure you’ve saved up plenty of cash. Fans of the breed shell out anywhere from hundreds of dollars for a “pet” quality Bengal—meaning he’s not meant to be exhibited at shows—to thousands for a show-quality one.
According to one tale (which might be more fictional than fact), a British woman once paid over $50,000 for a Bengal cat in 1990, calling the felines the “Rolls Royce” of kitties.
Bengal Cats are Very Loud and Vocal
2. He voice might be as big as his price. The Bengal is very vocal and loud – he will always tell you when he wants something such as food or the litter box to be cleaned out. The Bengal meow is not easily ignored!
Bengal Cats Love Water
1. Speaking of being ignored, don’t expect to get any respite in the shower. Bengals enjoy the water and will play for long periods in a bathtub with a few inches of water in it or in a bathroom sink with the faucet slightly running. Some will even join you in the shower.
Beware! If you’re shy and you close the bathroom door – that loud meow will soon be heard! There’s no escaping from the curious Bengal!
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