What Is A Bengal Cat
The Bengal cat is a very distinctive spotted cat. The breed was developed in the USA in the 1960s and 1970s by Mrs Jean Mill, who crossed an Asian Leopard cat with an American Shorthair and continued producing offspring. They are now also produced from crossing an Asian Leopard cat with an Abyssinian, Egyptian Mau or Burmese.
Males in the first three generations are almost always infertile and a cat must be at least four generations from the Asian Leopard cat to be accepted as a Bengal cat. The name comes from the Latin name for the Asian Leopard cat, Prionailurus Bengalensis. It is not related to the Bengal Tiger.
The Bengal cat has been bred to maintain the unique spots and wild appearance together with the gentle temperament of a domestic cat. However, because of its wild ancestry, the breed is not recognized by some associations including the Cat Fanciers’ Association. In the UK, until recently owners had to license their cats under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act.
Most Bengal cats are of course very easy to recognize by the leopard-like spots or jaguar-like bi-colored rosettes on their coats. A marbled coat is also acceptable but rosettes are most highly prized. Spots and rosettes only appear on the back and sides of the body. The belly is light-colored or white. The legs, tail and head are striped.
They are medium-sized cats but long-bodied and muscular. In terms of weight they cover the same range as the American Shorthair, but their athletic look makes them appear larger.
The head and face retain the wild or feral look of the Asian Leopard ancestor, with small rounded ears and strong whisker pads. Horizontal stripes beside the eyes cause what is called a mascara effect.
Bengal cats are affectionate and friendly, often following you around the house, but generally are not lap cats. They are active cats who enjoy play, and will prefer to be played with than held. To create a bond with a Bengal kitten, simply play with it for half an hour to an hour a couple of times a day.
They are intelligent, teachable cats and the best way to train them is through play. They are often described as having a ‘dog-like’ personality. They will often welcome you home with enthusiasm and you may be able to teach your Bengal to fetch objects, sit and shake hands. Once bonded, an indoor Bengal cat can be taught to walk on a leash outside.
Bengals should not be left alone in the house all day, because they will become bored and possibly destructive. They may enjoy the company of another active cat although they can become jealous if another cat appears to be taking their place in the house or if they are not getting enough attention.
Unlike other cats, many Bengals love water, especially running water. They will happily play with a running faucet and may even jump into the tub to do this.
Most owners find the Bengal cat a unique and very enjoyable pet.
David M Peterson
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