Bengal Cats: The Ultimate Guide to their history, types, characteristics, temperament, and care

How would you like to own a cat that looks like a leopard, but has the personality characteristics of a house cat? If this sounds like something you would like, you need to check out Bengal cats. These cats are a hybrid of domestic cats and Asian leopard cats. They have been developed by numerous breeders, with the most well-known being Jean Sugden Mill, who began her Bengal breeding program in 1963, with the goal of creating a wild-looking cat that had the temperament of a house pet.

Over the years, and with a lot of careful breeding, this goal has been reached. Today’s Bengal cats all descend from the cats bred by Mill in the early 1980’s. The breed was recognized by the International Cat Association in 1991, but is still not recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association.

So, what is a Bengal cat? Well, as mentioned in the opening paragraph, this type of cat is a cross between an Asian leopard cat and a domesticated house cat. It has many of the physical characteristics of the leopard, without the huge size, but the disposition of a lovable house pet. Their coats are sleek and shiny, and they seem to glitter when the light hits them.

Bengal cat colors have two common patterns. The one that is best known is the spotted pattern, and then there is a swirled, marbled pattern. Both of these patterns are often tri-colored, and their markings can be made up of many different shades.

It is the tri-colors that create the “rosettes” on a Bengal. Each spot is outlined with a dark color, so they look like the spots on a jaguar. This is not something found on all Bengal cats. Many have spots that are more leopard-like, with no dark outline.

Bengal Cat History

It is a common misconception for Bengal cats to be mistakenly known to be named after the Bengal tiger. This is actually a myth. There are some brilliant Bengal cat facts which proves that it is named after the Prionailurus bengalensis, which is the Latin name for the Asian leopard cat, which is part of the Bengal at origin. They have the very distinctive, spotted coats that leopard cats are known for, without the wild temperament. The Asian leopard cat is shy and timid by nature, and quite small when compared to other wild cats.

Of course, the temperament of a Bengal cat is also going to depend on the breeder. With any cat breed, it is important that you buy from reputable Bengal cat breeders, and not those that are known as “backyard breeders,” and who sell pets that have health and behavioral issues.

The breed has become so popular and commonplace that there are also many cats that are part Bengal. Even if you do not have a Bengal cat, you may have one that is part Bengal. If you want to know how to tell if your cat is part Bengal, just look for the tell-tale spots.

So, where can you get one of these pets, and how much does a Bengal cat cost? While some cat breeds can cost thousands of dollars, such as the Savannah cat, another spotted hybrid, the Bengal cat price range is on the lower end of the cost scale. You can get a Bengal cat full grown or a kitten from reputable breeders all over North America. The key word here is “reputable.” A good breeder is going to ensure that their cats and kittens are in the best of health, and that there are no genetic defects.

The cost of a Bengal cat will depend on a number of factors, including the generation. You can expect the price of Bengal cats to range anywhere from $400 to $3,000. When buying Bengal cats, remember that older cats cost less, while healthy kittens from first and second generations are at the higher end of the scale (more on generations later in this article).

Bengal Cat Standard

Now it is time to look at all of the things that you should know about the Bengal cat standard before you decide to purchase one of these beautiful cats.

Learn more about Bengal Cats below:

First of all, know that you are making a commitment that is going to last for about 12 to 16 years, which is the average life span of a Bengal cat. First, let’s take a look at how a Bengal cat should appear.

Head

The head should be fairly small, rounded, and slightly wedge-shaped.

Eyes

A Bengal cat’s eyes are large, oval shaped, and somewhat slanted.

Nose

The nose should be large and wide, and slightly puffed.

Muzzle

The muzzle should be full and wide, with prominent whisker pads and high cheekbones.

M

There will be the “M” marking on the forehead that is found on most striped/spotted cats.

Chin

Bengal cats should have strong chins.

Bones

Bengal cats have strong bone structures, and are not delicate.

Neck

Bengal cats have long, muscular necks that are proportionate to the head and body.

Chest

Ideally the cat will have a broad chest.

Torso

A Bengal cat will have a long and substantial torso that is medium in size.

Hind quarters

The hind quarters will be muscular, particularly in males.

Tail

The tail will be thick and even, of medium length, and the tip will be rounded.

Coat

The coat should be short to medium length, dense, soft, and luxurious.

Hind Legs

The hind legs should be longer than the forelegs.

Paws

Bengal cats have big paws with prominent knuckles.

As mentioned, they have a lifespan of about 10 to 15 years or longer. They tend to weigh up to about 15 pounds, but some can be larger. Females tend to weigh 10 to 14 pounds, while males can weigh around 12 to 16 pounds. Bengals are classified as being medium- to large-sized cats, with the average size range being about 13 to 16 inches tall.

One thing you should know about Bengal cats is that they are very curious, and very playful. They are little bundles of energy, so they need plenty of exercise to keep them from becoming bored and getting into things that they shouldn’t. These are very athletic cats, and you can even teach them to do a variety of tricks.

Remember, positive reinforcement works best when training any cat. If they know they are going to be rewarded, they will be more likely to do what you want them to do, or at least make you think that is what they are doing.

If you are looking for a pet that is hypoallergenic, good luck. Many people think that Bengal cats are hypoallergenic, but when you come right down to it, there is actually no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic pet. There is going to be some pet dander, fur, and other allergens that bother some people.

But, there are cats that don’t cause as many allergic reactions as others, including the Bengal cat. This is because they have such short fur, but it doesn’t mean that everyone will not experience allergic reactions. There are those who have Bengal cat allergies, which can be caused by Bengal cat shedding. Even though these cats have very short hair, it is still a good idea to groom them regularly, particularly if there is anyone in the home who has a cat allergy.

The Responsibilities of Bengal Cat Ownership

Owning a pet is a real responsibility. It is not something anyone should do on a whim, because if one is not prepared for this responsibility, they are either going to have cat that is not properly cared for, or one that ends up in a shelter. But, since you are obviously considering purchasing an exotic cat breed and spending hundreds of dollars, you are likely already somewhat prepared for a 15-year responsibility.

What do you need when you are bringing home a new Bengal cat? Whether it is a cat or a kitten, you will need pretty much the same items. These will include, but are not limited to:

  • Nutritious cat food (wet and dry)
  • Food and water dishes
  • Litterbox and litter
  • Plenty of toys
  • Cat bed (in time, they will choose their own bed, often yours)
  • Soft blankets
  • Collar, leash, and ID tag if you plan to show or walk your cat

Taking care of your Bengal cat is like taking care of any other cat. Sure, a Bengal is a bit larger, but it is essentially going to be a house pet. Make sure that they have access to food and water at all times, and give them plenty of love and attention. Here are some more tips that will help you to be the best Bengal cat owner you can be.

Spay/neuter

Unless you are buying a Bengal cat with the intent to breed it, make sure that you spay or neuter your pet before it reaches the stage of sexual maturity. This is not just to make sure that they are not able to reproduce.

A male cat will mark its territory by spraying, and it won’t hesitate to do it inside your home. The smell is not something that is easy to get rid of. Neutering will ensure this doesn’t happen. Spaying female cats can prevent a number of health issues, including endometriosis.

Toys

Bengal cats are known to be destructive, because they are so curious and active. So, in order to prevent the destruction of pretty much everything you own, it is a good idea to make sure that your Bengal has plenty of toys to play with. These toys should be out where your cat can see them at all times. That way, they will tend to go to the toys rather than your furniture, shoes, and other items you would rather not be riddled with claw and teeth marks.

Water

It is important to make sure that your Bengal cat has access to fresh water at all times, no matter where you are.

If your cat is going to be strictly an indoor cat, there should be a couple bowls of water around the house so they can get a drink quickly and easily.

Our feline pet are frequent water drinkers. You might even want to consider having a water dish in every room that your cat will be in, so they can always have easy access to their water.

Toilets

Speaking of water, it is probably a good idea to start keeping the toilet lid down. As we mentioned, Bengal cats are curious and inquisitive, and they are highly intelligent. They may decide that they like to watch the water go down the toilet, and figure out how to flush it themselves. So, close the lid, and avoid this little issue in the first place. Also, this will prevent the cat from drinking out of the toilet, which isn’t exactly the cleanest water bowl in the world.

Socialization

When you have Bengal cats as pets, it is important to start socializing them when they are kittens. This is particularly important if you have children, or are planning on having children in the near future. Bengals are great with kids, but they have to be socialized early. Once they are, they will bond with children easily, as much as they would with any adult in the home. Also, they need to be socialized so they don’t form a bond with one person and fear others.

Other Pets

In addition to making sure that you socialize your Bengal cat with people, it should also be introduced to other animals. It is nice to know that your cat is going to be friendly with other cats, as well as dogs and other pets. The earlier you start socializing your pet with other animals, the better. That way, you can bring other pets into the home later on without having too many behavioral issues from your Bengal cat.

Agility training

You might want to consider agility training for your Bengal cat. After all, this is an extremely energetic breed, and this is a great way to help them play off a lot of energy, and you will get to spend some quality bonding time with your pet. Did you know that there are even cat agility tournaments, and one of the most popular breeds in these tournaments is the Bengal cat? This is because they are agile, and very easy to train.

Indoor pets

When it comes to cats, they should be kept as indoor pets in order to avoid a lot of health problems, injuries, and more. There are way too many things that happen to an outdoor cat, from getting into fights to picking up parasites. The only exceptions are if you are taking your cat to shows, walking our cat on a leash, or if you have built a “catio” that allows your pet to enjoy the outdoors without actually being outdoors.

Types of Bengal Cats

While all Bengal cats should be the same shape and size, there are two different patterns, and they can be several different colors. It is important to note that not all colors are recognized by some cat associations, and not all will be qualified to earn championship status. First, let’s take a look at Spotted Bengals. They can have either plain spots or the rosettes, but ideally, at least for breeding and showing purposes, rosettes are the best.

The rosettes can have many different shapes, and the legs and tails on Bengal cats are generally striped. If they have some spotting, it is preferred. It is not uncommon for kittens to be born without rosettes and then start to develop them when they are around eight weeks old. By the time they are about six months old, their patterns are generally pretty clear.

There is also the Marbled Bengal. This Bengal cat has a pattern that is marbled, and horizontal for the most part. It has swirls of colors making up the marbled pattern, and for some reason, a Marbled Bengal kitten’s coat is more clearly defined than that of the Spotted Bengal, and it doesn’t seem to get what is known as the “fuzzies” that the spotted kittens go through. One thing to avoid in a Marbled Bengal is the bulls-eye pattern.

Now let’s take a look at the various Bengal cat colors:

Charcoal Bengal Cat

Also known as a Brown or Black Bengal, the colors on these cats can range from many shades of brown to dark charcoal, and they can even be a rich tan color. While still registered as brown, Bengals with light gold colors are often called Golden Bengals. The spots can be shades of brown to black.

Blue-Eyed Snow Bengals

Also known as Seal Lynx Point Bengals, these are what some people refer to as a Bengal Siamese cat. This cat is usually born a white or ivory color, although there are some cases of marbling at birth, and then the lighter color coming through as they get older. They can be spotted or marbled in shades of brown.

AOC Snow Bengal

A Snow Bengal that doesn’t have blue eyes is called an AOC (Any Other Color) Snow Bengal. There are two types of AOC Snow Bengals: Seal Mink and Seal Sepia. Seal Mink is a mix of the Seal Sepia and Blue-Eyed Snow, with light markings and aqua eyes. A Seal Sepia is a snow with darker markings and brown, hazel, or green eyes.

Silver Bengal

A Silver Bengal has black spots against a pale gray/silver background. They often have pale green eyes, and if they have rosettes, the center of each one is medium grey. There should be no trace of brown in the coat (if there is, the silver coat is considered to be “tarnished”), and the tip of the tail is black.

Blue Bengal

The background color of the Blue Bengal should be off white, and it can have peach colored undertones. The markings should be a bluish shade, and very clear, with the tip of the tail being dark grey. These cats do not yet qualify for championship status with TICA or GCCF, but it is hoped that this will change soon and that they will be given full status.

Chocolate and Cinnamon Bengals

These Bengals are a lot like the Brown or Black Bengal, but there is no black in the coat. It is dark brown on a Chocolate Bengal and medium brown on a Cinnamon Bengal. Chocolates are also called Sorrel, and Cinnamons are often called Tawny. The tips of their tails are medium to chocolate brown.

Maybe you would like to have a Ben gal mix cat. There are many domestic Bengal cats that are a mix of some of these colors. For instance, there are snow silvers, chocolate and cinnamon silvers, and blue silvers. There are chocolate and cinnamon snows. There are even blue snows, lilacs, and fawns.

You can even find Bengals that are a mix of all of the colors, and you get a blue/silver snow. These new colors can be shown at TICA shows under the “new traits” category, but they cannot be entered for championship status. In this instance, the Bengal cat price range will be lower.

Then there are the other mixes. For instance, although it would not be a show quality cat, there are many hybrids, such as a tabby Bengal mix. How can you tell if your cat is part Bengal? It can be difficult to tell if there is any Bengal in a cat, but if you notice those telltale spots, it is a pretty good sign that you may have that mix.

Finally we have the melanistic Bengal cat. This is one that has the appearance of a black panther. They are black, with darker black spots or marbling. You may not be able to see the black on black, but those spots are definitely there.

Bengal Cat Characteristics

Let’s take a look at some of the most common characteristics of Bengal cats.

You can refer to the video below for a short summary about Bengal cats characteristics:

Patterns

First, we’ll talk about their patterns. Bengal cats have two basic patterns: spotted and marbled. A Spotted Bengal can have plain spots or rosettes, with rosettes being the best for breeding and showing. These rosettes are in a variety of shapes. Marbled Bengal cats have a lot of horizontal markings, but it is best to avoid the bulls-eye pattern if you plan on showing or breeding your cat. You will find many different color combinations, and you may even see a long-haired Bengal cat or two.

Temperament

Like any cat, or person for that matter, they are going to have their bad days, and they may not always want you making of them. But, for the most part, Bengals are very affectionate, and they often form deep bonds with their people. This is why it is so important to socialize them with other people while they are kittens, so they will be affectionate with most people instead of fearful because they have only bonded with one person.

Behavior

When it comes to Bengal cat behavior, watch out! These cats have tons of energy, and they aren’t afraid to use it. They can really be a handful, because combined with that energy there is a high level of intelligence. Your Bengal cat is going to want to explore and get into everything, and they are very loud and vocal. If they want something, you are going to know about it.

Activity

Bengal cats need interactive play, so if you are away from the home for long periods of time, it is a good idea to make sure that you have another cat for your Bengal to play with. That way, you won’t have to spend your day worrying about what the Bengal is getting into while you are not at home. These are highly intelligent animals, and if not given the chance to explore and play, they are going to use their intelligence to your disadvantage.

Health

Bengals are healthy cats overall, but you need to make sure that you are buying your cat from an established and reputable breeder who is registered. Sure, you can save a bit of money by going to a backyard breeder, but you could be in for a lot of headaches (and an empty wallet) when the cat ends up having a lot of health problems and needs frequent vet visits and treatments.

There are some health issues that Bengals are at risk for, including heart disease and chronic anemia. But, if you are going through a proper breeder, it is unlikely that you will have to worry about these health problems.

Hypoallergic?

If you or anyone in your home has pet allergies, you may be thinking that a Bengal cat is the best choice, since they are rumored to be hypoallergenic. The truth is, there is no such thing as any pet that is truly hypoallergenic. But, some pets, including Bengal cats, tend to cause fewer allergic reactions in people than other animals. This has a lot to do with the fact that they have shorter coats, so there is less shedding and less dander. Yes, some people will be allergic to a Bengal, but it is a better option to have around most allergy sufferers.

Bengal Cats vs. Savannah Cats

So, you want a spotted cat, but you aren’t sure which breed is the best option for you – the Bengal or the Savannah cat. Let’s take a look at the most significant differences between Savannah cat vs. Bengal cats. One of the most noticeable differences is the size. If you are looking for a cat that is closer in size to a regular house cat, the Bengal is your best choice. Savannah cats grow to be much taller and larger.

Both cats are highly intelligent and playful, and they both have a lot of energy. They are also both very affectionate, and bond closely with their owners. When talking about a Savannah cat compared to a Bengal cat, both are going to make terrific pets. But, if you are in the market for a lap cat, the Bengal is going to be the better option for you.

Bengal Cat Generations

Finally, we are going to discuss the various Bengal cat generations. This breed began with the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC). Bengal cats are almost always bred with other Bengal cats, so their bloodlines remain consistent. The various generations are given names with “F” labels, including F1, F2, and F3. Let’s take a look at the meaning of these labels, and find out which is going to be the best choice for you.

When it comes to the “F” labels, basically, the higher the number, the further away the cat is from the first generation. As we mentioned, it all started with the ALC, so the first Bengal cats are from the F1 generation. An F2 cat is a second generation cat, F3 is a third generation cat, and so on and so on. Confused? Let’s break it down in simpler terms.

For first generation Bengal cats, an ALC was bred with a domestic Bengal mother. If an F1 Bengal mother is bred with a domestic Bengal father, you get an F2 kitten. When a domestic Bengal father is bred with an F2 Bengal mother, an F3 Bengal kitten is the result. An F4 kitten comes from a domestic Bengal father and an F3 Bengal mother. Finally, an F5 Bengal kitten is parented by a domestic Bengal father and an F4 mother.

If you are not going to be showing or breeding your cat, and you don’t want so spend thousands of dollars, an F4 or F5 Bengal cat is going to be a great choice. In fact, because there are so many restrictions regarding hybrid breeding, it is likely that you will end up with an F5 or later.

Conclusion

If you have decided that you want a pedigreed pet, and you love the idea of an animal that looks exotic and like a wild cat, a Bengal cat is a great option for you. These intelligent and lovable cats don’t grow to be as large as Savannah cats, but they have that spotted or marbled coat that gives them the appearance of a wild animal.