The Bengal cat breed is quite unique and very different from the average domestic moggy – because this breed was developed by crossing domestic cats with a small wild cat, the Asian leopard cat.
Whilst the Bengal cat breed is now well established and self-perpetuating in terms of subsequent generations being mated with each other rather than back to their wild ancestor, the Asian leopard cat side of the breed’s heritage has resulted in a number of desirable and unique traits within the breed itself. The Bengal coat is highly distinctive, having a very sleek, almost oily texture, which is often very eye-catching in terms of its colouring and pattern, with spotted Bengals being real head-turners!
Additionally, the wild side of the breed’s origins means that the Bengal temperament is rather different to that of other breeds – they are often very vocal, quite demanding, and rather highly strung. They are also generally independent, outgoing and often, avid hunters too. They like a lot of fuss and attention from their owners and hate to be ignored, but they like everything to happen on their own terms, and when it suits them!
All of these traits combined help to contribute to the breed’s appeal – but they are not the right fit for everyone.
As of April 2018, the Bengal cat is the third most popular cat breed in the UK – after the Ragdoll in second place, and the British shorthair in first. Whilst this indicates their huge level of popularity in the UK, they have actually fallen a notch since 2017, when they were the second most popular breed, a spot they lost this year to the Ragdoll.
In this article, we will examine the Bengal’s appeal and the reasons behind their rapid rise to popularity, and examine whether or not they’ve now peaked and are becoming less popular, and why this might be. Read on to learn more.
The Bengal cat is an undeniable eye-catcher; no other breed can boast such distinctive good looks, particularly when it comes to top quality Bengals with highly desirable coat markings. Their appearance is what first draws many people to the breed, alongside of the added interest generated by their wild cat heritage, and many people love the idea of owning a cat that is closely related to a genuine native wild cat, with the traits to match.
The idea of being able to win the trust of a cat with wild ancestry, form a bond with them and get to see their natural behaviours is something that appeals to a lot of cat lovers, and the Bengal cat is the first modern breed with a close wild ancestor to fit this criteria.
The Bengal personality is another factor; they really aren’t like any other cat breed. They have a very distinctive and piercing meow that they aren’t shy to use, and they tend to be very vocal cats as a whole. Most Bengal owners like the idea of having a conversational, expressive cat, and one that will greet them vocally and let them know their feelings about more or less everything!
Bengals tend to be independent and highly individual, and so forming a bond with one and winning their affection is an achievement that many owners are proud of. Every single cat of the breed has its own unique personality, but when they have settled in and bonded with you, they are very expressive, loving cats that will often follow you around and want to be involved in everything you do!
Bengal cats have a lot going for them, but they’re certainly not for everyone. They are beautiful to look at and stroke, and are very affectionate – but on their own terms, and when it suits them! They can be fairly highly strung and quite demanding, which is one breed trait that many first-time owners aren’t really prepared for, or don’t think through.
A Bengal that is bored, unhappy or insecure can soon become a real handful, potentially becoming destructive or exhibiting behavioural problems that can be hard to resolve. They also tend to be lively and active and like to go outside a lot, often roaming a long way away and staying out for long periods of time, as well as hunting prolifically – which does not always fit in well with their owners’ preferences, which sometimes involves keeping their cats indoors only.
The breed tends to be robust and healthy, but there are a range of hereditary health problems found within the breed that can affect the longevity and quality of life of affected cats, and make insurance and veterinary care rather costly.
Bengal cats are also among the most expensive of pedigree cat breeds to buy, although there is quite a high degree of variance in the price of individual cats. Good quality examples of the breed with desirable markings can command figures well in excess of £1,500-£2,000 – and they are also a desirable target for thieves as a result of this.
The Bengal cat breed is still undeniably popular in the UK, but it is entirely possible that their popularity has peaked and is now beginning a slow decline. Because the breed is a relatively new one that received a lot of attention when it first came to prominence thanks to its wild origins, demand for the breed developed quickly, and it is natural that now that the breed is becoming more established, this will level out.
Additionally, cat owners and potential buyers today are better informed about the breed’s core traits (both good and bad) and the potential challenges that come with them, whilst during the early stages of their rise to prominence, these traits were less widely understood and recognised. This means that it is easier for potential buyers to research Bengal ownership, identify the challenges of caring for the breed, and potentially make an informed decision about choosing an alternative instead.
Whether the breed’s popularity continues to decline in the future has yet to be seen – but the Bengal cat breed is now well established in the UK, with a strong following of enthusiasts.