The Bengal is something of a newcomer to the cat world. Originating in the 1980s in the USA, it was not seen in the UK until some time after that, and is still comparatively rare. So how much do you really know about these cats? Here are some interesting facts abut them.
The Bengal was originally developed by crossing a domestic cat with a small wild cat. In the 1960s, there was an accidental mating in California between and Asian Leopard Cat, and a black shorthaired domestic cat. The breeder involved did nothing at the time, but in the 1970s she did some similar matings, and the offspring produced formed the basis of an entirely new breed which looked rather like a small leopard, and was named the Bengal Cat. Egyptian Maus were added to the breeding programme to further the leopard look, and eventually, from the 1980s onwards, the registering associations began to accept these new hybrid cats.
The very early Bengal Cats were skittish, nervous, and somewhat wild, very like their Asian leopard Cat ancestors. Although TICA began registering the Bengal in 1983, other organisations took a little longer. Indeed, it was quite difficult for the Bengal to gain general acceptance. Many people claimed the cats were too wild too be ordinary domestic pets, and some of the registries stipulated that outcrossing to the wild ancestors had to stop, with only cats from the fourth generation onwards since the original crossing being accepted. So although the Bengal is now accepted and very popular, its existence still causes some controversy.
Although prices have come down as the Bengal became more popular, it is still quite expensive and can be rather difficult to obtain. Because of the wild ancestry, it is extremely important to find a reputable breeder and ensure that you obtain a full pedigree showing that your cat is at least four generations removed from any wild cat. 'Pet quality' Bengals may cost from £450 to £600, but top quality show cats could cost much more, well into the thousands of pounds in some cases.
Possibly reflecting their wild ancestry, Bengals tend to be very active, energetic felines. If you plan to keep them enclosed, as most owners do, try to have an escape proof garden for them, as they don't react well to being kept indoors all the time. They love to climb, play 'fetch' and are very intelligent and playful. The kittens in particular can be destructive if they do not have enough to do. This is not the sort of cat you can leave alone all day, or pet occasionally and then forget.
Many Bengals love to play around in sinks and bathtubs. They like to drink from taps, and some even want to follow their owners into the bath or shower – so if you prefer privacy when bathing, get ready to close the door and accept some annoyed miaowing from your Bengal. They are also good swimmers, so if you happen to own a swimming pool, you may want to keep your Bengal well away from it.
Bengals are known particularly for their climbing ability, whether on special activity centres, trees, or your furniture. If you do invest in an escape proof garden, you will need to be very careful that your Bengal cannot work out how to jump the fence; these cats are the Houdinis of the cat world.
The best way to keep your active Bengal happy is to get her lots of toys. Being so energetic and intelligent, they will want more than just stuffed mice; think puzzle feeders, other puzzles, and things they can climb. A bored Bengal will start to find her own entertainment – often by destroying household items!
Originally Bengals came with just a spotted coat. But now there are several variations in colours. There are 'snow' Bengals, the result of a recessive pointed gene carried in one of the domestic parents of the breed. You can also obtain marbled cats, with a blotched tabby pattern. More recently silver Bengals with a white undercoat have appeared.
Feeding a Bengal can sometimes be a little tricky. Anecdotally, they seem to have a greater incidence than other breeds of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), possibly because of their wild heritage. The cereal content in commercial cat foods seems a particular irritant, and you may need to look for grain-free foods for your Bengal. They also seem to be prone to other bowel problems, and it may take you a while to find the best food for your cat to prevent health issues.
Despite the difficulties involved in owning a Bengal, this breed is becoming increasingly more popular. After a slow start, numbers soared, and by 2010 they were the most registered cat with TICA, and the breed is regularly in the top ten in the UK. People love this domestic cat with its glittery fur and wild cat looks, and it definitely seems that the Bengal is here to stay.
You may have gathered from the above that Bengals can be quite difficult to take care of. This is indeed the case. They are not really for the novice or casual pet owner. They can require quite a lot of attention and care, and some do not fit well into multicat households, or even ordinary family households. Breeders and owners alike describe them as friendly, people oriented, and loving, but they're still not the sort of cat that you can just leave alone to its own devices. So do bear this in mind before you decide to get your very own Bengal.