Bengal cats are a relatively new hybrid breed of domesticated cat. They have been bred to display exotic markings reminiscent of a wild Asian Leopard Cat, with which their genetic lines have originally been crossed. For those seeking an “exotic” pet with a domestic temperament, Bengals can provide the best of both worlds.
Bengal cats first began to be bred by geneticist Jean S. Mill as far back as 1963, but it wasn’t until a full breeding program began in 1975 that the modern version of the Bengal was produced. Modern Bengal cats are at least three generations separated from the original cross with the Asian Leopard Cat, ensuring a domestic temperament.
Bengals are a medium to large breed, weighing anywhere from 7 to 20 pounds. Male cats are generally larger than females. They are an intelligent, energetic breed, and they demand attention and social interaction with the family as a whole. With a little training, many Bengal cat owners report they can be taught to fetch and walk on a leash. Bengals usually enjoy climbing, and often seek out the highest perch in the house, on top of cupboards or tall furniture. They are very vocal, and their voices differ from that of a typical domestic cat. Bengals typically live 12 to 16 years.
Bengals’ coats are typically either spotted or marbled, with a two-tone or “rosette” spotting pattern being most preferable. The background color of their coats can be golden, rust, brown, orange, sand, buff, or ivory. Their markings can be rust, cocoa, chocolate brown, charcoal, or black.
At least three new cat breeds are being developed from Bengal cats: the Serengeti cat, the Toyger, and the Cheetoh. These breeds are intended to mimic the coats of the African serval, tiger, and cheetah, respectively. They are designed to mimic the appearance of these wild cats by crossing with domestic cats with similar traits, and are not making use of new wild cat genes.