14 to 16 years
14 to 16 years
6 - 15 pounds
Not recognized by the American Kennel Club. Terrier Group (United Kennel Club).
Bengals inherited long hind legs from their Asian Leopard Cat ancestors. Their hind legs, which are longer than their front legs, make them quick, even when they’re just running or leaping around the house. They are easily recognizable with their exotic coat pattern, often complete with rosettes or marbling.
Bengals commonly have two types of patterns — spotted (rosette) or marbled, just like leopards and cheetahs. And they’re the only domestic cat that has these markings! The breed standard is the brindle color, but Bengals can come in a variety of colors including white, cream, and grey.
The Bengal is a very active cat because of its cross-breeding with the wild Asian Leopard Cat. They’re curious, hyperactive, and sociable cats that develop a close bond with those who share their living space. Bengals tend to keep their kitten-like attitude throughout their life and love to stay busy! Not for the faint of heart, this cat breed is best for experienced cat owners who are able and willing to provide them with the amount of attention they deserve.
The Bengal is a highly intelligent and active breed and not one to spend its days snoozing in the sun or in its guardian’s lap. These cats require active play, mental engagement, and plenty of opportunities to climb and explore. Bengals can be very affectionate and loyal to their human family members and passionate when it comes to playing, so be prepared to replace toys frequently and teach others in the home (i.e., children) how to play with Bengals safely. It’s also important to keep an eye out and make sure they don’t ingest any toy stuffing or parts. Bengals are very curious cats, so ensuring your home is sufficiently “cat-proofed” and you’ve provided your kitten with plenty of appropriate opportunities for exploration and fun will reduce the potential for boredom and destructive behavior.
Throughout history, humans have been fascinated with raising and living with exotic crossed cats. The first recorded cross between an Asian Leopard Cat and a domestic cat was in 1889. These crossbreeds appeared in scientific journals and articles in the 1920s and 1940s, but the breeding efforts typically stopped after one or two generations.
The modern version of the breed began in 1969 when Jean Mill bred what we now know as the Bengal, created by crossing a black California tomcat with an Asian Leopard Cat. Her breeding program didn’t gain much steam until the mid to late 1970s. It took time to create stable breeding lines, due to frequent infertility in males from the first three generations. The breed became popular in the 1980s and 90s and has only grown in popularity in the new millennium.
The Bengal was officially recognized as a breed by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1991, but it wasn’t until 2016 when the Cat Fanciers’ Association accepted the breed into their registry. Further, to be shown in TICA, proof must be provided that the Bengal kitten has at least three generations of Bengal-to-Bengal breeding, thus being at least four generations removed from the original mating of a domestic cat to leopard cat. It is recommended that pet Bengals be at least an F4 (fourth generation from the domestic cat - leopard cat mating), as earlier generations (F1 - F3) can retain many characteristics of the leopard cat, including difficulty with litter box training and a wilder temperament.
Overall, Bengals are considered a healthy cat breed. But like all feline breeds, they may be more prone to certain health conditions than others, particular eye illnesses:
None of this means that your Bengal cat will definitely get sick or be diagnosed with a debilitating condition. However, it is important to keep up with regular veterinary appointments. If you haven't done so already, it's also crucial that you protect your Bengal with a high-quality cat insurance plan.
Bengals can be very affectionate and loving cats, but their play can get a bit rough due to this breed’s close ties with wild ancestry. If children are in the home, Bengals must be well-socialized (i.e., able to withstand handling) and children must be taught how to properly play with this breed; that is, from a distance using a long-handled wand toy. Children should also be old enough to understand and react to when it indicates that the cat does not want to play, or that play has escalated to irritation.
When it comes to interacting with other animals, Bengals should be slowly introduced to other cats through scent and sight. Companion cats should be similar in temperament, and energy level. Bengals should also be properly introduced to other animal family members and playtime supervised so that no one gets hurt if playtime becomes intense. Starting socialization while a Bengal is still a kitten is helpful, as long as they aren’t overwhelmed and the experience is positive.
Bengals are a very active breed and require daily exercise. Active play sessions where they can chase and “kill” toys that resemble prey items are a necessity to provide an outlet for instinctual predatory behavior and burn off energy. Many Bengal homes have treadmill wheels that their cats run on for the exercise they require. Teaching Bengals how to run through agility courses can also be a fun activity that takes advantage of this breed’s athletic prowess and training ability.
Bengals are highly intelligent and curious cats and do best in an environment that provides opportunities for exploration, novel activities, and mental challenges. Cats of this breed are expert puzzle solvers and they will learn how to work light switches, doorknobs, and toilet flush handles. Providing them with opportunities to problem solve (e.g., challenging food puzzles) and learn new behaviors (e.g., clicker-training) will help keep Bengals from finding trouble to fight boredom.
Most pet Bengals are at least 4 generations removed from their leopard cat ancestors (i.e., an F4 generation or greater). Bengals that are F1 - F3 are much closer to their wild ancestors and retain their characteristics in both temperament and behavior. For example, F2 and F3 Bengals may be difficult to litterbox train, as leopard cats eliminate in running water (very different from a litter box!) to prevent other predators from detecting their scent. Earlier generations may also be shy, nervous, or aggressive, more typical of wild cats. Care should be taken to ensure that Bengal kittens obtained as companion animals are domestic in temperament and litterbox trained.
Bengals are a lot of fun because they are active, intelligent, and curious. They do require a fair amount of attention and care from their guardians, but you will be amazed at what your Bengal can do! Here are some activities that Bengals enjoy:
Because Bengals are very good at grooming themselves, they’re pretty low maintenance. Their short-haired coat requires weekly brushing to keep it clean and shiny, and, like all cat breeds, they need their nails trimmed and teeth brushed regularly. By practicing positive and calm grooming with your Bengal kitten, lifelong grooming needs will be easy for everyone.