All About The Bengal
Bengals are a domestic breed of cat that have markings similar to those found on leopards and jaguars. They are medium to large in size and their coat is richly colored with vivid spots. Today all Bengals come from Bengal x Bengal litters but there were attempts to cross domestic cats with the Asian Leopard Cat in the early 1960s. (There are records of hybrid crossings even earlier but those bloodlines are not related to the cats we have today.) The Asian Leopard Cat is a small (5-12 pounds), spotted, non-domestic cat from Asia with a somewhat shy personality. Today’s modern Bengal can be traced to cats bred from similar crosses in the 1980s. The Bengal does not require care that is any different from other domestic cats. Some localities may mistakenly consider the Bengal an “exotic” cat (they are listed as a banned breed in some states and cities), but a purebred Bengal cat is just as domesticated as any other breed of cat. If you are considering a Bengal, check to see if they are banned in your area. This is an extremely popular cat breed and Bengal breeders carefully select them for temperament, health, and beauty.
How To Recognize a Bengal
Bengals have a richly-colored coat with vivid spots (called “rosettes” on the Bengal). Their markings are similar to those seen on a leopard, jaguar, or ocelot. The most common color pattern are the brown spots that resemble a leopard’s spots but there is also a marbled pattern that looks similar to the pattern seen on a clouded leopard.
Bengals come in a multitude of colors, along with the patterns described above. There is even a longhaired Bengal. You can see some of the colors and coat patterns on this site.
Bengals are medium-large. Cats have a muscular body with substantial bones. Adult males typically weigh 10-15 pounds while females weigh 7-10 pounds.
The Bengal’s coat is unique to the breed, not just in coloring. It is short, lying close to the body. Soft, silky, luxurious, and ideally “glittered,” according to the breed standard. Although the patterns and colors found in the breed cover a wide range, they are all recognizably distinct as the Bengal.
In temperament, the Bengal is an athletic, curious cat. They enjoy heights and being in high places in the house so if you like a cat that stays on the floor, this is not the right breed for you. They also love to be wherever things are happening. They like to know what’s going on. They like to investigate. They are an affectionate cat but it’s usually on their terms, when they feel like it. Otherwise, they like to play and climb. Many Bengals are also attracted to water so you may find your cat mesmerized when you are at the sink or in the shower. He may decide to hop in the shower with you. Some Bengals can be quite vocal while others are relatively quiet. They are intelligent cats and they can learn tricks as well as house manners.
Living with a Bengal
Humans and Bengals
Bengals are a good choice for people and families that enjoy an active cat. A Bengal can be a lap cat but it will usually be when your Bengal decides he wants to cuddle. Often Bengals prefer to be affectionate when they settle down to sleep. The rest of the time life is too interesting to snuggle. They would rather be nosing into things. They are outgoing, social cats. Do be careful if you have pocket pets like hamsters and gerbils or small birds. Bengals have a strong prey drive (like many cats). Some of these small pets can end up as your cat’s lunch.
Dogs and Bengals
Bengals usually get along well with friendly dogs. It’s always important to oversee these relationships, especially in the early days. Many times it’s easier to introduce a small puppy to an older cat since the cat will have the upper paw (so to speak). We do recommend that you keep your cat’s food out of reach of your dog. Most dogs will eat your cat’s food if they have the opportunity. You should also place your Bengal’s litter box in an area that your dog can’t reach. Many dogs have an unsavory habit of eating things out of the litter box when they can. It’s also good to have perches and other high places handy for your cat to escape in case your dog gets pushy.
Other Cats and Bengals
Bengals often enjoy the company of other cats. However, if you are introducing a new cat into your home, regardless of age, it may take some time for the cats to get to know each other and become friends. You can’t rush these relationships. Cats have to work out who has higher social status, which cat gets the best sleeping spots, and other important details. They will likely become friends eventually so just be patient. You may want to add an extra perch or cat tree when you introduce a new cat to the house so there is less competition for the same spots.
Common Health Problems
According to British sources, Bengals can have some health issues. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart disease, can be found in some older Bengals. Early symptoms include panting and lethargy. The cat’s heart muscle becomes thicker and has to work harder. This can lead to blood clots. The disease can eventually result in congestive heart failure and death.
Bengals may also have PRA (progressive retinal atrophy). This eye disease is found in numerous dog breeds, where carriers can be identified by genetic testing and not used for breeding. However, no test currently exists for Bengal cats. It can occur even in young cats and eventually leads to blindness. A cat that is a carrier for the disease may never show symptoms so there is no way to know which cats carry the gene.
Bengals can also suffer from cataracts, which may develop as your cat gets older. They can be removed with surgery.
Bengals can also be allergic to anesthetics. In some cases, an allergic reaction to some anesthetics can cause cardiac arrest in a Bengal. You should talk to your veterinarian about Bengals and their issues with anesthesia before any kind of surgery.
Bengals can also have problems with luxating patellas. This is a joint problem that is similar to a slipped kneecap in a human. The cat’s knee can lock up temporarily. It usually gets progressively worse each time it happens and your cat may eventually need surgery to fix the problem – which brings up the problem of anesthesia. Overweight cats are more likely to have a problem with luxating patellas.
OFA (the Orthopedia Foundation for Animals) shows that some Bengal owners/breeders are testing and reporting cardiac and patella results.
As with most cats, it’s important to watch your Bengal’s weight. Being overweight or obese can worsen most potential health problems in cats. It can make surgery more difficult, worsen joint problems, and put more stress on the heart, for example.
According to the majority of sources, the lifespan of Bengals is said to be 12-16 years.
Pet Insurance for your Bengal
Considering the health of your Bengal and the cost of vet care today, you may want to investigate pet health insurance. This kind of health insurance allows you to have insurance in place in case your cat has an accident or has certain health problems. Instead of paying the full cost of expensive veterinary care, you would only pay a fraction. You can choose how much coverage you need and pick the plan that works for you and your cat. Veterinary health care can be expensive today so this is something to consider.
Diet and Nutrition
Cat experts and Bengal breeders generally recommend food with fresh meat or canned food without grains for these cats. You should make sure the food has suitable Vitamin A and taurine, but this is true for all cats. All cats need plenty of meat protein in their food and we agree with these experts that a minimum of 40 percent protein (DMB) is suitable.
If you want to put down a dry food for your Bengal, in conjunction with the wet food, you could use Orijen dry cat food.
Be sure to encourage your Bengal to drink plenty of water, especially if you are putting down dry food. Some owners turn the kitchen or bathroom faucet on and let it trickle to encourage their Bengal to drink. Drinking fountains are also a popular way to encourage your Bengal to drink. Like many cats, they may not drink enough water if you simply put down a bowl of water.
The Bengal cat today is a domestic breed and requires the same care as other breeds of cats. These beautiful, playful, inquisitive cats can make a wonderful pet for a home that appreciates an active cat. If you are interested in getting a Bengal, be sure to check and make sure they are not banned in your city or state. Sadly, some people do not understand that Bengals are domestic cats and not “wild.”