Bengal Breed Highlights

Beautiful Bengal cat walking around the living room

  • The Bengal cat is the only domestic cat that has markings like Leopards, Ocelots, and Jaguars!

  • This breed is fond of water and enjoys exploring outside on leash with their owners.

  • To be considered a domestic Bengal cat by TICA, a Bengal kitten must be at least four generations removed from the Asian Leopard Cat (or 6 generations removed to be recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association).

Unique Physical Features

Trupanion cat breed guide - Bengal illustration

  • 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.

  • The exotic coat pattern with rosettes or marbling.

Color Patterns of the Bengal

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.

Unique Personality

Trupanion cat breed guide - Bengal illustration 

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.

Preferred Lifestyle

Energy Level

Cat breed energy level - high (ninja warrior)

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.

Average Lifespan
(Range)

14 to 16 years

Average Size
(Range)

6 - 15 pounds

Similar Breeds

  • Savannah

  • Abyssinian

  • Bombay

  • American Bobtail

History of the Bengal

Bengal cat relaxing on a table

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 more wild temperament.

Plays Well with Others?

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.

Graphic - multi-color feather toy for cats

Exercise Requirements

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.

Mental Enrichment Needs

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.

Common Behavioral Issues

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.

VETERINARIAN TIP

Never leave your cat alone near an open window that doesn't have a secure screen. If it's on the first floor, your cat can get out of the house and get injured, lost or any of the other possible problems that outdoor cats face on a daily basis. If the window is on the second floor or above your cat is at risk of suffering from severe injuries of "high-rise syndrome," and you don't even need to live in a true high-rise building. The injuries of "high-rise syndrome" tend to be worst in falls from between the 2nd and 7th floors!

Fun Activities the Bengal Enjoys

Trupanion cat breed guide - Bengal illustration 

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:

  • Walking on a harness/lead - Bengals love the stimulation and enrichment of going outdoors, and they are easily trained to wear a harness. Be prepared to have them lead YOU instead of the other way around.

  • Vertical space to explore - Make sure your home has plenty of vertical space opportunities for your Bengal! They will find their way to high points in your home from which to view their kingdom. Make sure to provide plenty of very sturdy cat trees (floor-to-ceiling tree poles are great!), shelves, and platforms on which your cat can nap and perch. Take care to secure these launching and landing spots so your Bengal isn’t injured.

  • Clicker training - Bengals are highly trainable. You can use clicker training to teach them how to do any number of tricks from simple commands (e.g., sit, high-five, fist-bump, roll over) to running agility courses at high speeds (which include jumping over obstacles, weaving through poles, and running through tubes).

  • Give your cat an exercise wheel or treadmill! Bengals love (and need) exercise and this can help.

  • Water play! Many Bengals love water, and will even take showers or baths with their guardians. But you can also provide them with toys in tubs or buckets to capture (search for robotic fish online!), fountains, or even a running tap.

  • Challenging food puzzles. Bengals can conquer difficult food puzzles that have treats in drawers that must be pulled open, or levers pulled to reveal a trap with treats in it. They love to problem solve, and many are food-motivated.

  • Active play games that recreate hunting scenarios. Long-handled wand toys are important for providing a wide range of motion and opportunity for running, jumping, and capturing toy prey items. Be prepared to replace toys often since Bengals are rough on their prey! And make sure they don’t ingest stuffing or toy pieces that come loose during play.

  • Bengals are great at teaching their humans how to play fetch ;)

  • Novel items in their environment are a must, even if this means putting cat trees and cubbies in new locations periodically. Make sure to rotate toys to keep them fresh and exciting, bring in items with novel scents (like objects from the outdoors such as pinecones and leaves - provided they are non-toxic), and provide objects that can trigger the imagination (brown packing paper to pounce on and hide in can be a lot of fun).

  • Provide windows or even a catio from which your Bengal can experience the sights, smells, and sounds of the outdoors!

Coat Type

Short, dense coat

Shedding Level

shedding level - 3 of 5 piles of fur

3 out of 5 piles of fur

Grooming Requirements

  • Low Maintenance

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.

Famous Owners of the Bengal

  • Bruce Springsteen (Singer)

  • Ellie Goulding (Singer)

  • Ian Anderson (Musician)

  • Sean Connery (Actor)

  • Calvin Klein (Designer)

  • Barbara Mandrell (Singer)

  • Kristen Stewart (Actress)

  • Ricky Rudd (NASCAR Driver)

  • Jerry Seinfield (Comedian)

  • Leila Ali (Boxer/TV Host)

Non-Endorsement Statement: The social media posts displayed here do not imply any endorsement of these people or products, nor does it imply they endorse Trupanion or our product.

Common Health Conditions for Cats

Use the chart of Trupanion claims data below to find out what health conditions happen most frequently for cats. Every cat is unique, but understanding what health conditions are likelier to occur can help you be a more prepared pet owner.

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Trupanion member Rexford

Rexford

Gwynn Oak, MD

Condition: Urinary obstruction

The Trupanion policy paid: $19,031.43

"When my cat, Rexford, became ill, it was a great relief knowing I had Trupanion. It allowed me to focus on Rex and get him the care and treatment he needed without worry. Rexford required multiple surgeries and extended hospitalizations; to know that we had the support of this wonderful company was such a comfort. I will never have a pet not covered by Trupanion."

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Trupanion member Gator

Gator

Calgary, Alberta

Conditions: Ear infections, diarrhea, enteritis, allergic reaction to medication

The Trupanion policy paid: $4,672.13

"Gator struggled with a weak immune system, ear infections and chronic diarrhea. After months of medical intervention, she was healthy enough for her spay. At the beginning of the procedure she had an allergic reaction to the medication and her airway swelled. She had to receive emergency drugs and luckily she recovered! We cannot thank Trupanion enough for being with us. I will always have Trupanion for my cats."

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Trupanion member Mason

Mason

Peyton, CO

Conditions: Giardia, Pancreatitis, infection, lymphoma

The Trupanion policy paid: $17,057.92

"Mason got what seemed to be a UTI but ended up being an intestinal disease. He has also been treated for giardia, trichomonas, irritable bowel disease, pancreatitis and a UTI. Throughout this entire ordeal, Trupanion stood by us all the way. Trupanion continues to pay for Mason’s care and when I call, I get such personal service! I even got a handwritten card from the staff, expressing their thoughts for Mason!"

- Carrie B.

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