AT A GLANCE: The Bengal cat
- Curious, confident, and athletic
- Approximately 8 to 10 inches tall
- 8 to 15 pounds on average
- Muscular, sleek build
- Round head with wide nose
- Short, silky fur in a variety of complex patterns
- Typical lifespan of 9 to 15 years
Physical characteristics of the Bengal cat
The Bengal breed is the result of purposeful cross breeding between the exotic Asian leopard cat and domestic cats. The first Bengal occurred quite by accident when a leopard cat’s owner thought she looked lonely, put her domestic shorthair male in the pen with her for companionship, and the pair ended up mating.
Many obstacles were overcome to develop the Bengal breed that we know today, including producing cats with reliable temperaments and functional reproductive systems. Because modern Bengal cats are the product of only Bengal-to-Bengal breeding, their personalities are reasonably predictable and they make wonderful pets.
Bengals are a sight to behold. At first glance, they look like wildcats, with intricately patterned fur much like leopards. They are sleek and evenly muscled, and heavily boned, yet graceful and agile.
The Bengal cat’s fur comes in many patterns, all of which should have highly contrasting markings. Rosettes mimic the classic leopard spots, while the random marbled pattern comes from the domestic tabby gene. Bengal cats may also have a “glitter gene,” which gives the tip of the fur a glowing quality.
Personality and temperament of the Bengal cat
Bengal cats are confident, yet docile. They are a people-oriented breed, and they relish time with their owners. They form tight and loyal bonds with their two-legged family members, with plenty of affection for the whole family.
Bengal cats are playful and curious, and can often be found following their owners around the house, looking for new adventures. Daily play sessions are important, because Bengal cats need exercise to wear out both their bodies and their minds. Bengals also love to climb, so ensuring they have vertical obstacles in the home is a must.
Bengals are a highly intelligent breed, and can be trained to fetch or sit on command. Many Bengals have been trained to use the human toilet due, in part, to the habit their leopard cat ancestors have of urinating in bodies of water to dilute the scent. Most Bengal cats also love water. They may leap up on the counter to help you wash dishes, or join you in the shower.
Bengals are unique in the cat-show world in that their breed standard includes a description of the cat’s ideal temperament. If the cats show any sign of a challenge, they will be disqualified to prevent temperament problems in the breed.
Common health concerns for the Bengal catBengals live an average of 9 to 15 years and may be affected by the following health conditions:
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
FIP is a viral disease caused by feline coronavirus. In some cats, an aggressive inflammatory response creates clinical signs. FIP is a complicated disease with no reliable test or treatment. Signs are generally vague and include fever, weight loss with decreased appetite, and a pot-bellied appearance.
Entropion is a condition that affects the eyelids of some Bengals, where the eyelid rolls inward toward the cornea. It typically affects the lower lid, but occasionally can affect both. The hairs on the inwardly rolling lid irritate the eye surface, causing discomfort and corneal ulcers, and requiring surgery to correct the affected lid.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
The retina is responsible for transmitting light to the brain where it is interpreted as an image. When progressive retinal atrophy occurs, the cells of the retina begin to deteriorate, eventually causing blindness.
Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
Feline HCM is the most common cardiac disease to affect cats. In HCM, the muscular heart walls become thickened, making it difficult for the heart to pump efficiently. HCM cardiomyopathy can lead to congestive heart failure, fatal arrhythmias, and blood clots, and sudden death can occur with no previous signs of heart disease.
Other health concerns may include:
- Feline hyperesthesia syndrome
- Hip dysplasia
- Patellar luxation
- Pyruvate kinase deficiency
Caring for the Bengal cat
Bengals have short hair and need only to be brushed with a soft brush weekly to reduce shedding. Bengals, like all cats, are fastidious groomers and will keep themselves clean. Bathing is only necessary if your curious Bengal has found an adventure too large to clean up on his own.
Bengals are a high-energy, playful breed and will need plenty of interaction each day to engage both their bodies and their minds. Set aside play time with a toy on a stick, or train your Bengal to walk on a treadmill or cat-sized exercise wheel for energy release.
The Bengal is the perfect cat for you if:
- You have time to provide daily exercise
- You want a cat who acts more like a dog
- You are home enough to form a tight bond with your cat
- You are a single owner looking for companionship
- You are in a domestic partnership with no children
- You have a family with animal-savvy children