The Bengal cat is a stunning cat that has become a popular breed of choice when it comes to domestic cats. These stunning cats have a personality and appearance all of their own, resembling a small leopard, the Bengal cat is truly an exquisite pet desired by many people.
The Bengal cat is a newer breed of cat and, despite the name, finds its origins in the United States where it was first bred in the 1980s. The breed was developed in order to create a domestic breed that would have the appearance of a much larger cat, such as a tiger or cheetah. The breed remained almost exclusive to the USA until it was introduced into the United Kingdom in the 1990s, where it was not officially recognized as a breed until the mid-2000s, showing just how new the breed is.
This breed of cat is the only successful breed to have ever come from attempting to mate a domestic cat with a wild cat, a true innovation for the feline world. The breeder who came up with the idea was Jean S Mill who began the process back in the 1960s.
If you are considering becoming the proud owner of a Bengal cat or are simply interested in the beautiful breed, this article will give you all the imperative information from vets, hundreds of sources and our own experience with our Bengal cat, Coco, about Bengal cats.
What does a Bengal cat look like?
As we mentioned earlier, Bengal cats greatly resemble a miniature leopard with its distinct marking and colors. Bengals have circular markings and most have stripes around the front legs. Since the Bengal cat is a hybrid, it tends to be larger than other varieties of the domestic cat breeds, and can grow up to 70 centimeters tall (over 2 feet tall) and weigh anywhere up to 7kg (15 pounds).
The Bengal is a muscular and slender breed which is a trait, no doubt from its wild roots. The cats have a small head and very prominent cheekbones, adding to their unique aesthetic. The eyes tend to be mostly green or blue and are quite large in size for a domesticated animal.
These cats have a very dense, medium-length coat which is extremely soft to the touch. When they are kittens, the Bengal cat usually has a slightly longer coat which changes in length as the animal reaches adulthood.
Due to the way that they were bred, Bengal cats come with different categories of markings, some are officially recognized and others are not. The varieties are as follows:
Marbled Bengal cats
The markings on these Bengals closely relate to the tabby appearance of their domestic heritage. The patterns do not have any symmetrical traits and can come in a range of shades.
Spotted Bengal cats
Probably the most recognizable pattern of a Bengal is the spotted. These cats have markings of a spotted nature sometimes known as ‘rosettes.’ The spotted Bengal is the favorite in owners due to its leopard-like appearance.
Sparbled Bengal cats
Bengal cats who do not have either spotted or marbled markings fall into this category, and whilst it is not officially recognized in breeding, there are many cats within it.
Personality of a Bengal cat
As a domestic cat, the Bengal makes a wonderful companion for families and single people alike. They have a very loving nature yet can be extremely playful, and this playfulness does not dwindle as the cat gets older. This makes them great for families with older children who want to interact with an animal.
Bengal cats have the tendency to form a good bond with one human, and once this bond has been formed, they are very loyal pets. That being said, if there is more than one human within the home, the Bengal will be affectionate towards other people with whom it is familiar.
The Bengal cat is a very intelligent breed and therefore requires a lot of mental stimulation, it is important that owners of the breed have the time to dedicate to them. The breed is well known to learn quickly including taking on the knowledge of games such as fetch, which can be a delight for both cat and owner.
Surprisingly for a cat, the Bengal cat enjoys spending time in water and playing with it. This is certainly a unique trait for our feline friends. This is another aspect of the playful nature we mentioned previously. With this playfulness, comes a lot of energy and the Bengal cat enjoys constantly having something to do, they are a breed that will spend a lot of time dozing or lazing around. Giving your Bengal cat plenty of toys or cat towers is a great way to help them burn off their energy and is essential for times when you will not be in the home. However, this breed does not like to be left alone for long periods of time.
When considering other pets within the household, the Bengal cat will adapt well to being around other animals, it will even enjoy the added company. Provided that the other pet is receptive to the Bengal, it can be happily kept with a range of other animals.
Health and grooming
When taking on any animal it is vital that potential owners are aware of any health conditions associated with the pet, as well as being aware of general maintenance of the animal.
Common Bengal cat health conditions
As a rule of thumb, the Bengal cat is quite a healthy breed which usually does not require too much medical attention throughout its life. However, there have been some conditions which have been noted, some of these are:
- Nervous system disease called distal neuropathy. This is not fatal and usually corrects itself as the cat becomes older, since the onset is usually within the first year of the cat’s life.
- Hip dysplasia.
- Retinal atrophy, which is a condition affecting the eyes. This can get worse over time.
- Kneecap dislocation. Cases of this condition vary in severity but can be treated with surgery.
- A deformity that is known as the flat-chested kitten syndrome, but much like the distal neuropathy, will likely correct itself over time.
Take your Bengal to the vet
As with all breeds of cat, it is important to give your Bengal kitten the best start in life by having your vet administer the required shots to prevent life-threatening diseases and conditions from occurring. It is also recommended to attend an annual check-up with your vet to identify any problems early on in order to be best able to treat them.
Grooming your Bengal cat can be an enjoyable activity for you both, with the Bengal being such a water baby, this is a breed of cat which you can bath. Whilst bathing your Bengal is not vital, it can be beneficial to your bonding time and can be done as and when you wish.
The medium-length coat of the Bengal cat requires brushing around once a week to prevent any dead hair or skin cells from building up within the fur and to ensure that the natural oils are well spread out.
Clipping the nails of your Bengal cat is an important part of his care and should be done every few weeks in order to keep them healthy and strong.
Eyes and ears
The Bengal cat will require his owner to clear his ears and eyes of any build-up, this can be done by gently cleaning around the areas with some damp cotton wool or a soft cloth. You need only to use water for this, however, if you prefer you can use a mix of cider vinegar with water. It is important to remember not to clean inside the ear, only around the outer area, this will prevent any internal damage being caused.
You can brush the teeth of your Bengal cat and this should be done as often as possible. Your Bengal may protest a little at first but once he becomes used to the process and begins to understand that you are not going to hurt him, he will likely comply.
Other Bengal care considerations
Aside from grooming and hygiene, there are other things to think about when it comes to the care of your Bengal cat. Most people keep their Bengal cats as indoor pets, whether this be down to their value or safety can come into play. However, since Bengals are very intelligent animals, they can become bored if they are kept inside without proper stimulation. For this reason, it is very important to provide your Bengal cat with as many interactive toys as you can, to prevent it from becoming bored.
If your Bengal cat does begin to suffer from boredom and being lonely, he will likely start playing with household items that are not safe for him or he may damage. Many Bengal cat owners decide to build their pet a large enclosure with plenty of climbing and space to play, this is a great way to keep your car healthy and active.
Continuing with the indoor theme, it is important to consider toileting, when kept indoors, the Bengal will require a litter tray, he will also need for you to ensure that it is kept clean. The Bengal is a fussy cat who will not toilet in a dirty litter box and so owners should be sure to clear it out as soon as possible after each use. If the litter tray is not kept clean, this might encourage your Bengal to do his business elsewhere in the home.
Read our article about the best litter for indoor cats, here.
Feeding your Bengal cat
Where food is concerned, your Bengal cat must be getting the correct nutrients it needs in order to thrive, this can be done by using pre-prepared cat foods, however, it has been noted that some Bengal cats can be sensitive to these types of foods. Many owners of hybrid cats such as Bengal choose to offer raw food, and this is a good option too.
It’s highly advisable that you do not feed your cat any off-the-shelf, high street food brands, as these typically have a lot of filler content, such as grain. You can read our article: do Bengal cats need a specific diet?
One of the best things to do is to ask for advice from the breeder when you first buy your kitten, they will be able to give you an idea of what the cat has been eating so far. However, you are free to mix it up a little once you get your kitten into a good routine. Whatever brand of food you decide upon, it is imperative that when feeding your kitten, the food is designed for the dietary requirements of a young cat. This is because a kitten needs extra nutrients in order to thrive as it grows.
Bengal cats are also known to be fussy eaters from time to time but once owners have worked out the likes and dislikes of their cat, it is easy to maintain a healthy diet. It may be a case of trial and error once your cat comes out of the kitten stage and into adulthood. One of the most sensible things to do is to try different brands of cat food, and raw foods if you are offering them until you find exactly what your Bengal likes, and then stick with it.
Adult Bengals tend to prefer meaty, wet food to dry kibble which is more suited to a kitten. This is purely down to the breed, however, some Bengals may like a dry meal from time to time and it is once again about finding what your individual cat prefers.
There is the option to offer some human foods to your Bengal cat, although there are some which should NEVER be given such as onions, grapes, and chocolate, there are many human foods that have been deemed safe for the Bengal cat, which we cover in: do Bengal cats need a specific diet?
Whilst being a relatively new breed, the Bengal cat is certainly popular amongst domestic breeders and owners. The Bengal cat is a loving, affectionate and loyal breed who will form a good bond with his human companions.
The breed is known to be extremely playful and enjoys many hours of fun, exercise and interaction with its owners, as well as being very intelligent, making them great family pets.
Being a hybrid cat, there are some specific elements of care that should be considered before taking on a Bengal kitten, however, these elements are easily attainable and enjoyable for both pet and owner.