Feeding

Do Bengal cats need a specific diet?

Bengal cat licking lips after eating
Bengal cat

Bengal cats have a special personality that can easily win the heart of any pet enthusiast. If you are a new Bengal cat owner, it’s only natural to wonder what makes up a healthy Bengal cat diet for your four-legged friend. Getting it right in nutrition is extremely important for good health and long life.

Since there are both honest and misleading articles on what a Bengal cat diet should consist of, things can get a little confusing. You might even be tempted to stick to the food that your cat was being given at the breeder. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the right thing to do as you may be setting yourself up for trouble.

Today, we want to shed some light on this topic as detailed as possible. Read on to learn if what your Bengal cat should eat and drink, as well as what you shouldn’t include in their diet.

Bengal cat diet

Let’s get one thing clear – Bengals are not really different from other ordinary domestic cats. As such, they essentially don’t have special needs for a specific Bengal cat diet. Just like any other obligate carnivores, though, their diet must include food high in protein, mainly from meat. What sets Bengals apart is their strong cravings for meat. Chicken, beef, lamb, fish, and turkey are excellent protein sources.

Feeding your cat plant-based food is generally not recommended. Bengals can’t thrive on a vegan diet. Their digestive system is short and not entirely fine-tuned for synthesizing the nutrients from plant-based foods. That’s why the cats largely depend on animal protein sources, as they are more easily digestible.

Another reason is that – the plant sources don’t have a complete amino acid profile that supports the good health of your cat. For example, plants lack taurine, which is a vital amino acid that plays a key role in maintaining normal feline retinal and cardiac function. A taurine deficiency can lead to blindness and dilated cardiomyopathy.

The meat your cat consumes, however, must be of high quality. But let’s face it, the pet food industry is not sufficiently regulated when it comes to matters concerning quality and, therefore, your cat may not be getting adequate nutrition. Issues like digestibility and absorbability are often not properly addressed by the existing regulatory codes.

There are plenty of low-grade commercial foods currently available on the market. They contain a lot of fillers that are just meant to make the food more palatable for your cat. Over time, they may compromise the pet’s health. Your cat will be susceptible to impaired immune function, congenital defects, poor growth, as well as reproductive failure.

We have written an article about whether cats can eat raw chicken. It’s worth reading, as it details whether you should feed your cat raw chicken and if so, where to get it from and what to do to ensure that your cat’s health isn’t at risk.

Corn cob seeds
Corn cob seeds

Ingredients to avoid in commercial foods

As a responsible Bengal cat owner, it’s important to take your time and carefully go through each ingredient listed on labels before buying cat food. There are some ingredients you should avoid at all costs. If you want high-quality cat food with the right amount of meat that effectively meets the nutritional needs of your four-legged friend, try to avoid brands containing corn, grain, soy, wheat, and oats. We can’t emphasize enough on this.

Well, the same goes for foods that are loaded with by-products derived from animal parts. They include parts such as intestines, bones, stomachs, beaks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and fatty tissues. You will find them in cheap food brands.

Unfortunately, some of the parts are considered to be unfit even for human consumption. So, why would you want to give the same type of food to your Bengal or any other domestic cat?

Risks of artificial ingredients and fillers

Since Bengals are not designed to eat non-meat proteins, giving them food containing the ingredients we’ve highlighted above subjects them to the increased risk of obesity.

Your cat may be getting the right amount of food but minimal nutrients. We had mentioned earlier that Bengal cats have a great appetite for meat. So if the nutrient levels needed in their bodies are not sufficiently met, the cats are likely to eat more to make up for the deficiency.

This can easily make them overweight. And that’s not the only problem. The cats can also develop allergy issues.

While the by-products contain clean meat that’s rich in protein, the truth is that its low-grade protein. Worse even, it’s harder to digest.

Siamese cat drinking milk
Siamese cat drinking milk

Can Bengal cats drink milk?

Kittens love to drink milk, but they often lose their ability to process and digest the sugar in milk after being weaned. They become lactose intolerant as they grow into adults. This can cause gastrointestinal distress for your feline companion. So, it’s highly recommended NOT to make milk part of their balanced diet.

Besides the GI issues, giving your cat cow’s milk on a regular basis can add an unhealthy amount of fat to its diet. As you know, consuming too much fat is attributed to weight gain.

But regardless of that, you can still treat your Bengal cat occasionally. Sometimes the cats can crave milk because they usually associated certain scents and flavors with good memories. Food prepared with milk as an ingredient can help satisfy the carvings.

We must admit it’s difficult for a pet owner to resist giving their feline friends a little bit of milk, whether they crave it or not. But, generally, don’t give the cat milk for a meal.

Please note that the lactose intolerant levels may be different with each cat. You can give your Bengal a little portion of milk and see how she reacts. If your cat’s poop appears normal (not loose), then that’s a good indication your feline friend can handle milk.

I have also written another article related to dairy: Can cats eat cheese?

Raw Bengal cat diet

Feeding your Bengal cat raw diet is actually the right thing to do, as it closely mimics the diet of small wild cats. While raw foods may contain pathogens that can be life-threatening, cats have shorter, more acidic digestive tracts that can tolerate the foods safely. You may want to consider cooked food if your Bengal cat has a compromised immune system. The only downside of a raw diet is that it’s quite expensive to maintain.

Bowl in cat food

Dry food Bengal cat diet

As a pet owner, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to dry food for your cat. And the good news is that they are less expensive compared to raw and moist food diets. You’ll certainly find a lot of brands offering a variety of dry food free of filler, meat by-products, as well as chemical preservatives like BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin. While these three preservatives can keep food dry effectively, they have been linked to cancer.

If you go for dry food, it’s important to know they come with some risks. First off, they potentially have a high number of carbs, and this is one of the leading causes of obesity in felines. You have to read ingredients on labels and ensure the food contains minimal carbohydrates.

Your Bengal will also not get enough water, which can lead to dehydration. If the cat suffers chronic dehydration, then she will be at risk of serious health conditions like Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) and urinary crystals.

You can ensure the cat stays hydrated throughout the day by providing an appealing source of clean fresh water. Putting a bowl of water next to her food isn’t going to help. Instead, consider setting up water fountains designed for pets. They are great at enticing Bengal cats to drink. What’s more, they’re designed with filters that help keep the water as clean and fresh as possible.

Wet food for Bengal cats

Wet food will have at least 65 percent of moisture. This type of food can be great for your Bengal cat because it helps increase total water intake and it’s easier for her to chew. However, the quality of food matters a great deal.

As usual, quality is based on the ingredients. A premium quality wet food should have animal protein as its top or first ingredient. The actual source of protein must be listed on the label. Look for words like chicken, beef, lamb, fish, turkey, etc. And most importantly, ensure there are meat by-products.

When giving your Bengal canned food, it’s important to observe regular dental checkups and cleanings. Otherwise, it can cause dental issues like gingivitis.

Woman eating tomatoes next to a Bengal cat
Bengal cat

Must avoid human foods

Your Bengal cat can have an interest in some human foods that can be dangerous to her. They include:

  • Garlic, chives, and onions: They may not only destroy red blood cells but also cause gastrointestinal distress.
  • Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, which can be poisonous for your Bengal cat.
  • Caffeine: Too much caffeine in a cat’s system can be fatal.
  • Green tomatoes: Green tomatoes contain Glycoalkaloid Solanine that can lead to violent lower GI problems.
  • Tuna: Though fish is a great source of protein, frequent tuna consumption can lead to malnutrition and mercury poisoning.
  • Grapes and raisings: Some people feed these as treats, but a small amount of these can make a cat seriously ill.
  • Fat trimmings and bones: These can cause diarrhea, vomiting, choking or cause cuts inside your Bengal.
  • Raw eggs: Feeding your Bengal raw eggs can cause food poisoning, and skin and fur problems because of the protein ‘avidin’.
  • Dog food: An occasional bite won’t affect your cat, but definitely do your best to keep your cat away due to a formula that’s not suitable for cats.
  • Liver: Tiny amounts of liver can be eaten by a cat, but too much can be toxic and will cause deformed bones, growth on elbows and spine and osteoporosis.
  • Too many treats: Quite plainly, this can lead to obesity and diabetes.

For more things to avoid, see the ‘Foods your cat should never eat‘ slideshow by Fetch (WebMB).

Bengal cat diet summary

If you want your Bengal cat to stay healthy always, then you must make sure her diet is strictly rich in protein and free of artificial ingredients, fillers, or meat by-products. Without protein, she could suffer serious health problems.

You also need to pay attention to the total calorie intake of your cat to avoid the risk of overfeeding and weight gain. And lastly, even though your cat can show healthy digestion of milk, still you should give her a little bit of it occasionally as a treat.

About the author

Kacper Jednorowicz

Hi, I'm Kacper! I have a four-year-old female Bengal cat, called Coco. She's an active and friendly indoor cat that lives with us in the UK, but also enjoys several hours a day in the garden. Just like any responsible and loving cat owner, I want to ensure that she's a happy and healthy cat! My articles cover guides and reviews based on professional vet advice, our own experiences with Coco and plenty of research!

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Our furry friend is a four-year-old Bengal girl called Coco – she’s crazy, has plenty of energy and is VERY noisy!

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