Bengal Breed Information
Country of origin -
Breed standards (external links) - ACFA TICA(*) ACF(*) GCCF(*) FIFe(*)
The Bengal is a relatively new hybrid breed of cat developed to have a gentle and friendly temperament, while exhibiting the markings (such as large spots, rosettes, and a light/white belly), and body structure reminiscent of the wild Asian Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis). In other words, a Bengal cat has a desirable "wild" appearance with a gentle domestic cat temperament.
The name Bengal was derived from the taxonomic name of the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC), as shown above, and not from the more widely known Bengal Tiger species, which is unrelated to the Bengal's ancestry.
Specific registered characteristics of the Bengal cat can be found on the International Cat Association (TICA) website.
The first Bengal Cat was registered with the International Cat Association (TICA) in 1983. The Bengal has been welcomed as a pedigreed breed by several cat associations - most notably, The TICA - but has been refused acceptance by the more traditional Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) of the USA, the world's largest registry of pedigreed cats. The CFA is reluctant to accept wild/domestic hybrids, as stated in its position here.
1. 1. New developments
A Bengal cat displaying spotting and rosetting pattern typical of the breed. Rosetted spots occur only on the back and sides, with stripes elsewhere.
The British government agency DEFRA has proposed revising regulations under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act to remove licencing requirements for keeping of Bengal cats in the United Kingdom.
There are currently three varieties of domestic cat being developed from the Bengal:
The Serengeti Cat - developed from crosses with Oriental or Siamese with the aim to produce a domestic cat mimicking the appearance of an African Serval, without actually incorporating Serval genes by hybridization.
The Toyger - developed from crosses with domestic cats with the aim to produce a striped 'toy Tiger.'
The Cheetoh - an attempt to blend two existing domestic breeds of spotted cats with defined characteristics (Bengal and Ocicat), into a third.
Bengals are medium sized cats - a male may weigh as much as 15 lb (9 kg), and a female commonly weighs 8 to 10 lb (4 to 6 kg). Male cats are generally larger than females.
The face of a typical Bengal features a series of distinct horizontal stripes, popularly known as "mascara", which extend from alongside the eye to the back of the neck. The sides and top of the body are marked with spots, usually rosetted like those of the jaguar. The remainder of the body - including the legs and tail - consists of symmetrical stripes.
Bengals can have either spotted or marbled coat patterns. Spots with at least two colors present (rosettes) are particularly desirable. The following colors and patterns are recognized and eligible for competition: Brown Spotted Tabby, Brown Marbled Tabby, Seal Sepia Spotted Tabby, Seal Sepia Marbled Tabby, Seal Mink Spotted Tabby, Seal Mink Marbled Tabby, Seal Spotted Lynx Point and Seal Marbled Lynx Point. Silver was also recently accepted as a color variation eligible for championship status. Blue and Melanistic (black) are additional colors that occur, but are not yet recognized by most associations that accept the Bengal breed.
2. 1. Genetics
Bengal cats are a hybrid breed developed over several generations through a program of selectively crossbreeding domestic cats, possessing desired features, with Asian Leopard Cats and ALC hybrids. In the first three generations, males are almost always infertile, though there have been the occasional, but rare F3 studs capable of reproduction. Early generation females are typically fertile, and responsible for continuing the genetic contributions of the ALC to the next generation.
The modern SBT Bengal gene pool contains genes sourced from many varieties of domestic cats - mainly Egyptian Maus, American Shorthair, Abyssinian, Ocicat, and domestic shorthaired cats. It is commonly accepted that the breed was developed by Jean Mill of California in the 1970s; today, Bengal breeders exist throughout the world. Many breeders are presently working to develop specific characteristics in the breed, often by backcrossing foundation cats with particularly vivid markings. The ALC comprises several subspecies, and consequently, they can have considerable variations in their appearance.
The first three filial generations (F1 - F3) of these hybrid animals are referred to as the "foundation" generations. A Bengal cat with an ALC parent is called an F1 Bengal, short for first filial. An F1 then bred with a domestic male yields an F2, or second filial. Kittens from an F2 female and another domestic cat are then termed F3. Kittens from a subsequent F3 mating with a domestic are F4s. The F4 and later generations are considered domestic cats, are designated as Stud Book Tradition (SBT) Bengals, and can be shown and registered. Any SBT Bengal is at least four generations removed from the ALC. Founders (F1-F3) are typically reserved for breeding purposes or the specialty pet home environment.
2. 2. Personality
A male Bengal cat. Note "mascara" (horizontal striping alongside the eyes) and foreleg striping, both typical of the breed.
Bengal cats are very high-energy, intelligent, and curious. They are particularly interactive with their human housemates, wanting to be in the middle of whatever the human is engaged in such as following the human around the house. While friendly and with very distinctive personalities, Bengals generally are not "lap cats." There are exceptions, but most Bengal cats prefer being petted or played without being held. The best way to bond with a Bengal kitten is to play with it for at least half an hour every morning and every evening (and they need to be taught what is acceptable play behavior like any young animal).
Bengals often have dominant personality types and demand attention. As their activity and play requirements are high, this is not a cat best left to its own devices for long periods of time as they can be quite mischievous and destructive when bored. If an owner is likely to spend much of the day away from the cat, it is an excellent idea to have another high-energy feline companion to occupy the Bengal cat. However, bengal cats are quite capable of jealousy and spitefulness if they feel that another feline is getting more attention, or if they are being ignored.
Bengal cats can take a great deal of interest in running water. Many owners have stories about their cat's affection for running water or even jumping in a sink or tub. Bengal cats commonly play games with their owners such as "fetch" and "hide-and-seek." Bengals cats vocalize to communicate with their humans. Bonded cats can be taught tricks such as sit and shaking hands, and go outdoors on leashes for walks.
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