Bengals are confident cats with stunning good looks. They're also a devoted, fun-loving breed that makes a dynamic addition to families looking for an energetic sidekick.
The Bengal was born out of a desire for a family-friendly domestic cat breed with the mystique of wild forest and jungle cats.
In 1963, breeder Jean S. Mill crossed domestic cats with Asian Leopard cats (small, spotted wild cats from Asia). She wasn't the first person to cross an Asian Leopard cat with a domestic cat. But she was the first to use the hybrid offspring from these crossings to develop a domestic cat breed with a tabby personality and a Leopard's exotic coat. The modern-day Bengal traces its history back to cats bred by Mills in the 1980s.
In 1986, The International Cat Association (TICA) became the first association to accept the Bengal. The breed gained championship status in 1991 and has seen its popularity skyrocket ever since.
Bengals are medium-to-large cats with a wild appearance. They have a sleek, muscular build that hints at their athleticism.
Coat and Coloring
The Bengal's defining feature is its coat. It's typically short and close-lying, with a soft, silky texture. Alternatively, Bengals may have a medium-to-long coat with furnishings, but this is less common. Some Bengals have glittered coats that sparkle when the light hits the tips of their hair.
A Bengal's coat has either a spotted or marble pattern. Spotted coats give the breed its famous Leopard look. The spots can vary in size and can include two-toned spots called rosettes. Marble patterns have swirls of color that flow across the coat.
This breed comes in various colors, but the basic show standard colors are brown (black), snow (seal), silver, and charcoal. Non-standard colors do occur and may include chocolate, red (orange), or solid colors.
Distinctive Physical Traits
Bengal's have broad, wedge-shaped heads and medium-to-small ears that tilt forward slightly when viewed in profile. They also have full, broad muzzles and prominent whiskers. Their wide-set eyes are round to oval and come in rich, deep colors.
A Bengal's front legs are medium-long, and their hind legs are slightly longer. They have large, round paws with prominent knuckles and thick tails that taper at the end to a rounded tip.
Bengals thrive on being in the middle of the action. Their playful, kitten-like personalities make them a great addition to bustling households. They love being around their humans and can be demanding if they feel they aren't getting enough attention. Despite their endless energy, they will curl up on a lap for a snooze—as long as it's their idea.
This breed is naturally active and athletic. Bengals love to climb. And the higher, the better. They're unlikely to settle for life on the ground, so tall cat trees are essential for their happiness. If you don't provide them with a safe place to climb, they'll probably find something to scale on their own.
These smart, inquisitive cats are always looking for their next fun adventure. They can learn to open cabinets and doors just by watching their humans. Patient pet parents can harness this intelligence and train their Bengals to follow house rules, learn tricks, or even walk with a harness and leash.
Bengals require a high-quality diet. Because nutritional needs vary for kittens, adults, and senior cats, opt for a formula that's age-appropriate for your pet. Also, consider diets created explicitly for Bengals, as these address the breed's unique needs. For example, a Bengal-specific formula may include nutrients to maintain their muscular builds or prebiotics for sensitive stomachs.
Even though Bengals are incredibly active cats, they are still at risk for obesity if they overeat. To keep calories in check, portion out meals using a standard measuring cup, and reduce amounts if your cat gains weight. And as a guideline, treats should make up no more than 10% of their daily calories.
In addition to meals, make sure to provide plenty of fresh, clean water. If you like, use a filtered drinking fountain to keep your curious kitty both hydrated and entertained.
Bengals' short coats don't require much maintenance. However, they do shed more in the spring when they lose their winter coats. During that time, brush your cat as needed to remove loose fur. Longhair Bengals need daily grooming with a brush or comb.
It's also important to trim your cat's claws monthly to keep them at a healthy length (and spare your furniture). Nails that get too long are more likely to snag on something and become torn or damaged. Overgrown nails can also grow into your cat's paw pads, leading to pain or infection. Besides clipping, providing a scratching post will help keep their nails in good shape and satisfy their instinct to scratch.
Finally, Bengals (and all cats) should have a dental care routine that includes at-home teeth brushing and professional dental exams and cleanings.
Bengals may be more prone to developing Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. This condition decreases the heart's efficiency and can lead to other issues. This breed may also be susceptible to digestive problems. Your veterinarian is your best resource for discussing these and other health concerns about your cat.
Bengal Genetic Health Conditions
Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency
Pyruvate Kinase (PK) Deficiency is a disorder that causes anemia due to the breakdown of red blood cells.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (Discovered in the Abyssinian)
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (Discovered in the Abyssinian) is a disorder that causes degeneration of the light sensing retina at the back of the eye, resulting in vision loss.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (Discovered in the Bengal)
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (Discovered in the Bengal) is a disorder that causes degeneration of the light sensing retina at the back of the eye, resulting in vision loss.
Knowing if your Bengal is a carrier or at-risk for these conditions can help you and your veterinarian plan for your pup’s lifelong care. With Wisdom Panel™ Premium, you can get results for over 200 genetic health tests.
Reviewed February 23, 2021 by Annette Louviere, DVM