Bengals are big, intelligent, and active cats. They are highly valued for their coat patterns, which gives them a unique and distinctive look, and also because they are affectionate and make excellent pets.
Once known as Safari cats, Bengal cats are hybrid cat breeds that came in the early 1900s from the cross-breeding of domestic cats with Asian Leopard cats – a wild species common in Southeast Asia. Although the breeding of Asian Leopard cats started more than 120 years ago, it was not until the early 1980s that Jean Sudgen Mill received her first actual hybrid Bengal cat species from a project by Dr. Centerwall. The intent behind these hybrid species was to produce a domestic breed of wild Asian cats while still retaining their beautiful physical look. Today, Bengal cats are ranked among the most popular cat breeds, getting their name from the Latin name of their wild Asian ancestors – Felis Bengalensis.The direct kitten of the Asian leopard cat is known as F1, while subsequent generations are classified as F2, F3, F4, e.t.c. A Bengal must be of the F4 generation before it can be considered truly domestic.
You might easily mistake a Bengal for a jungle cat. This is because of her strong and muscular body and her distinctive coat patterns. Bengal cats have small oval-shaped heads that are relatively smaller compared to their body size. They have round eyes that have dark markings around them and are positioned wide apart. Their ears are small and have rounded tips. Also, their legs are of an average length, with the back legs slightly longer than the front legs. The tails of Bengal cats are thick, tapered, and rounded at the tip. However, there are some variations in their coat and eye color.
Bengal cats can have different eye colors such as gold, brown hazel, yellow, orange, and green. Snow Bengals, which are a rare and more sought-after species, can have blue or aqua-colored eyes.
Bengals have smooth, polished, and shiny skin. According to the International Cat Association (TICA), Bengals’ standard or recognized coat colors are brown, silver, and snow. In contrast, the non-standard or unrecognized colors include charcoal, blue and solid black.
Also, Bengal cats can vary in their coat patterns and markings, majorly classified as spotted or marbled. There is also an unrecognized patterning known as “sparbled.”
- Spotted Bengals are the most common and recognized varieties. They have the appearance of leopard cubs or ocelots. The spots are usually medium-sized and are displayed in different numbers, colors, shapes, and shades.
- Marbled: As the name implies, this pattern is characterized by various flowing spirals and stripes. Marbled markings also come in multiple numbers, colors, shades, and shapes.
- ‘Sparbled’: This is a mixture of spotted and marbled patterning. Though not usually recognized, it is always a beautiful sight to behold.
Bengals are an averagely large cat breed, and they tend to appear bigger than their actual weight. Male Bengals have an average weight of 8-15 pounds and are usually larger than females. The average weight of a female Bengal is between 8-12 pounds. Bengal cats generally have an average height of 8-10 inches.
Despite their wild and fierce appearance, Bengal cats are very friendly cats. They are incredibly playful and make excellent pets. Bengal cats are loyal and affectionate animals that find it very easy to form strong bonds with children and other dogs and cats in the family.
Also, Bengals are very intelligent and curious felines. They are always alert and enjoy a very active environment. They love playing with toys and can learn different tricks when taught, such as:
- Using and flushing the toilet
- Responding to names
- Giving high-fives and shaking hands
- Walking on-leash e.t.c.
Another characteristic of Bengal cats is that they are highly athletic and energetic. They are always bursting with energy and can be talkative when they have needs or want attention. Bengals are fond of water and climbing. Therefore, you must ensure to have one or two big cat trees and different toys to keep their big brains busy. However, always remember to keep an eye on your fragile items and aquariums. Also, you can decide to get a second cat as a companion for your Bengal if you are the type that spends long hours away from home.
Bengal cats live for about 9-15 years and are generally healthy animals. However, as the case is with all cats, a few notable diseases have been identified with the breed, and you have to watch out for them if you own a Bengal.
- Distal neuropathy: This is a mild nervous system disease that causes weakness, decreased muscle strength, and reflexes. It mainly occurs in young kittens of up to one year of age. Fortunately, many cats recover on their own, and relapse only occurs in very few ones.
Flat chested kitten syndrome or FCKs: This is a genetic disorder that happens mostly in young kittens. It is caused by lung collapse and is characterized by deformity in the chest or ribcage region. In some cases, the chest has becoming flattened, while in severe cases, the entire thoracic region becomes flattened. Often, these symptoms disappear as the cat grows older.
- Cataracts: Cataracts mainly occur as a genetic disorder in Bengal cats. It is a condition where cloudiness in the eye’s lens prevents light from entering the retina. Cataracts begin as a mild case of blurred vision but can grow into a density that can cause total loss of sight. Cataracts can only be corrected by surgery.
- Heart disease: Heart disease in felines is known as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). It is believed to be a genetic disorder in most cases. It results in the thickening of heart muscles, causing the heart to function rather forcefully. Severe cases can result in blockage of blood flow leaving the heart, causing blood clots and congestive heart failure, leading to death.
- Progressive retina atrophy (PRA-b): This inherited disease gradually deteriorates the retina, which causes progressive vision loss or total blindness. Night vision loss is an early symptom of PRA. If you notice that your Bengal cat is having difficulties in seeing, you should take them to the vet at once.
- Patella luxation: This occurs in many cat breeds but mostly in Bengal cats. The word luxation is a medical term that means “out of place.” Patella luxation is a joint disorder where the patella, also known as the knee cap, slips out of place. In mild cases, this disorder might not cause pain or be noticeable. However, when the condition becomes severe, it may lead to partial or complete lameness. Patella luxation is usually diagnosed with an X-ray and is easily treated when detected early. Surgery may be required to put the knee cap in place in more severe cases.
- Hip Dysplasia: Though this condition is most common in dogs, Bengal cats have also been known to show dysplasia symptoms. It is a genetic disorder that causes abnormality in the hip joints and subsequent arthritis. When severe, hip dysplasia can cause total lameness. It can be easily diagnosed by pelvic X-rays and can be corrected by surgery.
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP): This is a fatal disease caused by a strain of coronavirus known as Feline Coronavirus (FCoV), which can be dormant in some cats. In harmful cases, it weakens the cat’s immune system and can also damage its blood vessels. This condition can be diagnosed by blood testing but sadly has no known remedy.
Your cat’s nutrition is essential for its well-being and health. Providing your cat with the right food helps it maintain good health, while inadequate nutrition can cause fatal health problems.
All cats are obligate carnivores, whether they are wild, feral, cross-bred, or domesticated. Therefore, Bengal cats must eat meat to survive as it contains enough protein and other nutrients required to grow appropriately. You might wonder if it’s healthy for your Bengal to eat raw meat and not be affected by the numerous bacteria it contains. Well, a cat’s digestive system is specially designed to digest raw meat. Cats generally have shorter digestive tracts and various stomach acids, making it difficult for bacteria or parasites to gain access to their systems. Therefore, it is safe and necessary for your Bengal cat to eat meat; however, you must ensure that the meat you feed your cat is of top quality and highly nutritious.
Feeding cats with fruits and veggies is improper as their digestive tracts are not built to digest and synthesize nutrients from plant-based foods. This can cause digestive problems and many other harmful health disorders.
How Can I Meet My Bengal’s Nutrient Requirements?
- Balanced Raw Homemade Meal: An essential benefit of making your cat’s meal at home is that you can choose all the necessary ingredients. Also, it is very affordable compared to other options. However, it is crucial to learn how to prepare your cat food with the appropriate nutrient ratios.
Raw meat is always the best as cooking destroys essential enzymes and nutrients necessary for your cat’s growth.
- Balanced Raw Diet from quality commercial brands: Buying commercial foods for your cats is expensive, but it is a good choice as it relieves you of the pressure and stress of making food. However, as a responsible cat owner, you must be careful to avoid low-grade and cheap food that contains fillers, artificial ingredients, and animal by-products, as these can cause harmful health hazards to your Bengal cat.
- Canned Foods: If you do not have the time to make your cat’s food and you find commercial foods too expensive, canned food might suffice as they contain enough moisture and protein nutrients from meat, but you still need to do thorough research on the ingredients.
Also, you must avoid semi-moist and dry foods as they are high in carbohydrates. Dry food contains about 35-50% carbohydrate, which is unnatural and harmful to your cat’s health.
A Bengal cat’s coat does not need much grooming, but they find it enjoyable. Generally, Bengals have good teeth, but brushing their teeth at least once a week to prevent dental diseases is important. Also, check their eyes and ears regularly and wipe them when dirty to prevent infections. Bengals are highly fond of water; therefore, occasionally bathing them might be a good idea.
Here are some more ways you can take proper care of your Bengal cat:
- Take her to a vet for regular check-ups and tests.
- Take her for regular exercise walks and also keep her engaged with high-activity toys.
- Ensure you feed her with a high-quality diet and adequate amounts of water
- Taking protective measures to keep her safe from accidents and theft
- Sign her up for a pet health insurance
FINDING THE RIGHT BREEDER
After deciding to own a Bengal cat, finding a reputable breeder must come first in your list of decision priorities. Here are a few questions you might want to consider:
- Are they registered?
More often than none, a registered cattery tends to follow the rules and regulations laid down by recognized governing bodies like The International Cat Association (TICA) or Cat Fanciers Association (CFA). Dealing with unregistered breeders puts you at a high risk of getting a non-tested, diseased, or even a stolen Bengal.
- Do they perform quality health testing?
You must find out the kind of health test performed by breeders. This will help you in choosing a cat that is healthy and free from genetic diseases.
- Do they provide a health contract?
A reputable breeder will offer a genetic health guarantee for a certain amount of time. This will help you get a replacement should your cat be diagnosed with a hereditary disease.
- Are they open for visits?
- Are kittens vaccinated, neutered, or dewormed before they are sent home?
- Do they have any bad reviews or reports?
FAQs ABOUT BENGAL CATS
- Do Bengal cats get along with other cats and dogs?
Bengal cats do find it easy to get along with other cats and dogs even. This is why it is common for people to want Bengal kittens to go for two. They are very athletic and have high energy levels; therefore, they often need companions to play with. However, you must be patient and skillful when introducing your Bengal cats to other pets. You do not want to force your Bengal to get along with other pets. Also, do not leave them together with other cats or dogs until they are comfortable with each other.
- Do Bengal cats shed?
Bengal cats do not shed as much as other cat breeds do. They have low-maintenance coats that do not require much grooming.
- Are Bengal cats talkative?
Bengal cats do not make noise excessively, but they are vocal about what they want. For instance, your Bengal cat won’t be shy to let you know that she is hungry, needs a treat, or wants attention. They also make a satisfying chitter sound when they find something that excites them, such as birds and rodents outside the house.