August 14, 2018

The Bengal Cat Breed: Domestic Cat Meets Asian Leopard Cat

Reading Time: 4 minutes

brown and white bengal cats eyes looking upPotential wild cat alert! If you’re thinking about bringing a Bengal cat into your life, there are a few things you need to know first. They are strikingly beautiful with awesome wild coats. Bengals are intelligent, inquisitive, and like to stick by your side.

On the other hand, the Bengal is a relatively new cat breed with wildcat ancestry not far back in their family tree. This means this breed can be more drawn towards the wild side of life than what you might expect in a domestic pet!

An Exotic Hybrid: Domestic Cat Meets Asian Leopard Cat

Bengal cats are a hybrid. They are a cross between the domestic cat (Felis catus) and the small wild Asian Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis). At first, cross-breeding of this wildcat with domestic cats was a genetic study into feline leukemia in the 1970s-1980s.

The International Cat Association (TICA) recognized the Bengal breed in 1986. In breeding terms, F, or filial, ratings used by breeder indicate how far removed, or the number of generations, the cat is from their wildcat ancestry.

F1 Bengal Cat

An F1 Bengal is the first generation from a wild Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) bred with a domestic cat. F1 Bengals are a half and half mix of ALC and a domestic cat.

F2 Bengal Cat

An F2 Bengal is an F1 female cat bred with a male domestic cat.  F2s Bengals are one-quarter Asian Leopard Cat.

F3 Bengal Cat

An F3 Bengal is an F2 female bred with a male domestic cat.  F3 Bengals are one-eighth ALC.

F4 Bengal Cat

An F4 Bengal is an F3 bred with a domestic cat. F4 Bengals are one-sixteenth ALC.

F1 Bengals are usually only used for breeding, likewise F2s, and F3s, known as “foundation” cats.  It often isn’t until the F4 or even the fifth generation, and later, that Bengals are sold or raised as domestic pets.

Relatively recently the Bengal has been crossbred to create another hybrid – the Cheetoh Cat. This cat is a cross between a Bengal and an Ocicat. The result is a similar looking cat with comparable coats, spots, and striped markings.

Asian Leopard Cats are Wild Animals, Not Status Symbols!

Never choose any type of animal because you think they’re going to make you look good, or because having an exotic animal is the “in” thing.  Wildcats, such as Asian Leopard Cats, belong in the wild! In their natural habitat, ALCs are nocturnal hunters, solitary, and territorial.  Don’t think an ALC directly from Asia will adapt to urban living either – they won’t – it’s not in their genes.

The Sad Truth About Wild Cats Living in Captivity

Keeping a wildcat in captivity is cruel. Those that are, often end up in shelters or euthanized because of illness and disease, or because they grow too big and aggressive. Knowing how to meet the needs of a wild animal or a jungle cat is a specialized field. They weren’t born for backyard cages or to live on the road as circus animals.

Smugglers bringing in exotic animals illegally to sell as pets do so in inhumane conditions, and many animals die in transit. If you’re a lover of wildlife, look for other ways to support wild animals in their natural environment.

The Appearance of Bengal Cats

Bengals are one very striking looking cat! Their heads are wedge-shaped, with prominent pads around their whiskers and pronounced cheekbones. This breed has round oval shaped eyes.

the snow bengal cat breed the asian leopard cat roaming in the grass

Their fur is short, soft, dense and luxurious to the touch. Their many coat colors include brown, silver, and seal and come in just as exotic sounding name combinations such as seal mink.

They have strong contrasting markings on both their legs and bodies, but they’re not the same all over. Their legs are striped, while their bodies are spotted with rosettes or marbled. Some marbled cat’s coats may have bull’s eye marking on their sides. This pattern isn’t accepted in show cats but is a noticeable spotted marking on some Bengals, similar to a tabby cat.

White Bengal Cats and Snow Bengal Cats

The technical coat description for a spotted Snow Bengals or White Bengal is a Seal Lynx Point. They are pretty rare, but if you do come across one, they will be a creamy white with darker brown stripes and spots.

Bengal Cat Size

This is a medium-large size cat. Bengal bodies are long, strong and athletic.

Average Cat Weight

The average weight of a Bengal is 6-15 pounds. Males are usually larger than females.

Average Cat Lifespan

The average lifespan of a Bengal is eight to 15 years of age.

Their Unpredictable Temperament

Bengals are their own “person”, so to speak! When they are awake they like to be busy. This usually involves getting up high and exploring, or checking out and either interacting (or interfering?!) with what you are doing!

Playtime to a Bengal often involves biting and playing with their paws. They’re a smart cat, they will know if you gently teach them that your hand on a keyboard is not something to go for. But they may sometimes give it a go on the spur of the moment anyway – it’s what they do.

You will also need to train and encourage a Bengal to use a scratch pole, otherwise, they will use your furniture or carpet! Keep them entertained, or they will find ways to entertain you!

bengal kittens for sale awaiting owner in plant

Bengals are vocal – they will chat with you and at you and demand your attention when they want it! If socialized as kittens, they usually get along well with other children and other pets. They aren’t usually too afraid of dogs, so you might want to check out cat-friendly dogs if you want one of each species!

Bengals are loving and affectionate domestic cats, but they will usually be the one who decides when they want to snuggle with you. This may be when they’re ready for a nap on the couch, or even better, in bed with you at night.

Bengal Cat for Sale? They May Be Banned in Your State or City!

Some State or City regulations have restrictions on owning a hybrid cat. There may be limitations around the breed, or F or filial rating for a cat with wildcat ancestry. Some ban them entirely.

Before you spend the money on buying a Bengal, check if there are any rules and regulations for your city and/or State. There are many who believe this small spotted leopard cannot change its spots, no matter how many generations they are down the line.

The Ugly Truth about the High Bengal Cat Price!

In the United States, Bengal kittens and cats can range from $450 to $10,000 from Bengal breeders!  Their coat markings and colors, and breeding F rating influence pricing amongst breeders.

Always ask breeders about their breeding program. Ask about the personalities and temperaments of their kittens and cats. Also, ask how well their kittens have been socialized in their homes as well.  As a starting point to find a cat breeder in your area, check listings with the American Cat Fancier’s Association.

Before Browsing for Bengal Kittens for Sale: Consider Fostering!

If you think the Bengal breed is for you but you’re not entirely sure, offer to foster! Fostering is a win-win. You give a cat or kitten a short or long-term temporary home. You get to experience whether the breed is the right match for you and your lifestyle.

When you foster a cat indoors, you usually have to house the cat indoors only, so be prepared to handle cat litter box duty! Many organizations have fostering programs to help cats needing foster care.

Bengal Cat Rescue Groups are Full of Surrendered Cats!

That’s right! Sadly because the Bengal breed isn’t a cat for everyone, they do end up abandoned or passed on to rescue organizations for rehoming. The Bengal Rescue Network or shelters or a cat association in your local area may have Bengals waiting for the right new home.

Common Questions on Bengal Cats

What colors are Bengal cats and kittens?

Does the Bengal cat breed meow very much?

Do Bengal cats like to cuddle?

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