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The Legendary Bengal Cats

Donna has been a cat parent and writer for many years and her passion is to share her love for cats with others.

The Legendary Bengal Cat

Baby Bengal Kitten

Baby Bengal Kitten

The Beautiful Bengal Cat

Bengal Cats are interesting, to say the least, and even though they are a domestic cat they look like they belong in the jungle roaming around the forest hunting for their next meal.

Now Bengal cats are curious creatures with coats that are absolutely beautiful, and they are full of energy and are famous for attaching themselves to their owners.

Early History of the Bengal Cat

The earliest mention of an Asian Leopard Cat × domestic cross was in 1889 when Harrison Weir wrote of them in Our Cats and All About Them and it wasn't until 1924 the next recorded mention of an Asian Leopard Cat x domestic cat cross was written in the Belgian scientific journal and a Japanese cat publication printed an article about one that was kept as a pet.

Indian Leopard Cat (P. b. bengalensis)

Indian Leopard Cat (P. b. bengalensis)

Indian Leopard Cat (P. b. bengalensis)

The Modern Bengal Breed

Jean Mill was a cat breeder who worked to protect the Asian leopard cat. Jean is also the founder of the modern Bengal cat breed: She successfully crossed the wild Asian leopard cat with a domestic cat and then backcrossed those offspring through five generations to create the domestic Bengal. It is noted that Jean Mill was also involved in producing two other cat breeds: the Himalayan and the standardized version of the Egyptian Mau.

Honorable Mention:

There were three other breeders involved in developing the Bengal breed, Pat Warren, William Engle, and Dr. Willard Centerwall. Although Jean Mill is considered the originator of the breed because she created a domestic Bengal past the F4 generation.

The Bengal Cat Gets Recorded in the Cat Registries

Jean Mill posing with a Bengal Cat

Jean Mill posing with a Bengal Cat

Jean Mill posing with a Bengal Cat

1982 Spotted Domestic Cats from India

"The curator of the New Delhi Zoo also gave Mill the sister of the cat in the rhinoceros cage which Mill named Tasha of New Delhi. These two Indian domestic cats Toby and Tasha contributed greatly to the Bengal breed." Jean Mills Wikipedia

Bengal Cat Breeding Resumed

"Mill combined her spotted domestic cats with the Centerwall cats and with that Mill was able to restart her Bengal breeding program: where other breeders had failed to get the Bengal, breed established because of the sterility of the F1, F2, F3, and F4 early generation Bengals, Jean Mill succeeded. Mill successfully backcrossed Bengals until she achieved the F5 Bengal with a domestic cat temperament. The modern Bengal breed traces to cats bred by Jean Mill in the early 1980s. Others also began breeding Bengals – and in 1986 The International Cat Association (TICA) accepted the Bengal cat as a new breed: Bengals gained championship status in 1991. Where other early Bengal breeders like William Engle only succeeded in creating a sterile hybrid, Jean Mill succeeded in creating a Domestic Bengal cat." - Jean Mill Wikipedia

Amur Leopard Cat (P. b. euptilura)

Bengal Cats – The Back Story

In my last post “The History of Cats- Did They Domesticate Themselves? we learned about Hybrids and that the Bengal cats are a crossbreed “man-made” hybrid.

A breed created from hybrids of domestic cats’ and the Asian Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) and their ancestors is the small Asian Leopard Cat which is a small wild cat.

Let’s take a trip 5,000 years ago to be exactly where archaeological evidence shows that the leopard cat was the first to be domesticated in Neolithic China in Shaanxi and Henan Provinces.

The Asian Leopard cat is a native of Asia and lives in the east and southeast of the continent from Indonesia to the Peninsula of Korea and east Russia to Pakistan into eastern Afghanistan.

This species is derived from Felis Silvestris Lybica from the Middle East – during the time of the Egyptian Granaries 12,00 years ago!

Asian Leopard Cat Distribution – Be aware that condos and cat trees are limited so make sure to book your cat early and pay a small depawsit!

Asian Leopard Cat Distribution – Be aware that condos and cat trees are limited so make sure to book your cat early and pay a small depawsit!

In New York City and the state of Hawaii, Bengal cats are prohibited by law (as are all other hybrids of domestic and wild cat species).

There are no limits of ownership in:

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Denver, Colorado

Bengals of the F1-F4 generations are regulated in:

  • New York state
  • Georgia
  • Massachusetts
  • Delaware
  • Connecticut
  • Indiana
  • and banned outright in Australia.

In the United States, except where noted above, Bengal cats with a generation of F5 and beyond are considered domestic and are generally legal.

Purchasing Bengal Cats – How To Pick The Right One?

Although I would rather adopt than buy here is what to look out for when you purchase a Bengal feline. One thing to remember when purchasing a Bengal cat is that you must make sure they are at least F4 to F5 generations removed from any ancestors with wild blood!

Sadly, this doesn’t make for a great cat, and they are wilder than tamed and do NOT make great house pets so please keep this in mind if you have small children. Ask all the questions that you have and get the cats’ history of their parents and their great grandparents and so forth because you don’t want a wild cat in your home.

Did you see anything Fred? Naw, she keeps chasing her tail Joe, Ugh felines be trippin’!

Did you see anything Fred? Naw, she keeps chasing her tail Joe, Ugh felines be trippin’!

Bengals Have Heart Issues Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

What is Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?

It’s when the left ventricle wall in the heart grows thicker as the cat ages and this heart disease can show its ugly head at any time during the lifetime of the cat.

Symptoms and Types

  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Lethargy
  • Weak pulse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Short, rough, snapping breathing sounds (crackles)
  • Abnormal heart sounds (i.e., muffled, galloping rhythm, murmurs)
  • Inability to tolerate exercise or exertion
  • Sudden hind-limb paralysis with cold limbs due to clots in the terminal aorta
  • Bluish discoloration of footpads and nail beds (indicates a lack of oxygen flow to the legs)
  • Collapse
  • Sudden heart failure
  • This heart condition can be treated with the proper medication, prolonging your furry child’s life.

This feline can be affected by several genetic diseases, one of which is Bengal progressive retinal atrophy, also known as Bengal PRA or PRA-b. Be sure to get your cat tested yearly. And watch for any signs of illness.

Personality Traits:

  • Playful
  • Athletic
  • Agile
  • Full of energy yet graceful.
  • They are a very “talkative” friendly cat
  • They love water and wouldn’t hesitate to get into the bathtub or shower with you.

Find out how much the kitty likes to “talk” because they are on the talkative side and if you don’t have the patience for a cat that meows all the time then get one that isn’t known to talk as much.

On the other hand, if you want your cat to be “talkative” with you then find out if they are talkers and then also, make a list and ask as many questions as you want!

Bengal Cats – Talkers or Walkers?

Bengal kittens are friendly, but they do tend to get exceptionally large if cared for in the right way and may grow anywhere from 8 lbs. to 15lbs. Some Bengal cat parents have reported their cat weighing in at around twenty pounds and that they hold a lot of strength and lean muscles and are extraordinarily strong animals!

In the first 4 weeks, you should be the only one to interact with the feline since they tend to bond with the one who interacts with them more. After 4 weeks you can introduce the cat to your kids or other pets and other people. While the kitten is young, if left alone with one of your other pets it will bond with that pet, and you will be a secondary need of companionship!

So, spend as much time as you can with your new Bengal kitten so that they bond with you or whoever is their parent.

Let's Take A Walk

How to Entertain Your New Companion

Toys: What kind of toys are the best for this breed?

  • This cat needs a wide selection of toys and scratching posts with different textures otherwise they will claw your carpet and/or furniture
  • Cat tree with lots of landing pads to jump on, climb on and with vertical spaces with various levels
  • Offer interactive play toys and make sure you take off any buttons, eyes, strings, ribbons, twine anything that they could swallow!
  • Walk them daily with a harness and leash
  • Get a cat wheel which provides all the exercise they need
  • Lots of exercises are the key to these felines
  • They are highly intelligent and can grow bored easily
  • They need lots of brain stimuli to keep them out of trouble in a big cat way

What Do I Feed My Bengal?

Beautiful Eyes!

Beautiful Eyes!

Raw Meat Feeding

What kind of diet do I need to feed my Bengal cat? As soon as the kitten is getting weaned off the mama, start feeding them ground raw meat. Once you start them on this raw feeding diet you won't have to worry about feeding them canned food. And then you can introduce them start to nutritious, high-quality dry food and since this cat is more active with lots of energy, they tend to need more food than your average domestic cat.

Bengal Cats Crave Raw Meat.

Offer them fresh meat for a change and then high-quality dry food, leaving the dry food accessible all day. Yes, they do and be extra careful when feeding them raw meat make sure you throw away what’s left in the bowl after 20-minutes. And store the ground raw meat in a large storage bag and keep it in your freezer.

What Kind of Raw Meats?

  • Beef: Ground Round, Beef Hearts Ground Sirloin, hamburger with high-fat content
  • Chicken: Bengals love their chicken cooked or raw
  • Plenty of water: Give them fresh water every day.

What About People Food?

Cats can have “people” food; however, one must be careful because the last thing you want to do is make your cat sicker than a dog?

Now, that would be super traumatic for a cat to feel like a dog haha

Here is a list to use as a guideline:

Safe Foods:

  • Tomatoes
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Marshmallows
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Bread
  • And asparagus

Unsafe Foods

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Chocolate
  • Milk

Happy Healthy Lovebug – Cool – Stylish – Groovy – Cat

Bengals Come in Several Colors

The average lifespan of a Bengal cat is anywhere from 16 to 20 years! Awesome right, and if you take care of all your cat's needs and wants and you feed them right your feline will be around for an exceptionally long time!

Bengal coats come in several colors:

  • Brown/black is the main color
  • Black and silver, seal brown
  • Silver, charcoal, and blue
  • Vibrant green eyes

They’re just so beautiful and I would love to have one, but I live in a small apartment for a growing kitty and their wild nature needs. I would have a challenging time keeping up with this energetic cat! So, I will just admire them from afar and love them for their beauty!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2020 Donna Rayne


Donna Rayne (author) from Greenwood, Indiana on April 09, 2020:

Thank you, Ms. Peggy and Benny. And yes, I adopt than buy because there are so many out there that need new forever home and Benny, most cats are milk intolerant, it makes them have diarrhea really bad if given too much!

Blessings to you both,

Donna Rayne

Alianess Benny Njuguna from Kenya on April 09, 2020:

I have always admired Bengal cats. It was interesting learning their origin, how to take care of them and the disease they're prone to. I didn't know milk makes them sick. I thought all cats love milk.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 27, 2020:

These Bengal cats certainly do resemble their wild cousins. So far the cats we have had as pets have all been rescues of undetermined origin, but they made wonderful pets.

Donna Rayne (author) from Greenwood, Indiana on March 23, 2020:

I appreciate that, Lorna. I'm glad you enjoyed it!


Donna Rayne

Lorna Lamon on March 23, 2020:

Such a stunning cat - beautiful. Your article is really interesting and an education in itself Donna. I loved the history and their remarkable lifespan. A really enjoyable read.

Donna Rayne (author) from Greenwood, Indiana on March 23, 2020:

Flourish, I believe in adopting before buying. Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate it.


Donna Rayne

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 22, 2020:

They are lovely to look at but given the potential medical and personality issues as well as the fact that there are so many homeless cats (including purebreds) dying in shelters, I would never breed an animal. Your article, however, is well written and I enjoyed it. I have actually trapped, neutered, and returned a feral cat a few months ago that had to have been part bengal based on his markings. He was strikingly gorgeous and so unusual, piercing green eyes and swirling spotted brown taupe coat.

Donna Rayne (author) from Greenwood, Indiana on March 22, 2020:

Thank you, Ms. Pamela, and Manatita. I appreciate you reading my long article and for your sweet words.


Donna Rayne

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 22, 2020:

These are beautiful cats. I appreciate all of the great information you provided. I liked reading about the history of the bengals. Thanks for an excellent article.

manatita44 from london on March 22, 2020:

Well, Donna, a pretty extensive article on cats, or rather Bengal cats. They are giant in size and 15 - 20 lbs is quite a lot. I bet they eat a lot! I thought they drank milk, though. Shows you I know nothing. Ha ha.

I don't keep pets and haven't since I was about five to six years old. The maintenance is to tiring and too high. Their eyes are amazing yes and their colours tantalising.

Donna Rayne (author) from Greenwood, Indiana on March 21, 2020:

Thank you for your comment T. It prompted me to realize I didn't do all my homework for my article, so I thank you for some of the information and experiences you've shared with me.

I love it when I get comments like yours, it helps me to become a better researcher, writer, and editor. I really do appreciate your input and thanks again.


Donna Rayne

The Logician from then to now on on March 21, 2020:

I have had dozens of Bengal cats over the last 50 years. Your article was fun to read!

I have to take issue with them being for sale in pet stores in the 50’s and 60’s or that they were hunted for their pelts because Bengals as a breed did not really begin in earnest until much later. Jean Mill made the first known deliberate cross of an Asian leopard cat with a domestic cat (a black California tomcat). In 1970, Mill resumed her breeding efforts and in 1975 she received a group of Bengal cats which had been bred for use in genetic testing at Loyola University by Willard Centerwall. Others also began breeding Bengals.

They are awesome domestic cats. Like any cat each has it’s own personality and generally their dispositions after F5 generations is not unlike other breeds of domestic cat.

My cats love to run all day in a cat wheel which provides them all the exercise they need.

Although you have pictures of some of the best looking Bengal cats I have ever seen there is a huge variation in the types of spots and color phases available from snow leopard varieties to various other shades of color.

The kind you have pictured are extremely expensive and likely not even purchasable unless you are an approved member of TICA and purchasing the cat for show and/or breeding for show. And not all Bengals glisten in sunlight. That coat characteristic is known as glitter and is only found in Bengals that are bred specifically for that trait.

The standard for the Bengal cat is short hair and thick coats known as pelted coats are desirable however breeders have bred for a rare, recessive, long hair version of the Bengal cat which has become popular though not show quality. These are known as Cashmere Bengals because of the silkiness of their longer coat which does retain the leopard like Bengal spots.

The cats I have had made great house pets although there have been a couple outliers when it comes to affection. This can be found however in many cat breeds while variation in bonding and socialization always plays a part.

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