The Bengal cat is a distinct, unique breed of spotted domestic cat derived from the ancestral crossing of a domestic cat such as an Abyssinian, American Shorthaired, Burmese or Egyptian Mau with an Asian Leopard Cat. The wild Asian Leopard Cat is a beautiful, small, wildcat approximately the size of a domestic cat. The Asian Leopard Cat can be found in twenty-one Asian countries, throughout Southeast Asia, including Taiwan, China, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, Laos and the Philippines.
The name "Bengal" is derived from the Latin name of the Asian Leopard Cat, Feline Bengalensis. The domestic Bengal has inherited the exotic, stunningly wild spotted pattern from the Asian Leopard Cat, found in the wild in central Asia. This beautiful breed of cat is very loving, affectionate, playful and friendly while retaining the wild look of it's ancestors.
The first hybridization with the intention to create a pet "leopard" was accomplished in Japan according to the 1941 Cat Fancy publication. It was not until 1960 that any records exist in the United States of breeding Leopard Cats to domestic cats.
The chief credit for this breed is given to Jean (Sudgen) Mill of
the USA. Jean Mill crossed a black shorthaired domestic with a female Asian Leopard Cat in 1963. Offspring were produced proving that a second generation was possible.
Further experiments were interrupted due to a death in the family.
The little Asian Leopard Cats became very well known in the late 1960's and early 1970's when it became fashionable to wear leopard furs. It would take over 200 leopard pelts to make just one fur coat! These little leopards were almost wiped out of existence to meet the demand for fur. Thanks to concerned scientists, animal rights activists and the union of Nations, the hunting and trading of Asian Leopard Cats across international boundaries was banned and is still in effect today under CITES.
In the 1970s, the domestic cat population was seriously threatened by Feline Leukemia. At that time, there was no vaccine or cure. It was discovered that Asian Leopard Cats did not get the disease. A study was started to find out if this immunity would be passed on to the hybrid kittens of the Leopard Cat bred to domestics. As a result of this study, in 1975 Jean Mill acquired eight female hybrids from the geneticist, Dr. Willard Centerwall.
Jean Mill began again to further the new breed. Jean felt that if people could own a domestic little leopard as a beloved pet that they would be less likely to either buy Asian Leopard Cats for pets OR to want to wear leopard fur! She hoped this new breed would help protect the shy, but beautiful, Asian Leopard Cat.
In 1984 the domestic Bengal became recognized by the International Cat Association (T.I.C.A.) and was then eligible to be shown.
ABOUT THE BENGAL CATS
Bengal cats are a fairly new breed of domestic cat, originating about 25 years ago from
the breeding of a wild Asian Leopard Cat to an Egyptian Mau, Abyssinian, or other
domestic shorthaired breed. This type of breeding was done in an attempt to create a
smaller version of the beautiful wild cats of the jungle, while maintaining an even,
dependable temperament suitable for a family pet. It was also hoped that by making
such exotic-looking domestic cats available as pets, people might be less inclined to
opt for their will ancestors, especially since the Asian Leopard cats are not easily
domesticated and do not normally make good pets.
The wild Asian Leopard cats appear to have a natural immunity to feline leukemia,
which gave rise to some further experimental breeding. It was soon discovered that
Bengal cats do not possess a natural immunity to the disease, unfortunately.
Asian Leopard Cats display beautiful spotted coat patterns in various colors, depicting
the area of their origin. Warmer areas produce darker, more brownish colors. while
cooler regions produce a more reddish brown spotting. Their are some excellent
books available for those who wish to know more about the wild side of their Bengal cat
such as: Getting To Know THE BENGAL CAT by Gene Johnson-Ory, The Guide to
Owing a Bengal Cat by Jean S. Mill, and Bengal Cats by Dan Rice.
The first few successive generations of breeding Asian Leopard Cats and domestic
are termed filial's and their "family pet" suitability depends a great deal on the amount of
early socialization received during the first few weeks of life. Foundation Breeding
programs may include male or female Asian Leopard Cats as the first generation, but
any progeny of these breeding will normally consist of only sterile males, while the
females will be fertile. From the 4the generation and beyond, all offspring should be
To be accepted for showing, Bengal cats have at least four generations of Bengal-to-Bengal
breeding and should not have any other type of cat in their first three
generations. They may exhibit spotted or marbled patterns, both of which should flow
horizontally, with the spots or swirls as dark in contrast to the ground color as possible.
The spots can be dark brown to black and different shapes such as arrow-head, or paw
print, and even rosetted with more than one color in each spot. Rosettes usually have
a lighter center surrounded by one or two darker shades of brown or even black
outlining. The spots can be small or large and the more spread out, the better. The
bottom of their feet and tip of their tails should be black.
The Bengal cat has a short, pelted coat, which is surprisingly soft to the touch and the
texture has been likened to that of a mink coat. Another unique feature of the Bengal
coat is "glitter" which is a special type of hair shaft, giving the impression of glittering
sparkles, that shimmer in the light on all colors except black. Gold or silver glittering
sparkles, that shimmer in the light on all colors except black. Gold or silver glitter is not
found on the wild Asian Leopard Cat and was introduced by a domestic cat, so
although it is a stunning attribute, it is not a requirement in the official Bengal cat
standard. The brown spotted or marble Bengal cats have beautiful large, nocturnal eyes
in colors ranging from deep green to green-yellow, yellow-green and amber.
Although the tan, or varying shades of orange background colors are the most popular,
there is also "snow color" variation in both spotted and marbled patterns. further to
that, there are different of shades of color in this category, Seal Lynx Point, (the lightest
coat color with blue eyes only), Seal Mink (darker coat color with blue-green to yellow
eyes), and Seal Sepia, (darkest coat color with gold or gold green eyes). These cats
can have a nearly white or cream ground color with varying shades of light brown to
darker brown or brown-gray spots or marble swirls.
The slightly small head, smaller, rounded ears, large black-rimmed eyes, prominent
white whisker pads with dramatic facial markings all contribute to the feral beauty of
these majestic cats. Bengal cats are smaller versions of their wild ancestors and should
be the size of a medium to large house cat with females weighing 6 to 10 pounds and
males around 12 to 18 pounds.
Like the jungle cats that grew up around water, Bengal cats have no fear of water and
actually like to play with and in water. They are also attracted to the highest seat in the
house, since that would be their safe area in the wild. These cats are very curious,
active, and extremely athletic so anyone interested in owning a Bengal should be
prepared for the activity level and energy that comes with such a cat. They really enjoy a
lot interactive play with their humans, and homework is their specialty!
Bengal cats make excellent family pets and are a joy to own and show off, although they
do insist on having their human attention and affection whenever they can get it. Young
kittens, wanting to learn about everything around them at once, need to be kept safe
from possible dangers and allowed to explore under supervision until they are wise
enough to know what they should and shouldn't do. Be sure this is the type of cat you
want to live with, before you bring one home. These wonderful cats deserve good
homes with loving owners who understand them and are committed to caring for them
for their lifetime.