Bengal cats date back to an 1800s cross of the Asian leopard cat with an unknown domestic breed. They were purrfected by Jean Sugden Mill in the 1980s, in the hope that their exotic coat would discourage people from importing furs. Not even Mr Burns would wear the family pet, after all.
The Bengal cat was illegal in Australia for a time because they were believed to be more ‘wild’ than other breeds. This was nothing but a myth, however, and today these beautiful cats are no longer banned.
This cat breed may share a name with a tiger, but it has a lot more in common with the leopard and jaguar. Namely, its gorgeous, silky coat. Bengals are generally a light orange or sandy brown, with either a spotted or marbled pattern. They have large bright blue or green eyes for spying on their owners with.
Okay, you’ve got us – a patterned, orange cat describes an awful lot of our furry pals. Garfield, anyone? Here are a few more questions to ask before declaring yourself a proud Bengal owner:
- Are your cat’s spots solid or rosetted? The latter is typical of Bengals. Rosettes are spots with a darker, visible outline.
- Is your cat’s pattern symmetrical? Bengals don’t play by the rules, human – their patterns are asymmetrical.
- Does your cat sparkle like a Christmas card? Bengal fur has a beautiful sheen in sunlight, but don’t worry, it won’t rub off on you like our nemesis, glitter.
Bengals might share some traits with jungle cats, but don’t judge a book by its cover. They are gentle and affectionate cats that are full of energy and love to climb, explore and play, so they’re great with children and dogs (as long as the respect is mutual). They are fearless, and many even like water, gladly joining you for a shower, swim, or bath. They are also extremely intelligent and will appreciate toys that work their brain.
That said, energy and smarts make a bored Bengal a total trickster. Lights turning off? Keys going missing? Scratching posts you didn’t order showing up at your doorstep? It could be your cat’s doing – okay, maybe not the last one, but we still recommend stocking up on toys before your cat takes matters into its own hands. Also, be careful bringing this cat breed into a house with goldfish, hamsters or mice – they have a keen hunting instinct and are always on the lookout for a snack.
Finally, these cats are big believers in giving feedback. Didn’t empty the litter? If the smell doesn’t tip you off, your Bengal will. They are quite vocal and the forgetful owner will get the feedback they need to improve.
Bengals are fastidious groomers, and will keep their lovely plush coat in great condition without much help. That said, we still recommend a weekly grooming routine to keep your cat happy and healthy.
As a hybrid cat breed, they are subject to a slightly higher risk of certain illnesses, including heart disease and anaemia. Rarely, this breed is affected by a genetic photosensitivity, which can lead to blindness in the first year of their life. However, this cat breed is otherwise quite healthy, and has a life expectancy of around 16 years.
These cats love to climb and explore. However, letting your cat outside exposes it to risk of disease, animal attack, cars and theft, as well as endangering native wildlife. We recommend getting your Bengal an outdoor enclosure with plenty of space to play, so they can frolic to their heart’s content.
This cat breed does very little shedding and may be a good choice for people with allergies. However they are not hypoallergenic, so if you are extremely sensitive you might want to consider a different breed.
Bengals may not have the fierce personality of their jungle cat doppelgangers, but their reputation makes great inspiration for naming your cat. Here are our suggestions: