The Bengal Cat is still a relatively new breed. This “hybrid” cat was developed by crossing the Asian Leopard Cat, a small non-aggressive forest dwelling cat found in parts of Asia and the domestic cat.
There are several people instrumental in the development of the breed. One being Dr Centerwall who was studying the Asian Leopard Cat and their immunity to feline leukemia, and then Jean Mill-Sudgen who continued with these cats and the crossing with the domestic breeds to establish the lovely Bengal Cats we see today. Experimental breedings began back in the 1960’s but it was not until the 1980’s that the Bengal got full recognition as a breed by The International Cat Association.
In Australia all our Bengals must be at least five generations removed from the Asian Leopard Cat. In 1988 an export ban was placed on the Asian Leopard Cat and it’s close relatives to ensure the safety and protection of the breed. Although the Asian Leopard Cat is not considered endangered their numbers are dwindling due to hunting for fur traders, food, and the pet market in Asia. The aim of the Bengal was to mimic the pattern and wild expression of the wild cat, with Jean Mill hoping that if people owned pets that looked like their wild counterparts they would be less likely to want to kill wild cats for their fur. The breed was developed with progression in mind and to stand as its OWN breed. Although many breeders still use Asian Leopard Cats in their breeding programs to try and retain certain features, this is not considered by everyone to be necessary.
The Bengal is a distinctive looking breed getting the wild look and patterning from its “leopard cat” ancestry, and the loving nature from their domestic counterparts.
Generally the Bengal is a very healthy breed. The introduction of the Asian Leopard Cat gave the breed a higher genetic diversity making it less susceptible to many of the problems associated with some of the older breeds; however Bengals are not without any health issues. One major concern is heart problems. Buyers should research and ask breeders what measures they take in testing and protecting their lines from such issues.
Bengals are athletic, sturdy, playful, and highly intelligent. Many people believe they are not lap cats but I own many that would argue this point. They have an affinity with water and can often be found playing in their water bowls, sinks, sitting on the side of bathtubs, or at the base of your shower while it is running! Some of our Bengals love playing fetch, and are very doglike in many ways. They can be taught to walk on harnesses and are very curious and adventurous when it comes to outings.
I find them to thrive in busy households with lots of action but some cats are different and are better suited to a quite environment. They easily integrate in to families with other animals and small children. If you work and spend long hours away from home, I would consider another animal companion as Bengals can get lonely and bored.
They are indoor cats which should be given room to move and play. Outdoor areas that are enclosed and safe would be greatly appreciated by your Bengal.