Cat Breeds: The Bengal Cat

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The Bengal is a cross between a domestic cat (usually an Egyptian Mau or domestic shorthair) and felis bengalensis, the wild Asian Leopard Cat. The name derives from the variation name of the wild cat, bengalensis. The first documented cross in the United States was by Jean Mill (nee Sugdon) in 1963. Her goal was to produce a cat with a domestic pet’s temperament and the look of a wild cat.


A medium to large cat (10-18 pounds), the Bengal has a sleek, muscular body with a broad modified wedge-shaped head that has rounded contours and a substantial back skull. The ears are small and rounded and the face should have intense markings and a feral look.

The coat is called a pelt and is dense and soft. The most common pattern is leopard spotted (brown spotted tabby), but marbled is also accepted (swirls of black or brown on a lighter color), as are lynx point (with blue eyes) and sepia(snow leopard coloring with gold or greed eyes). The most prized spots are rosette-varying from light to dark. There is also a highly prized intense sheen to some pelts which is called “glitter,” but as it is not mentioned in the breed standard, it is not required. Cats and kittens in rare colors, such as black or blue are undesirable.


A cat that is at least four generations removed from its wild ancestors (meaning that after the initial cross with the Asian Leopard Cat, there are four pedigreed Bengal to pedigreed Bengal matings) should be intelligent, friendly, curious and very energetic. Reputable breeders work diligently to instill a loving pet-like personality through their breeding programs. Bengals less than four generations removed from the wild cross could have more wild tendencies and should not be purchased as pets. Only cats four or more generations removed are allowed to be shown.


Bengals are especially sensitive to anesthetics and vaccines. Some lines have knee problems.