History of Pets – Bengal Cat

The Bengal stands out among cats for its lush, dense, and remarkably soft coat with its distinctive leopard-like spots, reminiscent of its larger ancestors living in the wild. These intelligent, curious cats are highly active, love climbing to high places, going for walks on a leash and are generally a ball (of yarn) to live with.

The Beginning of the Bengal

The Bengal cat breed is the only successful pairing of a wild cat with a domestic cat registered with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. There is some anecdotal evidence that pairings of the Asian leopard cat with domestic cats had been attempted prior to the 1960’s. But, it was only when amateur breeder Jean S. Mill began the Bengal breeding program in 1963, that later resulted in the Bengal breed we know today. Interestingly, most Bengals today descend from cats bred by her in the early 1980s.

The story began when Jean crossed a domestic cat with a beautifully spotted, shy wild cat species from Asia, an Asian leopard cat. The Californian had acquired the leopard cat and allowed her to befriend a black tom so she wouldn’t be lonely. Since the breeds were so different, Jean wasn’t expecting the two to become mates, and was surprised when a litter of kittens was born. She kept a spotted female, breeding her back to her father, which produced a litter of spotted and solid kittens, which though delightful had not quite met the idea she had for the perfect Bengal.At about the same time, Dr. Willard Centerwall was crossing Asian leopard cats with domestic cats at Loyola University for research. It turns out that the leopard cats were resistant to the feline leukemia virus, so researchers were interested in finding out if the trait could be passed on to hybrid offspring.

Jean then acquired some of Dr. Centerwall’s hybrids and sought out suitable males to breed with them. One was an orange domestic shorthair that she found in India, and the other was a brown spotted tabby acquired from a shelter, these kittens fulfilled Jean’s goal of creating a docile, civilised house cat sporting the striking, patterned coat of wild jungle cats like Leopards, Ocelots and Jaguars.

The Bengal cat was officially named in 1974 by Bill Engler, as a reference to the scientific name of their forefathers, the Asian Leopard Cat – Prionailurus bengalensis. In a fun bit of irony, Bengal serves as a homonym to Mr.Engler’s Initial and surname, B.Engle. The International Cat Association recognised Bengals in 1991.

About the Bengal

The Bengal cat is a long, muscular, medium to large sized cat, with a broad head and muzzle, high cheekbones, and pronounced whisker pads. Their eyes are round and wide, with dark markings around the eyes called mascara markings, and the ears are small and rounded at the tips. Their back legs are slightly longer than the front legs, emphasising the Bengal’s wild-cat appearance. The Bengal’s distinct coat often possess a trait called glittering, which makes the coat appear to have been dusted with gold or pearl.

These cats are known to be confident, talkative, friendly and always alert. They enjoy playing games like fetch, and have been known to learn a few little tricks. In addition, they have the unusual cat-quality of being keen on water, so it’s not unlike a Bengal to jump into the tub or sneak into the shower with you.

A Bengal can be trained fairly easily and have fun, attention-loving, affectionate personalities. Though this breed is not a lap cat, these loyal felines love human company and will often stay close to family members. Bengals especially enjoy the company of children, since their energetic nature makes them very fond of games.

Living with a Bengal

You’ll need to give your Bengal plenty of play time, as intelligent and savvy creatures they need lots of challenging, action-filled interactions to keep them out boredom and trouble. These energetic felines love to jump and climb to high-up locations, so you might want to consider keeping breakable objects out of harm’s way and off of open shelves and acquiring tall cat trees and window perches.

While every cat is an individual, most Bengals get along with other pets, including dogs. And as for grooming, they have short coats that are easy to care for with weekly brushing and as a bonus, your Bengal will love the attention!

Is a Bengal Right for You?

If you want a cat companion that’s known for being:

  • Trainable
  • Intelligent
  • Water-loving
  • Exotic in appearance
  • Verbal and communicative
  • Athletic and entertaining
  • Social (if paired or bonded early)
  • Dog-friendly (if bonded early with a cat-friendly dog)
  • Kid-friendly (when socialised)
  • Loyal

Then this is the breed for you. And if you’re serious about becoming a Bengal owner, consider contacting some local shelters and enquiring whether there are any that require forever homes.

About the Author: Matt Cooper

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