Bengal cats as pets

Although its name and luxurious marbled coat might bring Bengal tigers to mind, the domesticated bengal housecat has no relation to tigers. Rather, it is the result of breeding the common housecat with the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC), a wild cat of smaller stature.

A Brief History of Bengals

The bengal cat is relatively new, with specimens of an ALC/housecat cross first confirmed in 1934. It takes at least three generations of breeding to get a bengal cat whose wild genes have been diluted enough to make it suitable for a human home.

Bengals were created by professional breeders, and some had interesting reasons. One breeder, Jean Sugden, hopeds to prevent poaching by popularizing pet cats that looked like wild animals. She hoped women wouldn’t want to wear the furs of poached animals because they would look like friends’ pets.

Direct breeding between a housecat and an ALC produces a wild litter (T1) whose females can breed but whose males can’t. Breeding one of these females with a housecat produces a litter (T2) with similar fertility. Crossing one of these females with another new housecat finally produces a human-friendly litter (T3) with fertile females and very-rarely-fertile males.

This last litter is representative of what is commonly considered the bengal housecat – dark marbling, white bellies, and agreeable, friendly, fun temperaments.

Characteristics

Bengal cats are known for their gorgeous coloring and soft, luxurious fur: gold-brown with black striping (or marble). The most desirable, but not altogether common, coloring for a bengal is the rosette pattern: two-toned circles, similar to a leopard’s spots, along the back and sides. Bengals with rosettes in these areas are striped elsewhere on the body.

While it is often assumed that bengals are larger than common housecats, their wild ancestry has no real effect on their size, which is average for a house cat.

The voice of the bengal cat is distinctively different from that of the common house cat, and it tends to be much more active and athletic, too. Due to its swimming-wildcat heritage, the bengal also occasionally enjoys water – not only in the shower or the rain, but even the swimming pool.

Is a Bengal Right for You?

If you’re looking for a cat that will grow out of its adventurousness after kittenhood, avoid the bengal: bengals are super-active cats – physically, vocally, and mentally. Expect a bengal to follow you around, constantly curious about what you’re doing, and talking all the time. Because of this, and also because they pick up on games like ‘fetch’ easily, bengals are often described as dog-like.

Bengal cats are on-and-off: when not bounding around the house or talking at the top of their yowly lungs, they become sweet, cuddly, sleepy, rolly-polly softies, happy to curl up in laps and beds.

Bengal cats fit best with energetic, enthusiastic owners, who are likely to be able to keep up with the bengal and exchange with it the love, friendship, and companionship that makes cat owning such a joy.

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