Is that a little leopard? No, it’s a Bengal cat! These cats have an exotic appearance that resembles their wildcat ancestors, but they make much safer family pets.
The first documented Bengal cat is attributed to a California-based breeder named Jean Mill. She developed this breed by crossing a Domestic Shorthair with an Asian Leopard cat in 1963. This makes Bengal cats a relatively new breed, especially when you compare them to Persian cats who trace their origins all the way back to the 1600s.
Asian Leopard cats are wild felines found throughout Asia who are about the size of a domestic cat. As you’ll see, Bengal cats seem to have inherited many characteristics from the Asian Leopard, such as their distinctive spots, energetic natures, and love of playing in water.
Bengal Cat Size
Bengal cats tend to be medium to large in size. They might weigh between 8-15 pounds or more and range in height anywhere from about 13-16 inches tall. Of course, these are generalizations and any individual Bengal cat could be different.
A Leopard-Like Look
One of the Bengal cat’s most noticeable physical traits is their leopard-like spots or rosettes. Their spots can come in a variety of colors, such as rust, chocolate brown, or black. Their coats can also be a variety of colors, including golden, rust, brown, orange, sand, and ivory. Some Bengal cats have fur that shimmers in the light as if they’d been dusted with glitter.
Bengal cats have smallish, round heads, large eyes, and striking facial marking. They have strong muscular bodies and a streamlined appearance much like their Asian Leopard ancestors. Their hind legs are longer than their front legs, which helps give them a powerful but graceful stride.
Bengal Cat Temperament
A cat’s personality has a lot to do with their environment and experiences. However, in the case of Bengal cats, there are some characteristics that come from their wildcat heritage. For instance, they are typically very intelligent, energetic, confident, and ever alert—just like they’d need to be to survive in the jungle!
A Fun and Challenging Pet
Bengal cats have a lot of energy and need a lot of interaction, which can make them both a fun and challenging family pet. They can be a good match for active people who have the time and interest to engage with them regularly. These cats love to play games like fetch or chase and are known to pick up tricks quickly.
Want your Bengal cat to learn a trick? Try clicker training to teach them through positive reinforcement.
If Bengal cats are not adequately engaged, they can get bored and frustrated, which can lead to troublesome behaviors. For instance, they might scratch at the furniture or meow excessively. They also have very nimble paws, and you might find that your Bengal cat has gotten into your drawers and made a mess of your clothes or opened the kitchen cabinets and pulled out all of your pots and pans.
Bengal Cats and Water
Like Asian Leopard cats, Bengal cats are obsessed with water. Don’t be surprised if your Bengal cat follows you right into the shower or jumps in a tub filled with water! If you have a Bengal cat at home, you might want to buy a pet fountain to help keep them entertained.
Keep in mind that their love of water means aquarium fish can be at risk around Bengal cats. The idea of getting wet is unlikely to hold these cats back from dipping their paws into the tank to scoop out a fishy friend to play with or nibble on. In addition, Bengal cats have a high prey drive, so be sure to keep small pets like hamsters or rabbits safely out of reach.
Other Fun Facts About Bengal Cats
In addition to their love of water, there are plenty of other fun facts about Bengal cats. Here are some of the more interesting ones:
- Bengal cats were called Safari Cats until the 1970s when their name was changed to reflect the Asian Leopard cat’s scientific name, which is Prionailurus bengalensis.
- Over the years, they have been coveted as pets because of their wildcat look. In fact, it’s reported that a woman in London paid $50,000 for her Bengal cat. This earned them the nickname as the “Rolls Royce of cats.”
- Bengal cats don’t have your typical meow. They make a raspy noise that can sound more like a bark.
- These cats have very agile paws and have been known to flip light switches on and off.
Bengal Cat Names
It can be hard to come up with a name for a new kitty, especially one that everyone in the family agrees on. With a Bengal cat, you could give them a name that reflects their wildcat ancestors, like Leo, Simba, Hunter, or Tigey. You could also name them after their coat, such as Spot, Patches, Speckles, or Copper.
Top Bengal Cat Claims
Bengal cats are relatively healthy, and you can expect them to live an average of 12 to 16 years or more with proper care. That doesn’t mean they don’t get hurt or sick. The most common illness claims* ASPCA Pet Health Insurance customers submit for their Bengal cats are:
- Lymphoma – A type of cancer found in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell associated with the immune system.
- Ear Infection – This is one of the most common kitty ailments, which can usually be treated easily with drops, especially if it’s caught early.
- Eye Conditions – The most common feline eye disorder is conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye.
- Weight Loss – A drop in weight can indicate a number of diseases or issues, like anxiety due to a change in routine.
- Urinary Conditions – From urinary stones to Feline Interstitial Cystitis (FIC), several difference issues can cause urinary problems for your cat.
- Stomach Problems – Like weight loss, tummy trouble can mean any number of issues from nibbling on a plant that is harmful to cats to an illness like pancreatitis.
Behavioral conditions are also frequently submitted claims. They can arise when Bengal cats don’t get the high level of engagement they typically need. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance offers coverage for these conditions because they can be stressful for the cat, disruptive to the household, and even result in the cat being relinquished to a shelter. It’s much better for everyone if the cat can be kept happily in the home and helped through behavioral modification, medication, or other treatments.
Caring for Your Bengal Cat
Bengal cats require the same kinds of basic care every cat needs. For instance, you should feed them a healthy diet, clip their nails when needed, and brush their teeth regularly. However, there are some points to keep in mind when caring for your Bengal cat:
- Bengal cats are not big shedders and typically groom themselves adequately, but you should still brush them regularly to help their coat and skin stay in top shape. They may even need an occasional bath if they get into something especially messy.
- You can help keep your Bengal cat engaged by providing them with cat safe puzzle toys or interactive toys that they can turn on by themselves.
- Setting up a few paper bags or boxes for your cat to dart in and out of or leaving ping pong balls around the house are great and inexpensive ways to entertain your Bengal cat. You can also try making these homemade cat toys.
- Bengal cats love to climb and enjoy a lot of vertical space. You can set up sturdy climbing trees, tall scratching posts, and window perches to satisfy their urge for height.
- The ASPCA recommends keeping all cats inside to help keep them safe from getting hurt or contracting diseases or parasites. This is especially important with Bengal cats since they are coveted for their unique appearance and could be stolen. Plus, you’ll be protecting small wildlife like birds and squirrels given Bengals’ high prey drive.
- You should take your Bengal cat to the veterinarian for regular check-ups and professional teeth cleanings. An annual exam and dental cleaning can be covered by an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan with an optional preventive care package.
And of course, most important of all, you’ll need to shower your Bengal cat with the love and attention they crave and deserve!
*Internal Claims Data, 2015