Bengal cats and their non-domestic heritage
Bengals are a domestic cat breed, originally established by crossing a small, non-domestic
cat—the Asian Leopard Cat—with domestic cats. The goal of the Bengal Breed is to produce a
domestic cat that looks as if it just stepped out of the jungle into your living room.
Bengal cat temperaments
While Bengal cats look wild, they are amongst the most outgoing and friendly of all domestic cat
breeds. They are highly intelligent and interactive. Their curiosity and heedless enthusiasm can
often get them into "trouble". They don't look before they leap and they welcome challenges,
such as how to sleep in your dresser drawer or what can be found inside the kitchen cabinets.
Your Bengal will greet you at the door and want to be with you, participating in whatever you
are doing, including reading the morning newspaper or getting a good night's sleep.
Bengal cat colors and patterns—Oh my!
Bengal cats come in a plethora of color and pattern combinations. The brown spotted tabby,
or "leopard" color and pattern, is the most common and well recognized. In addition to the
spotted pattern, Bengals also come in a marbled pattern. And in addition to the brown tabbies,
Bengals come in the albino, or "snow", series—pointed (lynx point), mink and sepia tabbies.
The silver, or inhibitor, gene can modify all of the preceding colors to make, for example, silver
(instead of brown) tabbies and silver sepia tabbies. When you combine that with spotted and
marbled, well, we'll let you do the math on the number of possibilities. Bengals can be found
in other colors as well, but these are the only colors/patterns eligible for championship in TICA.
We are always happy to explain more about cat coat color and pattern, including the genetics.
Bengal cat health
Bengal cats are susceptible to the same infectious and genetic diseases as any domestic cat, and
in addition, there are some diseases for which we must be especially vigilant.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM): HCM is a heart disease found in all domestic
cats and because of certain founder effects in the breed, HCM is more prevalent in
Bengal cats than in the general domestic cat population. Although it is inherited as an
autosomal dominant genetic disease, the defective gene(s) responsible for HCM in
Bengals has not been identified. Cats must be screened for HCM by echocardiogram,
and only cats clear from HCM should be used in breeding programs. Thus, regular
screening for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) by Board Certified Veterinary
Cardiologists is a MUST for any reputable Bengal breeding program.
Erythrocyte Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PK Deficiency): The Bengal breed was
established with the use of a number of different domestic cats and along with the
desirable traits, some undesirable genetic traits were also brought in. PK Deficiency is an
autosomal recessive genetic disease that can result in a number of symptoms, primarily
anemia due to difficulty in making red blood cells. Fortunately, genetic testing enables breeders to determine the PK Deficiency status (normal, carrier or affected) of our Bengal
cats and we can over several generations remove it from our breeding programs and the
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP): FIP is perhaps the most devastating of feline
diseases because it mostly claims kittens and young adults in an insidious disease
process. While infection with a common virus (FECV) is a necessary condition for FIP,
it is not sufficient. Environmental and genetic factors contribute to the development
of the disease but are not well understood presently. FIP can afflict any cat but occurs
at a higher incidence in some breeds, including Bengals. Thus while we strive to better
understand the disease, we also do what we can to minimize the contributing factors.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV): Readily
available testing for FeLV and FIV has made it possible to eliminate these disease-
causing retroviruses from breeding programs, and catteries these days should be free
from FeLV and FIV.
Check out the Winn Feline Foundation for more information on feline health.
Other great Bengal links:
TIBCS and TIBCC