Bengal cat

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Bengal Cat
Paintedcats Red Star standing.jpg
A female Bengal cat with tricolored rosettes and a clear coat.
OriginUnited States
Foundation bloodstockEgyptian Mau, Abyssinian, and others (domestic); Asian leopard cat (wild)
Breed standards
Feline hybrid (Felis catus × Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis)

The Bengal (tabby) is a domestic cat breed developed to look like a leopard cat. Bengal cats were developed by selective breeding from hybrids of the Asian leopard cat, Prionailurus bengalensis, backcrossed to domestic cats, with the goal of creating a beautifully spotted, healthy, and friendly cat with a highly contrasted leopard coat.

The name "Bengal cat" was derived from the taxonomic name of the Asian leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis). Bengals have a wild appearance with large spots, rosettes, arrowheads or marbling. Bengals are long and lean with a body structure reminiscent of the Asian leopard cat. Bengal cats come in many colors and varieties.


Early history[edit]

The earliest mention of an Asian leopard cat × domestic cross was in 1889, when Harrison Weir wrote of them in Our Cats and All About Them.[1]

Bengals as a breed[edit]

In 1963 in California, Jean Sudgen Mill made the first recorded deliberate cross of a black tomcat with a wild Asian leopard cat, first sighted by Westerners near the Bengal River in India. Mrs. Mill feared the possible extinction of the Asian leopard cat, which is one-tenth the size of the African leopard.[2]

A Charcoal Bengal kitten: Note the facial mask with white goggles, and the black rosettes)

The real beginning of the Bengal breed began in the 1970s, when amateur breeder Jean Sudgen Mill, of California, became the recipient of a group of cats that had been bred for use in genetic testing. Dr. Willard Centerwall of Loyola University had been testing Asian Leopards for their partial immunity to feline leukemia, and began cross breeding them with domestic cats for possible genetic viability in immunization development.[3]

Rather than destroy the cats after the program was completed, Dr. Centerwall searched for appropriate homes for his cats. Because Ms. Sudgen had an actual interest in breeding Asian leopard hybrids, she chose not to take all of the cats, instead focusing on those cats that were showing a predilection for domestic temperament along with the desired spotting patterns.[4]

Jean Sudgen Mill had begun her first experiments in cat hybridization while studying genetics at UC Davis in the 1940s. When presented with the opportunity to work with Dr. Centerwall's Asian leopards and their hybrids, she took to it with enthusiasm. In 1982, Mill's patience paid off when a curator for the New Delhi Zoo, in India, pointed her to a leopard-like street cat that was living on its own in the rhinoceros' exhibit at the zoo. Although the cat was feral, it proved to be an excellent mate for her hybrid females, and within years Ms. Mill had her successful, though still fledgling, breeding program well underway.[5]


A brown rosetted Bengal cat stalking. This cat displays rosetting and spotting typical of the breed. Bengals have longer rear legs and carry their tails low.

After many generations of breeding, Bengals can now exist in a variety of coat colors. Bengal cats can be silver, brown, black (melanistic), snow, red, cinnamon, smoke, Charcoal, blue, and marbled. Bengals can also have spots, rosettes or a marbled pattern to their coat. The spots and marbling is randomly distributed, with no set patterns. That means the pattern on each side of the cat is very different. Bengals and domestic tabbies both have spotted bellies. But Bengals have no white on their body, other than possibly in their chin or whisker pad area or on their belly. A Bengal cat’s fur is very soft and short. It feels much like a rabbit’s fur. The individual strands of fur can be “ticked,” meaning there are bands of 2-3 colors on each strand. Bengals are also known for their glitter appearance; i.e. their fur sparkles in sunlight. Since the tips of their hair strands have less pigment, light shining through this translucent part of the hair is what makes it appear to sparkle.[6]

A Bengal kitten: Note the large round eyes and the "mascara" (horizontal striping alongside the eyes)

The CFA (Cat Fanciers Association) accepted Bengal cats into their registry in 2016. The CFA will only register Bengal cats that are more than 5 generations from the Asian Leopard. The CFA recognizes Bengal cat colors which were previously not recognized in other organizations. Two colors which have been accepted in the CFA are blue and charcoal.[7]

The International Cat Association (TICA) recognizes several Bengal colors (brown, seal lynx point, mink, sepia, silver) and patterns (spotted and marbled) for competition and shows. In the New Traits class, other colors may be shown, as well as longhairs.[8]

Bengal Size[edit]

The Bengal, is an average to large-sized, spotted cat breed, normally weighing from 6 to 15 pounds. Bengals are long and lean. Male Bengal cats are generally larger than females, with an average size of 10 to 15 pounds, while the average size for a female is 7 to 10 pounds. While they may appear larger than they are because of their musculature, they don't get much bigger than other domestic cats. The Asian Leopard cat, from which the first generations of Bengals were bred, is a small jungle cat weighing approximately 10 to 15 pounds. The size of the Asian Leopard cat helped to dictate the Bengal's final size. However, how big a Bengal cat can get can depend on which cat was bred with the Asian Leopard cat.

Some of the breeds that were used in the Bengal breeding program include:

  • Ocicats - Average weight 13 pounds
  • Egyptian Mau - Average weight 12 pounds
  • Abyssinians - Average weight 10 pounds
  • Bombays - Average weight 10 pounds
  • British Shorthairs - Average weight 15 pounds[9]

Legal developments[edit]

Bengal cats with a generation of F5 and beyond are considered domestic: they are generally legal in the United States with the exception of New York City and the state of Hawaii. New York state, Georgia, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, and Indiana all regulate or ban Early Generation Bengals (Bengals of the F1-F4 generation). In addition Seattle Washington and Denver Colorado have placed limits on Bengal ownership.[10]

Bengal cats are illegal in the US State of Hawaii as they threaten native Hawaiian birds and are known to carry a parasite that can kill Hawaiian monk seals.[11]In 2018 A Seattle couple who were trying to bring three of their Bengal cats to Hawaii were denied.[12]

The country of Australia also bans Bengals from the F1-4 Generations.[13]


Bengal cats from the first three filial generations of breeding (F1–F3) are considered "foundation cats" or "Early Generation" Bengals. The Early generation (F1–F3) males are frequently infertile. Therefore female early generation Bengals of the F1, F2, and F3 are bred to fertile domestic Bengals. F1 hybrid Bengal females are fertile, thus they are used in subsequent, unidirectional backcross matings to fertile domestic cat males. Some male Bengals produced viable sperm as early as the F2 backcross generation: this is considered rare in the breeding communities, who regularly backcross early generation females to late generation, fertile hybrid males.[14]

The first-generation hybrid from a leopard cat and a domestic cat cross is graded F1. Only an experienced person can handle the F1. To assure reliable temperament...the F1 has to be outcrossed for at least three generations. The wild blood of the first-generation hybrids is diluted by breeding them back to Bengals or selected domestic cats.[15]

The F4 and later generations are considered “domestic” hybrid cats that can be sold to the general public. Breeders advertise these cats as having the look of the wild with the personality of the domestic cat.[16]

Many domestic Bengals love to play in water and will often dip their paws into water. Bengal owners will often fill the tub with water and toss in a few toys to keep their kitties entertained. Some Bengals also enjoy going for a dip in the water.[17]


Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Example of a completed HCM report

HCM (hyper cardiomyopathy) is a major concern in the Bengal cat breed. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a disease in which the heart muscle (myocardium) becomes abnormally thick (hypertrophied). The thickened heart muscle can make it harder for the heart to pump blood.[18]. At this time the only way to determine the suitability of Bengal cats meant for breeding is to have the cat's heart scanned by a board certified cardiologist.

"Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common heart disease of the cat. This disorder results in hypertrophy or thickening of the heart muscle which, in time, creates increased stiffness of the heart walls (muscle) causing poor cardiac function during the relaxation phase of the cardiac cycle (diastole). As this condition becomes worse, the thickened heart muscle can cause obstruction to blood flow leaving the heart via the aorta increasing the effort needed to pump blood out of the heart during the contraction phase of the cardiac cycle (systole)."[19]

HCM is a common genetic disease in Bengal Cats and there is no genetic testing available at this time (2018). The current practice of screening for HCM involves bringing Bengal cats to a Board Certified Veterinary Cardiologist where an echocardiogram is completed. Bengal cats which are used for breeding should be screened annually to ensure that no Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is present. Currently North Carolina State University is attempting to identify genetic markers for HCM in the Bengal Cat.[20]

Responsible Bengal Breeding and HCM

HCM can develop in the Bengal cat at any point in time, including soon after annual HCM screening. Many breeders may use this as an excuse not to test, however HCM screening by a cardiologist is the only test that exists for Bengals. Responsible and consistent screening makes the breed healthier as breeders seek to eliminate cats that screen positive for HCM.[21]

Price and Distance
The price range for a cardiologist to screen the heart of a Bengal is $150.00 to $600.00 (U.S. dollars). Responsible breeders will screen their breeding cats annually or semi-annually. No genetic test exists for the Bengal cat at this time.

One study published the The Journal of Internal Veterinary Medicine has claimed the prevalence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in Bengal cats is 16.7% (95% CI = 13.2–46.5%).[22]

Bengal Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA-b)
Bengal cats are known to be affected by several genetic diseases, one of which is Bengal Progressive Retinal Atrophy, also known as Bengal PRA or PRA-b. Anyone breeding Bengal cats should carry out this test, since it is inexpensive, noninvasive, and easy to perform. A breeder stating their cats were "vet tested" should not be taken to mean that this test has been performed by a vet: it is carried out by the breeder, outside of a vet office (rarely, if ever, by a vet), and sent directly to the lab. Labs that can perform the test include UCDavis in the US and Langford in the UK. "The disease causes the destruction of the cells that register light (photoreceptors) in the back of the eye (the retina). The loss of the cells begins around 7 weeks of age and slowly progresses until the cat has very compromised vision by approximately 2 years of age1. However, blindness develops at different rates in different cats. We have examples of cats over 2 years of age chasing a laser pointer; however vision testing by an ophthalmologist indicated that the cats should be blind. Blind cats tend to have more difficulty at night, sometimes becoming more vocal and more attached to their owners. The pupils are usually more dilated for affected cats than for cats with normal vision in the same lighting conditions. Affected cats also tend to carry their whiskers in a more forward position. Once affected cats know their surroundings, they are very mobile and active." [23]

Erythrocyte Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PK-Deficiency or PK-Def)
This is another of the common genetic diseases Bengal Cats can be affected by. This is another test that anyone breeding Bengal Cats should have done on their cats before breeding, as it is very inexpensive, noninvasive, and easy to do. This is never part of a normal "vet check" and if a breeder says their cats are "vet checked" it will not include this test. This is a test that a breeder must do on their own, and should always be able to show the documentation for it as it will always be at their fingertips as the results are emailed to them.

"Erythrocyte Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PK Deficiency) is an inherited hemolytic anemia caused by insufficient activity of this regulatory enzyme which results in instability and loss of red blood cells. The anemia is intermittent, the age of onset is variable and clinical signs are also variable. Symptoms of this anemia can include: severe lethargy, weakness, weight loss, jaundice, and abdominal enlargement. This condition is inherited as an autosomal recessive."[24]

Bengal Blood type[edit]

The University of California, Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory has studied domestic cat blood type. They conclude that most Domestic cats fall within the AB system. The common blood types are A and B: some cats have the rare AB blood type. The incidence of the AB type is reported to be less than 6% depending on country and breed. The blood group test has been validated for domestic cat breeds only. The accuracy of results for wildcats and hybrids (Servals, Bengals, Chaussies) has not been determined. Because of the lack of sufficient samples from wildcats and F1 hybrids, the genetics of wildcat AB blood group is not well understood.[25]

One Bengal blood type study which took place in the U.K tested 100 Bengal cats. The conclusion was that all 100 of the Bengal cats tested had type A blood[26]

Shedding and grooming[edit]

Bengal cats are said to be a hypoallergenic breed. Hypoallergenic breeds may still produce a reaction among those who have severe allergies. Even though it hasn’t been medically or scientifically proven yet, Bengals are considered Hypoallergenic, which means they are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. The Bengal produces low levels of allergens.[27]

Cashmere Bengals (Long-hair)[edit]

Cashmere Bengal kitten with long hair

Some long-haired Bengals (more properly semi-long-haired) have always occurred in Bengal breeding. Many different domestic cats were used to create the Bengal breed and it is theorized that the gene for long hair came from one from these backcrossings. UC Davis has developed a genetic test for long hair so that Bengal breeders could select Bengal cats with a recessive long hair gene for their Cashmere breeding programs.[28]

Some breeding Bengal cats can carry a recessive gene for long-haired. When a male and female Bengal each carry a copy of the recessive long hair gene, and those tow Bengals are mated with each other, they can produce long-haired Bengals. (See Cat coat genetics#Genes involved in fur length and texture.) In the past long haired offspring of Bengal matings were spayed or neutered until some breeders chose to develop the long-haired Bengal (which they called a Cashmere bengal) On August 21, 2013, long-haired Bengals were granted "preliminary" breed status in the New Zealand Cat Fancy registry under the breed name Cashmere, at the behest of a breeder named Damian Vaughan.[29][30] They are currently not recognized by any other cat registries.


  1. ^ Harrison William Weir, Our Cats and All About Them: Their Varieties, Habits, and Management, (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1889), p. 55.
  2. ^ Jones, Joyce. "The Pet Cat That Evokes the Leopard". New York Times. New York Times Company. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  3. ^ "Willard Centerwall, MD". Loma Linda University Photo Archive. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  4. ^ Shatokhina, Olga. "Bengal House Cat". Pet MD. petMD, LLC. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  5. ^ Shatokhina, Olga. "Bengal House Cat". Pet MD. petMD, LLC. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  6. ^ Staff, Sanctuary. "So, Do You Think My Cat is a Bengal?". Wild Cat Sanctuary. 2019 The Wildcat Sanctuary. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  7. ^ CFA. "Bengal Breed Standard" (PDF). CFA. The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc.,. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  8. ^ Alan Brown. "Bengal cats & kittens - The International Bengal Cat Society - TIBCS - exotic looks with spots, marbling and snow". Retrieved 2013-09-12.
  9. ^ Asaff, Beth. "How Big Do Bengal Cats Get?". cats love to know. 2006-2019 LoveToKnow, Corp. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  10. ^ Alessio, Kristine C. "Legislation and Your Cat" (PDF). Bengalcat. The International Bengal Cat Society, Inc. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  11. ^ Staff, Web (2018-11-16). "Exotic bengal cats confiscated in Honolulu". KHON. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  12. ^ Staff:, Hawaii News Now. "Couple's 3 Bengal cats denied entry to Hawaii". hawaiinewsnow. Hawaii News Now. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  13. ^ Staff, Department of Environment. "Guidance on the import of live hybrid animals". Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  14. ^ Brian W. Davis, Christopher M. Seabury, Wesley A. Brashear, Gang Li, Melody Roelke-Parker, William J. Murphy. "Creation of Interspecies Domestic Cat Hybrids". US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 23 January 2019.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Jones, Joyce. "The Pet Cat That Evokes the Leopard". New York Times. New York Times Company. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  16. ^ Benson, DVM, Kia. "EXOTIC HYBRID CATS AND THEIR HIDDEN DANGERS". Pet Poison Help Line. 2018 Pet Poison Helpline. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  17. ^ Moss, Laura. "9 CAT BREEDS THAT LOVE WATER". Adventure Cats. 2018 ADVENTURE CATS LLC. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  18. ^ Mayo Clinic, Staff. "Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy". Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  19. ^ Signs, Symptoms and Treatment of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) in Cats. (n.d). Retrieved from
  20. ^ Meurs, Kate. "Genetics: Bengal Cat Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Study". NCSU. NC State Veterinary Hospital. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  21. ^ Kittleson, Mark. "Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy HCM". Bengals Illustrated. Award Winning Publications. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  22. ^ "Myosin-Binding Protein C DNA Variants in Domestic Cats (A31P, A74T, R820W) and their Association with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy". Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 27: 275–285. 2013-01-17. doi:10.1111/jvim.12031. PMC 3602388. Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  23. ^ Bengal Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA-b). (n.d). Retrieved from
  24. ^ Erythrocyte Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PK Deficiency) in Felines. (n.d). Retrieved from
  25. ^ Staff, UC davis. "AB Blood Group in Felines". Veterinary Genetics Laboratory. The Regents of the University of California. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  26. ^ Danièlle A. Gunn-Moore (2011-01-01). "Feline Blood Transfusions: A Pinker Shade of Pale - 2011 Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery". Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
  27. ^ Dhir, Rajeev. "Suffering From Allergies? You Can Still Adopt a Cat". US and World. 2019 NBCUniversal Media, LLC. NECN News. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  28. ^ Staff, UC Davis. "Long-Hair Test for Felines". Veterinary Genetics Laboratory. The Regents of the University of California. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  29. ^ "Minutes of Executive Council Meeting, August 2013". New Zealand Cat Fancy. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  30. ^ "Agenda for Executive Council Meeting, August 2013" (PDF). New Zealand Cat Fancy. Retrieved 22 December 2013.

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