Monday, November 26, 2012

Cat Breeds: Bengal

Bengals are a result of the desire to have a domestic cat that looks and even behaves like a wild jungle cat. The Bengal as we know it today was actually created by Jean Mill in the late 1970s. Mill, who was living in Covina, California at the time, was hoping to reproduce the spotted pattern, colors, and facial qualities of the Asian Leopard Cat. She inherited eight female cats, who were the products of a cross between the Asian Leopard Cat and domestic shorthairs, from a researcher at the University of California. These eight cats would be the first cats in her breeding program.

Of course, you need males for a successful breeding program. Mill added two male cats to her program. One of these was found at a zoo in Delhi, India and was a feral cat, orange in color with deep brown rosettes. The second came from a shelter in Los Angeles and was a simple brown spotted tabby. Both cats were shorthairs, but that's all they seemed to have in common.

Fast forward ten years (1986, to be exact) and there were more than two hundred Bengals all across the United States. The breed was registered with The International Cat Association (TICA). After several years, once Bengals had exhibited a normal sterility profile and was the same on a cellular level as other domestic cats, the breed became eligible to compete. The first Bengals competed in May of 1991. Since this recognition, outcrosses have not been allowed. What this means is that for a cat to be considered a Bengal, both parents must be full-blooded Bengals.

The Bengal is a standard-size cat ranging from six to fifteen pounds. Males are usually at the larger end of this spectrum, but there are exceptions to this rule. Cats are well muscled and are considered among the most athletic of cats.

The spotted coat of the Bengal may be distinct and recognizable by most cat fanciers, but it's not the only Bengal coat. Spots may be either large or small and may have a two-toned appearance. Another coat pattern accepted by most associations is the marble pattern. This is a swirling pattern that looks either like flowing horizontal lines or random swirls. Some cats even have a slightly iridescent appearance. This is called the glitter effect and is highly prized by breeders. Different associations accept different patterns, but they're really all Bengals.

Bengals come in a wide variety of colors, but the black or brown tabby is the most common. Acceptable colors also include grey, bronze, copper, gold, or even mahogany. All Bengals should have spotting or marbling to some extent. The spots or marbling should be either black or a rich brown.

Snow Bengals and silver Bengals are rare but prized. Snow Bengals carry a recessive pointed gene that causes a cream coat with a pearly shimmer. These cats also have blue eyes. Silver Bengals have a white or grey coat with dark grey patterns. Both are you standard Bengal except that they are exhibiting recessive traits.

The personality of the Bengal can take many new owners by surprise. Bengals are not that far removed from their wild ancestors and can sometimes be nervous and a little unruly. They are not generally recommended for families with young children. They are also inquisitive, active, and easily bored. They need something to do at all times, but don't get two unless you love chaos. Two Bengals cause all kinds of trouble.

Bengals need lots of space to run, jump, and climb. It's not usual to find a Bengal perched on a curtain rod or climbing a doorway. They tend to like water and will swim in a pool or bathtub at any opportunity. They are not a docile cat, but they can be integrated into a family with older children and pets if you are patient and ready for unexpected action.

Health problems can be persistent and annoying for Bengals. They are prone to Irritable Bowel Syndrome which is aggravated by most commercial cat foods. Bengal cats need more protein and less grains in their food, so you'll have to spend a little more money to keep your cat healthy. They also have a problem with water. While Bengal cats are susceptible to micro-organisms found in unchlorinated water, they also don't handle chlorinated water well. The best approach is to give them distilled water to drink. That or boil unchlorinated tap water.

Like the Ocicat and other man-made spotted cats, the Bengal doesn't always breed true for pattern, which is still something breeders are working on. Regardless, they are an adventuresome cat and make a good pet, but only if you're ready for anything. They're certainly not a tame breed.

1 comment:

  1. Discover the unique personality and playful nature of the Bengal cat. This breed has been known to play fetch or can even be trained to walk on a leash. From their wild markings to their loving demeanor, the Bengal cat is an absolute joy to own

    Bengal cats