Bengal cat breed: the most popular hybrid who went from wild cat to domestic cat

László Enikő, 2023. May 27 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Bengal cannot be called delicate or fragile at all. These kitties are true athletes: agile and graceful, with a strong, muscular body befitting a cat that looks like it's at home in the jungle.


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Despite its wild appearance, the Bengal cat is actually very attached to its human family. However, it has high energy and a fun, playful side. It is alert and active, so it needs a home that matches its explosive energy.


With its distinctive spotted coat and long body, the Bengal cat looks like a stalking wild cat, but although it is descended from the small, wild Asian Leopard Cat, it is also a domestic cat.

The Bengal got its name from the Latin name of the Asian Leopard Cat, Felis bengalensis. An Asian Leopard Cat – which could be purchased at pet stores in the 1950s and 1960s – was bred with a domestic shorthair and the Bangal was born. Jean Mill, a breeder from California, was the first to create such a covenant, but not because she wanted to create a new breed. She got a Leopard Cat, and to keep it from being lonely, she kept it with her house cat. To her surprise, as she had not thought the two species would mate, kittens were born and Mill kept a spotted female. Bred back with her father, the female named Kin-Kin gave birth to spotted kittens.

At the same time, Dr. Willard Centerwall was crossing Asian Leopard Cats with domestic cats at Loyola University. Leopard cats were resistant to the Feline leukemia virus, so the researchers were interested in whether the trait could be passed on to hybrid offsprings.

Various breeders were interested in developing cats as a breed. Mill was one of them. Due to the death of her husband, she stopped breeding cats for a while, but 10 years later she was ready to breed again. She obtained some of Dr. Centerwall’s hybrids and sought suitable males to breed with them. One was an orange domestic shorthair she found in India, the other a brown spotted tabby she adopted from a shelter. Bengals are now increasingly considered domestic cats rather than hybrids, and purchased Bengals must be at least four generations removed from wild-blooded ancestors.

The first cat association to recognize the Bengal was the International Cat Federation, which granted the breed experimental status in 1983 and full recognition in 1991. The Bengal is also recognized by the American Cat Fanciers’ Association, the Canadian Cat Association and the United Feline Organization.

Bengal cats are so sought after that a British woman paid over $50,000 for her Bengal cat in 1990, calling them the Rolls Royce of cats. Their popularity has not decreased since then, they are more and more popular pets.

Breed standard

The Bengal is an athletic cat with a long, muscular body. Its head is relatively small, wedge-shaped, the ears lean slightly forward, stand far from each other, and have rounded ends. Its eyes are large, almond-shaped or round. Their color is green or copper. Its whisker pads are fleshy. Its hind legs are longer than the front ones. The Bengal’s paws are round and relatively large. The tail is medium-long, with a rounded tip and very strong. Its fur is short or medium long, close to the body and shiny; the touch is silky and soft. The pattern of the coat can be speckled or spotted tabby. Its basic color is black, which turns reddish or brownish over time. Its paws are always black, as is the tip of its tail. The expected lifespan is 12-16 years.


The Bengal is a very active and highly intelligent cat. That makes it fun to live with, but sometimes challenging. Overall, a confident, chatty, friendly cat who is always alert. Nothing escapes his attention. He loves to play games, including fetch, and is also keen to learn tricks. His nimble paws are almost as good as his hands, and it’s a good thing he doesn’t have opposable thumbs, otherwise he’d probably rule the world. Bored Bengal cats may also adopt unusual (and somewhat destructive) habits, such as turning light switches on and off or rampaging through cupboards.

The Bengal will simply pull out the drawer to sleep in.

It is attached to its owner, but it does not particularly like to be hugged and petted. It is very independent and needs space. You have to let it take the initiative!

Ideal environment

The Bengal likes to play in the water, its skillful paws can endanger aquarium and lake fish. It also loves to climb and can often be found perched on the highest point of the home. A tall cat tree or two is a must for this kitty, as are puzzles to test its intelligence. On the rare occasions when it is not swinging from the chandeliers or swimming in the pool, the affectionate Bengal is happy to sit on your lap. If it is left alone at home for a few hours, it is not a problem for Bengal, as it is an independent cat. But it’s important to keep it busy, because a bored Bengal can cause quite a mess! Not recommended for novice cat owners.


The Bengal don’t shed much, but it still needs to be combed regularly to keep its fur and skin in perfect shape. It might even need a bath now and then if it gets dirty in some way. Fortunately, most individuals love water and bathing is not a problem for them.

Common health problems

The Bengal’s stomach is very sensitive, so it is not recommended to feed even a few bites of human food. It may have kidney problems, pyruvate kinase deficiency, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which is the most common form of heart disease in cats. It can also be affected by an eye disease called progressive retinal atrophy.

(Literature: Laura Aceti – Viola Autieri: Our best friend, the cat)

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