Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the November/December 2015 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
Bengals and other domestic hybrid-derived cats are beautiful, active, and intelligent, says our Ask a Behaviorist columnist Marilyn Krieger, and they make affectionate companions. According to The International Cat Association, the world’s largest registry of pedigreed cats, Bengals are one of the most popular cat breeds. Many Bengals enjoy the company of other resident animals as well as humans. Here’s more on these fabulous cats.
Given the Bengal’s distinct heritage, it is the only domestic cat breed that can be found with the type of rosette markings typically seen dotting the lush coats of its true wild counterparts — ocelots, leopards, and jaguars. The rosettes appear as vivid cocoa, chocolate brown, rust, black, or charcoal spots or marbling resting on a contrasting background, such as buff, golden, sand, ivory, rust, brown, or orange.
Although the Bengal is most frequently seen in the brown tabby pattern and occasionally in the marbled brown tabby pattern, it is a breed all its own — complete with a one-of-a-kind personality that serves as a throwback to its wild blood.
The first Bengal appeared in 1963 quite by accident. Jean S. Mill, a California breeder, crossed an Asian leopard cat and a black Domestic Shorthair. She began working to develop a domestic cat with the easygoing, loving nature of a tabby and the exotic looks
of a leopard. By 1986, she had accomplished her goal: The Bengal was accepted as a breed by the International Cat Association, quickly earning championship status.
Many Bengals enjoy playing in water — whether it’s taking showers or baths, playing in the sink, or swimming alongside their humans. And trust us when we say that Bengals will find their own source (such as your fish tank) if you don’t provide them a water outlet.
If the Feline Olympics were a thing (and it totally should be), the Bengal would take gold in everything. Bengals are athletes through and through, being highly active and nearly always on the move. Toss a ball, and the Bengal will chase it down and bring it back. Going for a run? Strap a leash and harness on a Bengal, and he’ll accompany you. There’s not many physical challenges the Bengal will shy away from.
You would think that being a hybrid of a leopard would make the Bengal huge and ferocious. But not in this case. The Asian leopard cat is a small wild cat weighing between five and 12 pounds. It’s also a shy, timid creature. The Bengal, on the other hand, is wildly outgoing and one of the larger domestic breeds in the cat world, ranging from, on average, eight to 15 pounds.
Bengals are now considered to be a part of the domestic cat class; however, if you’re considering adding one to your family, the cat should be a minimum of four generations removed from wild bloodlines.
You know how members of Twilight’s Cullen clan have that luminescent shimmering effect when they stand in direct sunlight? Some Bengals have similar iridescence all the time, and there’s a name for it: glittering. Glittering casts a luminous, iridescent sheen over the Bengal’s fur, making it look as if the coat has been dusted with pearl or gold glitter. How’s that for magic?
Bengals are highly intelligent creatures and adore anything that gets their brains working. Puzzle games are a huge draw for them, but they can also be trained to do tricks by using the clicker method.
You thought they were a unicorn-esque myth, right? Yet Snow Bengals can, and do, exist (and they’re spectacular).
So what sets a standard Bengal apart from a Snow Bengal? Color. Bengals with cream or pale white bodies and seal lynx, seal mink, or seal sepia color markings are classified as Snow Bengals.
On a scale of 1-10, just how family-friendly are Bengals? Easy — 11. Bengals are high energy, and love to play games, making them great companions for kids. They thrive on human companionship, but they’re not lap cats — sitting still isn’t really their thing. Be prepared to shower them with attention — on their terms.
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About the author: Writer and blogger Erika Sorocco has written about small mammals and cats for 10 years. A former freelance music writerfor The Californian newspaper, Erika currently fuses her love for felines and fashion together in the blog Cat Eyes & Skinny Jeans, where she waxes poetic about her favorite makeup look (cat eyes, of course) and love for cozy knit sweaters (which she unwillingly shares with her cats Minky and Gypsy). Follow Erika on Twitter at @cateyesskinnies.