Breed Profiles
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Get to Know the Bengal: The Cuddly Kitty With Wildcat Ancestry

This striking breed was recognized in the 1980s but has become one of the most popular cats. 

Michael Leaverton  |  May 18th 2016


When you see a Bengal for the first time, you might think a wildcat has wandered out of the forest. With his distinctive leopard-like rosettes, the Bengal is one of the most unusual-looking cats, but that’s not all that sets him apart from other breeds. He’s also highly active and loves playing games. Some believe Bengals are the most dog-like of all cats. And they love water! He’ll not only stand outside your shower wondering what you’re up to in there, he might hop in and join you.

Via Shutterstock.

Bengal photo via Shutterstock

More interesting things about the Bengal

  • The Bengal is the only domestic cat breed that has rosettes, like the markings on leopards, jaguars, and ocelots.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Bengals are not wild kitties any longer. While they do have their origins in non-domestic wildcats, today’s Bengals are bred from Bengal to Bengal.
  • The breed was developed by Jean S. Mill, who crossed an Asian leopard cat with a domestic cat in 1963 to create a friendly kitty with a wild look. The modern Bengal comes from cats bred by Mill in the 1980s.
  • Bengals are highly active, confident, curious, and they love to play games — and they stay that way well into senior-cat status.
  • Bengals are also noted for learning tricks such as fetch and are ideal for clicker-training. They also like to find the highest perch in your home.
  • Bengals are devoted cats and like to be close to their owners, but generally they are not lap cats unless it’s on their terms.

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  • Many Bengals also love water, even taking dips in swimming pools or joining their owners in the shower.
  • Bengals are one of the more talkative kitties, issuing a panoply of sounds, including chirps, chortles, squeaks, and howls.
  • The Bengal’s large, almond-shaped eyes usually have a piercing wildcat expression, which is highlighted by a wide nose with substantial whisker pads. The wildcat look is enhanced by the cat’s “stalking” gait, which happens because the breed’s hind legs are slightly longer than the front legs.
  • Bengals come in two basic patterns — marbled and spotted/rosetted — and a variety of colors, the most common being a brown/black tabby coloring.
  • Bengals are sleek, medium-to-large cats, from six to 15 pounds, with males larger than females, and they are well-muscled.
  • The fur of the Bengal is very soft, nearly rabbit-like in its plushness. Some Bengals have “glitter” fur, which gives an iridescent sheen to each hair.

  • The Bengal’s name comes from the name of the leopard cat, Prionailurus bengalensis.
  • The Bengal was accepted as a new breed in the International Cat Association in 1986; in 1991, it gained championship status, and it is now one of the group’s most frequently exhibited breeds.