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Black (Melanistic) Bengal Cat Info: Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Black Melanistic Bengal Cat
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Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Sophie Jeffares

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The black (melanistic) Bengal cat is a beautiful creature, and while they are not as common as their tawny counterparts, they are certainly worth seeking out. These cats have a fascinating history and many interesting facts about them.

Bengals are known for their wild appearance, and the black Bengal is no exception. These cats have large rosettes on their fur, and their bodies are muscular and sleek. They are also known for being intelligent and active, which means they need plenty of stimulation and exercise.

Black Bengals occur from a genetic mutation that causes an overabundance of the dark pigment melanin. As a result, these cats have black fur with beautiful dark markings.

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The Earliest Records of Black (Melanistic) Bengal Cats in History

The Bengal cat is a hybrid created by crossing the Asian Leopard Cat with the domestic cat. The first Bengals were bred in the USA in the 1960s, and they have since become a popular choice for many cat lovers.

Little is known about when the first black Bengals were bred. Melanin mutations are a common occurrence in the animal kingdom, such is the case of the black panter. So, it is likely that black Bengals have been around for many years.

However, Bengals, in general, are a relatively newer breed, so melanistic Bengals are just starting to become established amongst breeders.

panter, melanistic cat
Image Credit: Pipsimv, Pixabay

How Black (Melanistic) Bengal Cats Gained Popularity

The Melanistic coat is rare due to the responsible genes being recessive.

Cast your mind back to high school biology and remember that recessive genes are only represented when both parents possess the correct alleles. Even then, the two alleles must match up, which is a statistical game (remember Punnett squares?)

Because of this delicate balance of genes, prospective owners should be aware of possible health issues from genetic inbreeding. Creating black Bengals does not necessarily mean it is inbred, but over generations, the genetic population may be scarce.

Today, black Bengals are still quite rare, but they are becoming more popular as people learn about them. These cats make great pets for those who are looking for an active and intelligent companion. They are also perfect for those who love the exotic look of a wild cat but don’t want the hassle of having to care for one.

Formal Recognition of Black (Melanistic) Bengal Cats

Black Bengals are not formally recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA). This association was founded in 1979 and is responsible for registering and governing hybrid and domestic cat breeds.

The colorations accepted by TICA include:

  • Brown tabby
  • Seal sepia tabby
  • Seal mink tabby
  • Seal lynx point
  • Black silver tabby
  • Seal silver sepia
  • Seal silver mink tabby
  • Spotted
  • Marbled
  • Charcoal spotted
  • Charcoal marbled

Amongst these recognized colors and patterns are certainly some darker colors. But they do not include completely melanistic cats; instead, it is more along the line of charcoal or smoke.

On the flip side, the Cat Fanciers Association does describe melanistic Bengals within their breed standards, so the jury’s still out!

Top 3 Unique Facts About Black (Melanistic) Bengal Cats

Ghost Markings

While the black Bengal’s coat is mostly solid black, they often have what is called “ghost markings.” These are pale markings that are only visible in certain lights or when the cat is wet.

These markings can take the form of stripes, spots, or rosettes. Ghost markings are usually more visible on the legs, belly, and face. Some black Bengals may have very faint markings, while others may have markings that are quite prominent.

Ghost markings in melanistic (black) Bengal cat vs regular black cat
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A Black Panther in Your Home

Black Bengals have often been described as looking like miniature panthers. This is not surprising given their wild appearance and sleek, muscular bodies.

These cats are very active and agile, and they love to play. They are also intelligent and curious, which means they need plenty of stimulation and exercise.

If you are looking for the closest thing to a pet wild cat, a black Bengal is a cat for you!

Costly Pet

Bengal is an expensive breed in general, but black Bengals are even more so. This is due to their rarity and the fact that they are not yet recognized by TICA.

If you are interested in owning a black Bengal, be prepared to pay upwards of $2,000 for a kitten. Prices will vary depending on the breeder, the cat’s parentage, and whether the cat is showing quality.

Does Black (Melanistic) Bengal Cat Make a Good Pet?

While they are not cheap, black Bengals make wonderful pets. They are active, intelligent, and loving companions that will keep you entertained for years to come.

If you’re thinking of getting a Bengal, it’s important to do your research first. Bengals can be high-maintenance pets, and they are not suitable for everyone. However, if you think you can handle their demands, a black Bengal cat could be the perfect choice for you.

It should be your top priority to find a reputable breeder. These cats are not cheap, and you want to make sure you are getting a healthy and well-adjusted kitten.

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Black Bengals are beautiful and exotic cats that make great pets for those who are willing to meet their needs. These cats require a lot of exercise, stimulation, and attention, but they will repay you with years of loving companionship.

If you think you can provide a black Bengal with the home it deserves, be prepared to fork out the moolah. These cats are not cheap, but they are definitely worth the investment.

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About the Author

Sophie Jeffares
Sophie Jeffares
With an early start in the veterinary industry and as a conservation educator at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, Sophie has since been a successful Zookeeper and Conservationist, specializing in native New Zealand species. When she’s not bird watching in native forests or crawling through the underbrush at midnight searching for rare frog species, she can be found with her farmer husband on their sheep and beef station, far from civilization. Alongside them, they have 2 cats, 9 chickens, and 11 dogs (most notably, her sidekick, a black Labrador aptly named Jellybean). Sophie enjoys her writing career as it provides opportunities to help and support pet owners of all kinds to give animals the best welfare possible. The only downside is the long list of strange searches in her internet history!

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