Bengal cats are beautiful, wild-looking, and smart cats. This hybrid cat breed is growing in popularity due to its pattern and personality, and it stays about the same size as a large domestic house cat. They were developed by breeding an Asian leopard cat (Felis bengalensis) with domestic cats like the Abyssinian, Egyptian Mau, or American shorthair.
Personality: Affectionate, energetic, animated
Weight: Up to 20 pounds but generally about 12 pounds
Length: Up to 18 inches
Coat Length: Short hair, Long hair (variant)
Coat Colors: Brown tabby, seal sepia tabby, seal mink tabby, seal lynx point, black silver tabby, seal silver sepia tabby, seal silver mink tabby, and seal silver lynx point
Coat Patterns: Spotted or marbled
Eye Color: Green or gold
Lifespan: Up to 15 years
Origin: United States
Click Play to Learn More About the Beautiful Bengal Cat
Characteristics of the Bengal Cat
Although the Bengal cat is wonderfully wild-looking, it doesn't usually grow much bigger than a hunky house cat (about 12 pounds) and is full-grown in about a year. This cat has a personality that is as appealing as its appearance. The Bengal is affectionate, playful, and can get along with people of all ages as well as other pets. It is an energetic cat and likes room to play.
|Tendency to Vocalize||Medium|
|Amount of Shedding||Medium|
History of the Bengal Cat
While there were previous attempts at breeding African leopard cats and domestic cats, the Bengal cat hybrid is credited to Jean Sudgen Mill in the 1970s. She acquired hybrids from Dr. Willard Centerwall who was breeding them at Loyola University to study their genetics. She bred the hybrids with domestic cats to produce a breed that had the personality of a domestic cat and an exotic look. Greg and Elizabeth Kent crossed African leopard cats with Egyptian Maus to develop a line of Bengal cats as well.
Hybrids are denoted by the generations they are away from their wild ancestry, with F1 denoting the first generation, which has one African leopard cat (ALC) parent. F2 has one ALC grandparent, and F3 has one ALC great-grandparent. It is thought that by F3 the cats have the temperaments of domestic cats. To be shown, the International Cat Association (TICA) accepts only cats of F4 or more generations removed from having an ALC ancestor. Today, most Bengal cats are bred from other Bengal cats.
Bengal cats were first recognized as an experimental breed by TICA in 1983 and received full recognition in 1993. The Bengal cat gained breed recognition by the Cat Fancier's Association in 2016. They are also recognized for registration by the American Cat Fanciers Association, the Canadian Cat Association, the United Feline Organizations, and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.
Bengal Cat Care
As most Bengal cats today are several generations removed from the African leopard cat, they require no special care. They are simply large house cats. You can groom your cat weekly to remove dead hair and help prevent hairballs. Trim your cat's nails every couple of weeks, and make sure your cat's litter box is clean daily.
Bengal cats are active and like to jump, so you should provide a climbing tree and opportunities for your cat to find a perch to survey the room. Provide interactive toys to engage your cat. Spend time playing together; you can train your cat to fetch and catch the laser dot.
Bengal cats love water, a trait that most house cats do not possess. You may have to be careful that your aquarium does not become a fishing pond. You might even offer a small backyard pool for water play if your yard is secure enough to prevent escape.
As with any cat, a Bengal cat is best kept as an indoors-only cat. That protects them from catching diseases from other animals, getting into fights, being attacked by predators, or being hit by vehicles.
Common Health Problems
Your Bengal cat will need all of the same immunizations and preventative health treatments as a domestic cat. They are not immune to feline leukemia virus (FeLV) like their ALC ancestor. Purebred cat breeds are more prone to genetic diseases than mixed-breed domestic cats because their gene pool is smaller.
Some of the conditions Bengals can be prone to include:
- Autosomal recessive disorder, which causes early blindness in young cats
- Entropion (the rolling in of the eyelids)
- Feline infectious peritonitis, a deadly disease that results from infection by the coronavirus
Bengals are best-loved for their wild-looking markings. Rosettes, marbling, spots, and stripes make up the leopard patterns that varying Bengals display, but their official markings are only spotted or marbled. The patterns are always outlined in black, chocolate, or grey/silver.
The coat colors are called brown tabby (most common), seal sepia tabby, seal mink tabby, seal lynx point, black silver tabby, seal silver sepia tabby, seal silver mink tabby, and seal silver lynx point. All shades of brown to black make up the markings and the brown tabbies typically have white background fur on their whisker pads, chin, chest, abdomen, and inner legs.
Most Bengals are short-haired, but there is a long-haired variant. They are not considered hypoallergenic. Their eyes are green or gold.
Bengals are large, muscular cats with long faces and large ears.
Diet and Nutrition
Bengals eat what other house cats eat—cat food. But, this generalization can be tricky. Many owners prefer to feed a grain-free diet or raw diet to their Bengals, especially if they are within the first three generations. For most Bengal owners, purchasing a formulated, grain-free diet is the most practical way to feed their cats.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Bengal Cat
You may be able to find a pure-breed Bengal cat through a breeder in your area, but if you would rather adopt from a rescue organization, check out:
Bengal Cat Overview
Bengal cats make perfect pets for families looking for unusual, affectionate playmates that aren't too wild. They are big, sturdy cats that enjoy jumping and climbing, so cat trees (and patience) are a must. Bengals can accept some alone time, but they enjoy interacting with their humans and will demand attention when they want it.
Beautifully exotic, wild-looking cats
Fun and affectionate
Get along with other cats or dogs
Might "fish" for aquarium inhabitants
Demands a lot of attention
Prone to eye conditions and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
More Cat Breeds and Further Research
If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:
Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breed profiles.
Are Bengal cats legal to own?
Most late-generation Bengal cats are legal to own without a permit. Check your local laws before purchasing one, and make sure you have documentation of generational status.
Are Bengal cats good pets for families?
Bengal cats are much tamer than their wild ancestors and relatives; they make fun, engaging house cats for families.
How much do Bengal cats cost?
Bengal cats generally cost between $1,500 and $3,000 from reputable breeders.
Ofri, Ron et al. Characterization of an Early-Onset, Autosomal Recessive, Progressive Retinal Degeneration in Bengal Cats. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science vol. 56,9 (2015): 5299-308. doi:10.1167/iovs.15-16585
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). Merck Veterinary Manual.