Image of Bengal cat in front of beige background

Key takeaway

Bengal cats are most known for their beautiful spotted coat, but they're highly active and inquisitive cats that are independent and friendly. Bengals need tons of enrichment to prevent boredom, but they make great cats for experienced and dedicated owners.

Bengal cats are some of the most recognizable for their beautiful spotted coats and wild cat appearance. Despite their appearance, they are domesticated cats that can be affectionate and loving to their human companions while also prone to independence and playful behavior. This article will discuss Bengal cats to help you learn more about the breed and decide whether one is right for you and your home.

History & Origin Of Bengal Cats

Bengals are modern cats that were created about thirty years ago. They're a cross between an Asian Leopard cat and a domestic tabby cat or another short-haired breed. Bengal cats were bred to create a sweet, domesticated cat that had the beautiful coat of a wild cat, like a small leopard people could have in their homes.

Bengal cats are a hybrid that looks similar to your everyday domestic cat, but they have more pronounced whiskers, longer legs, and leopard-like markings. The Bengal cat breeding program began in the 1960s after researchers discovered Asian Leopard cats’ resistance to feline leukemia virus (FLV). The discovery, in combination with aesthetic appeal, inspired breeders to cross Asian Leopard cats with domestic breeds to create the first Bengal cat.1

Even though Bengals do have some wild cat in their DNA, the further they are away from their original heritage, the more sweet and domestic they become. Most Bengal cats in homes today are at least four generations to ensure that they are more mild-mannered than the original Bengal cat, which had a similar disposition to a leopard.

Bengal cat coat patterns

Physical Attributes

Bengal cats are most known for their unique leopard-like coats, but many people don't consider their size. Bengal cats are medium to large, but they're not the largest domestic cat breed. They range from eight to 15 pounds and 13 to 16 inches tall.

Because Bengals were originally bred from wild cats, they are muscular, especially males. Bengal cats have long heads that are slightly small compared to the rest of their bodies. However, they are shaped very much like regular domestic cats.

The Bengal cat's ears are relatively short and have rounded tops with a wide base. Their ears are perfectly set between the side and top of their heads, contouring their face and pointing forward.

Bengal cat eyes are oval to round and large. They're wide-set, and eye color depends on the coat color. Meanwhile, the legs and paws of a Bengal cat resemble any other domestic cat with medium-length legs that are longer in the back. Bengals are known for their large round feet.

This breed typically has a longer tail than the average domestic cat with a rounded tip. The coat is what makes Bengals truly special, though. Bengal coats are short to medium in length and luxurious while soft to the touch. Most Bengal cat coats are spotted or marbled with rosettes in two different shades. However, Bengals can have different types of rosette shapes, including:

  • Pawprint
  • Donut
  • Arrowhead
  • Cluster
  • Clouded

Bengal cats typically have a spotted belly. The coat of a Bengal cat comes in a variety of colors, ranging from gold to rust-brown and even ivory. Their spots also vary in color, typically making them very distinct from the base coat.

Common behaviors of bengal cats

Behavioral Characteristics

Bengal cats are highly active with a friendly personality. Unlike most domestic cats, Bengals like water, so they may spend time near running faucets, toilets, and showers. In the case of indoor vs. outdoor cats, Bengals are either. While they can be happy inside, they still have strong hunting instincts, so some cat owners allow them to play in the yard to burn off some of their excess energy.

A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that the most frequent behaviors in Bengal cats were2:

  • Climbing
  • Vocalizing
  • Playing with water
  • Hunting

The same study recorded that pet parents did not find any of these behaviors to be a problem. However, problematic behaviors reported by Bengal owners included2:

  • Destructive behaviors
  • Pica
  • Aggression towards other animals
  • Urination outside the litter box

Some of these issues may indicate problems within the home, such as not enough entertainment for an active Bengal cat living indoors. However, Bengals generally adapt well to indoor environments as long as they have plenty of interactive cat toys and activities for entertainment.

Additionally, Bengals are more vocal than your average housecat, so you can expect them to talk to you all day long. They make meow sounds while also cooing and grunting. If you want a chatty cat who can hold a conversation, Bengals might be the right cat for you.

Care & Health

Bengal cats are best for experienced cat owners because of their unique personalities and need for high engagement. However, they require no specialized care based on their leopard heritage. Instead, you can treat them as larger house cats that are slightly more active. Of course, you should groom your cat weekly to prevent hairballs and shedding, and they should also have a scratching post so they can maintain their nails. Additionally, all cats, including Bengal cats, prefer a clean litter box.

Because Bengal cats are so active, they should have tons of stuff to do when you're not around. Studies indicate that most Bengals like to climb, so it's a good idea to have a few climbing trees around the home to allow them to burn some excess energy and have a place to perch. Additionally, Bengals need interactive toys to keep them engaged and prevent destructive behavior. They should also receive attention since they're loving and enjoy talking.

One thing that sets the Bengal personality apart from other cats is their love of water, so if you have fish, it's best to keep the fish tank away from your cat. Bengals can get along with other animals, such as other cats or dogs. However, they may not be fond of your rodent pets, so it's best to keep gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs away from them since Bengals will hunt them.

Currently, there are no known inherited health defects common in Bengal cats, but they could have a higher prevalence of a heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.3

Diet

Even though Bengal cats are bred from leopards, they can still eat regular cat food. It's always best to feed your Bengal high-quality food that has meat protein listed as a top ingredient. If you're not sure what to feed your Bengal, you can always talk to your vet about the best diet for a highly active cat.

When it comes to choosing your cat's food, you have the option of dry or wet food. Most experienced cat owners will opt to feed their cats wet food for meal times and dry food throughout the day. Dry food can help remove tartar buildup on your cat's teeth, while wet food is more enjoyable for cats because it promotes hydration and features the stinky, juicy meat cats love.

Additionally, you should ensure your Bengal is getting enough water, especially since they're more active. You may find you're filling up your Bengal cat's water bowl more often than any of your other cats' because they're burning more energy. Remember, Bengal cats love water, so you can expect them to play with it while they drink it.

Even though Bengals are lean and muscular, they can still be overfed, just like any cat. It's important to monitor your cat's weight to prevent obesity or diabetes. Your vet can help you determine how much to feed your Bengal cat to ensure they're healthy.

Bengal Cats: Frequently Asked Questions

Are Bengal cats good house pets?

Bengal cats are smart, highly energetic cats that enjoy playing. They can be a good family pet if you're ready to take on the additional responsibility of ensuring your Bengal has enough to do, including climbing and playing. Bengals are vocal and can bond well with other pets.

Some owners say their Bengal is territorial and require tons of attention, or else they'll become destructive. Ultimately, you don't know a cat's personality until you meet them, so you should be prepared for any type of behavior and ready to take on the additional responsibility of Bengal pet ownership.

What is so special about Bengal cats?

Bengal cats are most known for their unique coats, but they're also incredibly intelligent. Because Bengals are related to leopards, they are great hunters and are very energetic.

Do Bengal cats make good indoor cats?

Bengal cats can thrive indoors as long as it has plenty of enrichment activities, such as climbing trees and interactive toys. Because they're highly energetic, they might also require more attention than the average domestic cat. Indoor Bengal cats need tons of play and care to prevent destructive behavior.

Are Bengal cats high maintenance?

Bengals can be considered high-maintenance pets because they need tons of mental stimulation and exercise. Ultimately, they're very energetic, so pet parents must find a way to channel that energy so that it doesn't become destructive.

Owner’s hand petting Bengal cat

Final Notes

Bengal cats can make great pets. Not only are they beautiful, but their fun and inquisitive nature make them a joy in any household. Of course, your Bengal cat should get enough mental stimulation and physical exercise to be happy and prevent destructive behavior. Bengal cats are a lot like your average domestic cat; they enjoy spending time with their owners and playing.

Of course, proper nutrition is essential for Bengal cats, who have tons of energy to burn. If you're not sure what to feed your cat or how much, consult a Dutch veterinarian. Dutch offers telemedicine for pets that can help you learn more about how to take care of your Bengal while offering the ability to get cat medicine online from the comfort of your own home. With a Dutch veterinarian, you can ensure your Bengal cat lives a happy and healthy life.

References

  1. Barrington, Kate. “A Detailed History of the Bengal Cat Breed.” Bengal Cat Lovers Blog | Bengalcats.co, 26 Mar. 2021, https://bengalcats.co/history-of-the-bengal-cat-breed/.

  2. Martinez-Caja, Ana Martos, et al. “Behavior and Health Issues in Bengal Cats as Perceived by Their Owners: A Descriptive Study.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Elsevier, 21 Oct. 2020, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1558787820301428.

  3. Longeri, M, et al. “Myosin-Binding Protein C DNA Variants in Domestic Cats (A31p, A74T, R820W) and Their Association with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 17 Jan. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3602388/.