The first time you see a Bengal cat roaming through your house, you might think a jungle cat has broken in. That’s because this spectacular breed sports a spotted or marbled coat that looks a lot like a wild leopard or ocelot. But the Bengal is anything but wild, and has a loving, affectionate personality. While Bengals were developed by breeding domestic felines to an Asian leopard cat, their wild natures have long been abandoned.
Bengal cats were first accepted as a breed in 1983, and since then this handsome cat has skyrocketed in popularity. Like some other hybrid breeds, such as the Savannah cat, Bengal cats are classified by how many generations they are removed from their original wild parent. The kitten of the Asian leopard is called an F1. And every following generation gets a numerical designation such as F2, F3, F4, etc. To be considered a truly domestic cat, a Bengal must be at least an F4.
Before you buy a Bengal cat or kitten, be sure to check with your state and local governments; they are banned in some locations, including Hawaii and New York City. Bengals may also have restrictions if they belong to an F1–F3 generation.
Bengal cats are a lithe and agile breed and generally weigh between 8–15 pounds. They’re prized for their dense, short coats that are boldly patterned in different shades of brown, silver, and snow. Their fur is super soft to the touch, feeling a bit like bunny hair. The most common eye colors found in Bengal cats are brown, yellow, orange, and green.
A Bengal cat’s coat is what sets him apart from all other felines. In fact, Bengals are the only breed that can have rosette markings that directly reflect their wild Asian leopard ancestry. Spotted or marbled coats are also popular and just as gorgeous. Because their fur is so short, they only require a weekly brushing to remove loose hair and dead skin cells.
Although Bengal cats weigh about the same as a typical house cat, they’re generally larger in size because of their long, muscular bodies. And their lengthy legs make them excellent jumpers, so don’t be surprised if you find your Bengal staring down at you from shelves and countertops.
Despite how wild a Bengal looks on the outside, he’s soft and sweet on the inside. These affectionate cats are gregarious, although they might christen a particular family member as their favorite. Bengals do great with children, other cats, and with family dogs. The key, however, is early socialization and exposure to household members at a young age. If you try to introduce a new pet to older Bengals already set in their ways, you might have a challenge on your hands.