Date updated: 12 01 2018
Few cats can light up a room like a Bengal. Let’s face it, when you look like a mini- leopard, you’re destined to turn heads wherever you go. But there’s more to a Bengal than just a beautiful coat. These moggies are super friendly, playful and loyal, and make the purr-fect family pet.
Right at the top of the list of the UK’s favourite cat breeds, you’ll find the Bengal rubbing shoulders with the British Shorthair. So it’s amazing to think that just a few decades ago, the breed didn’t even exist.
Originating in the States, the people behind the Bengal took the Asian Leopard Cat as a starting point and crossed it with domestic tabbies. Thanks to some selective breeding, the result was a success: a wild and exotic appearance, but with all the personality traits you could wish for in a new member of the family.
Average lifespan: 12-16 years
Weight: females 3.5 - 4.5 kg; males 4.5 - 6.5 kg
Height: females 80 - 90 cm; males 90 - 110 cm.
Colouring: Breed standard background colours are brown, silver and snow - with that distinctive spotted or marble pattern on top.
Grooming requirements: low maintenance
Average purchase cost: Can be anything from £400 to over £1500!
Bet you didn’t know...
- Bengals can be easily mistaken for their bigger cousins. A few years ago, footage of what looked like a lynx or jaguar sparked alarm in the village of Great Alne, Warwickshire. Remember that? Well, it turned out that the mystery “big cat” was a pet Bengal called Hiro.
- They actually enjoy water. Instead of going into hiding the second they hear the tap is turned on, Bengals are happy to jump right in. Their not-so-distant ancestors would fish for food in the wild. So be warned, if you’ve got an aquarium: make sure it’s Bengal-proofed!
- They love stealing and hiding stuff. If something catches their eye (like your house keys or jewellery), a Bengal will steal it, bury it and come back for it later!
- Only the females produced directly from an Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) and a domestic cat are fertile. When you look at Bengal kittens for sale, you’ll probably see a filial number (e.g. F3 or F4). So an F1 Bengal was the result of crossing an ALC with a domestic mum. After that, ‘F’ females are bred with domestic males. An F4 Bengal is basically four generations away from their wildcat ancestor.
- Kourtney Kardashian, Liz Hurley and Kristen Stewart are all Bengal fans.
Anyone looking for a smart, energetic new furry member of the family. These smart, playful moggies need to be kept busy, and love lots of human company. After running around all day, Bengals are happy to snuggle on the sofa - but they’re definitely not a lap cat. Bengals can be kept as indoor pets, but just make sure there are plenty of interactive toys and things to do to keep mind and body busy.
If children and cat-friendly dogs treat them with respect, a Bengal loves making new friends. As with all types of cat, make sure you introduce other pets gradually and in a controlled way. Bear in mind that Bengals have a high prey drive - and should definitely not be trusted with rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and other small animals!
Behaviour and temperament...
A Bengal loves to be in an environment where there’s lots going on. So if there’s someone around (two or four-legged) to keep them entertained, that’s when your buddy’s happiest.
There’s a flipside to this: Bengals can get depressed if you leave them alone for long periods. If the house is human-free all day, it’s definitely worth thinking about having more than one cat - so there’s always someone to play with.
Bengals love being up high: so they’ll usually be up on top of your cupboards and worktops to get a good look at what’s going on. And don’t be surprised to find them in the shower or garden pond!
A short, close-lying coat makes it super easy to keep a Bengal looking fresh. Most of the year, a weekly brush is all it takes. Shedding happens most in Spring and Autumn, so you’ll probably need to brush more often at these times of year.
Around once a week, a Bengal’s ears should be checked. Wipe away any dirt with a vet-approved cleanser. Redness and waxy discharge are signs of infection, so if you see it, arrange to have your buddy checked over by the vet.
Bengals are smart, curious and natural hunters. If you try to make a secure outdoor space for your buddy to play in, you’ll have your work cut out keeping them in there! So if you live near a busy road, an indoor lifestyle is probably the safest option.
This is a big, muscular cat. To keep them that way, follow the advice of your vet when it comes to feeding. Usually it’s a case of carefully measured portions of good quality cat feed a few times a day. The occasional treat is fine, but making sure your buddy eats healthily and stays trim is one of the best things you can do to give them a happy, healthy life.
Common health issues to watch out for...
- Not technically a health issue, but a Bengal cat is expensive and desirable, so watch out for thieves. Microchipping is one of the best ways to increase your chances of a happy reunion if your Bengal goes missing.
- Bengals are prone to Flat Chested Kitten Syndrome. It’s a genetic condition characterised by a flat rib cage and deformed chest - often with splayed legs. Other signs include trouble putting on weight, coughing, chest infections and difficulty breathing. Many kittens diagnosed with it when they’re tiny and go on to live normal lives, but advice from the vet is needed to work out the best course of action and treatment.
- Cataracts can occur in Bengal Cats. It’s where the eye lens gradually loses its transparency, leading to increasingly worsening blurred vision. The only way to remove them is surgery.
- Patellar Luxation can be a problem with Bengals. It’s where a knee cap slips out of its joint - often causing a “bunny hop” type walk or sudden lameness. It’s usually diagnosed with an X-ray, followed by corrective surgery. Expensive - but vital!
- With a big, active cat comes the risk of bumps and knocks. A mis-timed pounce or ill-judged jump (or landing on something nasty) is often all that’s needed for a traumatic injury.