What is a Bengal Cat?

Bengal Cats are smart, curious, agile, playful and lovable animals. It is this special personality and behaviour, coupled with their wild visual appearance that makes the Bengal so desirable.

The typical Bengal cat is medium to large in size with a sturdy, muscular body. The males are slightly heavier and larger than the females. The head is relatively small, with large eyes, a broad nose with prominent whisker pads, and short rounded ears. The tail is medium in length, thick and carried low, balancing the overall look of the cat.

Bengal cats have a striking appearance that reminds us of a wild cat. However, the Bengal is not a wild cat! It is a domestic breed of cat created by selectively breeding the small (4.5kg), forest dwelling, wild Asian Leopard Cat (ALC), (felis bengalensis, indigenous to the jungles of Southeast Asia), with several domestic breeds. The domestic cats used in the cross included, among others, the Egyptian Mau, the Abyssinian, the Ocicat, the Burmese, and the Domestic Short Hair.

The objective of this cross-breeding was to combine the exotic leopard look of the wild ALC with the sweet disposition the much loved domestic cat. Therefore, the domestic Bengal cat does retain a strong physical resemblance to the beautiful, wild ALC together with the gentle sweetness of the common house cat.

The Bengal Cat is the only widely recognized breed with a background as a hybrid between the domestic cat and a wild cat species (i.e. the Felis Prionailurus, or theAsian Leopard Cat). This unusual background is the reason why Bengal breeders and owners of Bengal cats are often asked questions about the character and behaviour of the Bengals. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. 

How large does a Bengal get?

There seems to be an expectation, understandably, that the Bengal is a "Big Cat." It is easy to understand why most people might think this since the Bengal is descended from the Asian Leopard Cat. However, the Asian Leopard Cat should not be confused with the Leopard, which is a big cat often seen in movies, zoos, and wild animal parks. This is totally wrong. In fact, the Asian Leopard Cat is a small, long, and lean cat weighing about 4.5kg. It is a nocturnal, jungle dwelling animal built to climb trees and catch small prey. It is the domestic cat used in the cross that contributes the "heaviness."

The Bengal is much like any other domestic cat. They vary in length from about 38cm -51cm (15 to 20 inches), excluding the tail. Male Bengals can easily weigh up to 8kg, however about 5- 6kg is most common. The females are usually smaller and lighter, weighing about 1kg less than the male. In exceptional cases, male Bengals have been reported to attain a weight of 9 or more kg. I would not expect your new Bengal kitten to grow to that size.

Instead of being concerned about size, most responsible breeders are working toward creating a graceful, athletic cat with an exotic, wild look, a slinky jungle-like walk, a wonderful temperament and delightful personality.

Carminah ( Mina): brown/black spotted Bengal 76 30

What do Bengals look like?

The Bengal resembles a small, forest dwelling wild cat. It is medium to large in size, sleek and very muscular. Its hindquarters are slightly higher than its shoulders. The relatively short, thick, black tipped tail has a rounded tip. Bengals appear to walk right out of the jungle into your living room. They will go on the "prowl" with their tail held low, stalking their toys, other cats, or even other pet animals like a Leopard going for the kill. Of course, this is all in good fun and a natural instinct for the Bengal.


The coat of the Bengal is short to medium in length, thick, luxurious much like a pelt, and exceptionally soft to touch. Some often appear to be dusted with golden glitter that sparkles in the sunlight. The different coat patterns are either leopard spotted or marbled. The leopard spotted Bengals have a distinct wild appearance with brown or black spots on a background colour of golden brown, rust, orange, sand, buff or ivory.


Spirit: brown /black spotted Bengal 76 30

Shadow: Snow spotted Bengal 76a 20

Marbled Bengals have a distinguished swirl pattern reminiscent of a marble table-top. Snow Bengals (mink, sepia, or lynx point) may have a spotted or marbled pattern with a lighter, cream coloured background. The spotting or marbling pattern should always run horizontally, never a bulls eye or vertical pattern. Patterns should be well-defined with a clear background colour and strongly contrasting markings. The Bengal has a white underbelly with spots and the paw pads are black.

The Bengal has a wild and formidable looking head that has a modified-wedge shape, longer than it is wide and somewhat smaller in proportion to the body. The face has a distinctly non-domestic, feral expression with a large nose and prominent whisker pads and intense facial markings with black outlines on the mouth, nose, and eyes. The Bengal's ears are medium small, short, with a wide base and rounded tips. The ears are set as much on the side as the top of the head. The cat's eyes are large and oval in shape, though a slight almond shape is also allowed.

A long, thick, muscular neck which is large in proportion to the head joins the Bengal's head to its long, substantial body, which is characterized by heavy, robust bone and considerable muscle

Sonnet (Sonny): Marbled Bengal 76 20

What Is Glitter?

Only Bengals have Glitter:

Glitter is a highly desirable, translucent, sparkling effect of the cats coat unique to the Bengal. It would appear that some benevolent little fairy had sprinkled the Bengal's plush pelt with fairy dust resulting in a gold or silver sparkling effect. Actually, glitter is caused by a clear, hollow shaft of hair. It offers a shiny reflection in the coat as the light prisms into and back out. In appearance it resembles gold and copper metal flake of glitter that gives the cat it's shimmering, golden appearance in certain lights. Glitter is not mentioned in the breed standard and thus is not required in a Bengal, however it enhances their exotic quality.

What are Rosettes?

Rosettes are highly desirable coat markings consisting of a dark coloured ring around their spots creating a third colour. The Bengal inherits this unique rosette characteristic from their Asian Leopard Cat ancestors. They are also found in some other wild cat species including big cats such as the leopard and cheetah. A rosetted pattern is desirable (but not required), as they are not mentioned in the breed standard.

Another consideration in choosing a Bengal is that Bengals seem to be more easily tolerated by people suffering from allergies. It is a dried saliva protein that causes dander and allergic reactions in people.


The cats are not allergen-free but some find relief owning a Bengalcompared to other domestics.

What's a Bengal cat's personality like?

Well, you are probably wanting to know what qualities the Bengal has inherited from the its wild ancestors. Indeed, these qualities make the Bengal a very special domestic pet. Among these unique traits are Leopard like pelts instead of fur, acute hearing, great agility, keen vision, and, for many Bengals, a love of water. In order to survive, the Asian Leopard Cat demonstrates a great deal of intelligence, and this trait also survives in the Bengal.

The Bengal's wonderful temperament and personality is second only to their exotic, wild look. When carefully bred and socialized by their breeder, the Bengal kitten has a loving, outgoing personality, is affectionate, purrs enthusiastically, and is entertaining and playful. With a keen eye for sweet temperament and a beautiful, wild appearance, the undesirable traits including the instinctive suspicion of the wild cat has been bred out.

You can recognize the unique desirable differences compared to a common domestic. Gone are the days when you only see your cats when they wants food or attention. Bengal Cats and Kittenswant to be part of the family at all times and are very loyal pets. Their intelligence and ability to reason are uncanny. They can figure out what would be almost impossible tasks for a normal cat. The athletic abilities of these cats are a sight to behold.

Bengals, have a lot of personality and are just plain fun! Their antics will make you laugh. Although they are muscular, acrobatic and high-energy cats, they are NOT aggressive. They are quick, lively, active and incredibly curious about everything. The Bengal is confident, mischievous, likes to run, climb, loves heights, a tall cat tree is popular, but a Bengal will make do with an open door (not without danger), a tall bookshelf, or other tall piece of furniture. From this high position, it will survey the activities of the household and follow your every move. Once or twice a day your Bengal will break into song just to hear their own voice.

Bengals love children and other pets. In most respects, the Bengal behaves more like a dog than like a cat! It will follow its owner everywhere.  It enjoys helping with floor washing or doing the dishes and may even accompany its owner in the shower. It is curious and playful (many Bengals will entertain themselves for hours playing with a drinking straw) and it loves being cuddled when it has finished its chores. and all will sleep on ( Sonnet sleeps in the bed between the 2 of us)  the bed at night if allowed.


The Bengals' attitude towards running water is legendary. The fascination with water is seen in the Bengal behavior as the Asian Leopard Cat hunted for food in the water. Don't be surprised if your cat wants to take a bath with you or drink from the tap.  We brought our cats a water fountain as is got a bit too much when every time we turned the tap on, up jumped 6 cats all trying to get to the tap first.

Most  of my cats love playing with water and in the warm weather I usually provide them with a  large bowl of water to play in when they are in their outside run. They may even take a flying leap into the middle of your bubble bath or peek around the shower curtain before joining you under the waterfall. If you have pet fish - watch out! They may go fishing in the aquarium. However, we have a pond (with netting over) and several of our boys sit next to us when we are feeding the fish watching the fish eat. They never attack them, they are more interested in playing with the toads and frogs. In fact they will sit on the patio and watch for one to jump for ages and ages, it looks like they are staring into space and in a world of their own. However, they know exactly what they are doing. Smile


Some other surprising behaviour includes playing fetch. Some Bengals seem to take to the game of fetch naturally, while others can be easily trained. Just find their favourite toy and give it a toss. Keep up the game and you will be surprised how quickly they learn. Always reward them with a kind word and maybe a treat. It is quite amusing to watch Bengals use their paws like hands and jump to catch their toy in mid air. They often try and hide their toy from other pets by cradling it to their chests. Mina our queen is adept at stealing paper and gold chains. We find our post in cat beds and are often trying to find our jewellery when late for work. Another wonderful thing about Bengals is that they continue to play the games of young cats into their adulthood. How lucky we all are to have pets like these!

Bengals are also very boisterous cats and do not have the normal meow of a domestic cat. They tend to have an extensive vocabulary including a coo, chirrup, peep, bleat, growl, hiss and then almost a raspy bark. Because of this wide vocabulary you will find yourself conversing regularly with your Bengal.

Bengals genuinely crave affection and seek to establish a very genuine two-way relationship with their owners. Bengals are always eager for human companionship and approval, and get along well with small children and other animals. Although you may be allowed to hold your Bengal for a while, they prefer to sit on or near you at their own discretion. The typical Bengal will spend lots of happy time resting in your lap, or next to you in the recliner, just purring away.

Bengals require lots of human attention and exercise. If you are gone for 10-12 hours a day then it would not be a wise idea to add a Bengal Cat to your family. They will become bored and destructive if left alone for long periods. Being the athletes that they are, a high quality diet is of vital importance. 

Generally speaking, Bengal cats and kittens are active, energetic, intelligent, self assured, outgoing, friendly, affectionate and make wonderful household pets and great companions that interact well with children and other pets.


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