The Bengal cat is known for its soft, sleek coat which has two main fur patterns: spotted (which is most common) and marbled. Both patterns are often tri-coloured, giving each cat unique markings and patterns. This tri-colouring gives some Bengals spots which have a darker outline, often like the spots on a Jaguar. Both spotted and marbled Bengals are available in a variety of colours, the most common of which are brown, snow, silver and blue, though chocolate, charcoal and cinnamon have become more popular in recent times.
It is desirable for Bengals to have white (or light) tummies similar to wild cats. Their eyes are usually green or gold but can also be blue.
Male Bengals are usually between 4.5 and 7 kg while females are generally 3.5 – 5.5 kg, however it is not uncommon for Bengals to be bigger or smaller.
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Because of their wild roots, some assume Bengals will be difficult to tame and handle, but in fact owners say it is easily tamed. The Bengal is not a lap cat but it is affectionate and enjoys human company, especially children. They are very energetic and love to play games and hunt, a trait it has retained from its wild ancestors.
It has also retained the Asian Leopard Cat’s fishing ability, mostly in the form of a love of swimming, taking a bath or playing in the sink.
Bengals are high-energy cats and require lots of play time to keep their mind and body occupied. They have been known to jump very high, so make sure you keep valuables somewhere safe.
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Bengals are not named after the Bengal tiger as you may think, but rather the Latin name for the Asian Leopard Cat (“Prionailurus bengalensis”). This is because the Asian Leopard Cat was one of the ancestors of the Bengal cat, crossed with domestic shorthairs by an American breeder called Jean Mill. The resulting spotted female was bred again and produced a litter of both spotted and solid kittens.
In the 1970s, Dr. Willard Centerwall from Loyola University was breeding Asian Leopard Cats with domestic cats in order to see if the Leopard Cat’s feline leukaemia immunity could be passed on to hybrid offspring.
Jean Mill acquired some of Centerwall’s kittens and bred them with an orange Indian domestic shorthair and a brown spotted tabby. The resulting litter served as the foundation of the modern Bengal cat.
Bengals, although a domestic breed, should be at least four generations away from a wild ancestor.
The Bengal was first recognised by the International Cat Association in 1983 as an experimental breed, then full recognition in 1991.
Bengal Rescue Australia: http://www.bengalrescue.com.au/Bengal_Rescue_Australia/Home.html