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Getting to know the Bengal cat

If you’re looking for an intelligent, active cat that loves to play and doesn’t require extensive grooming, you may want to consider the Bengal—a striking animal that resembles a miniature leopard!

The Bengal’s History

The Bengal’s breed origin dates to the 1950s, when Asian leopard cats could be purchased as domestic pets. The Bengal was developed by cross-breeding of these leopard cats with domestic shorthairs. Pioneers of the Bengal included California breeder Jean Mill and Loyola Professor Dr. Willard Centerwall, who successfully bred the animals in the 1960s. The International Cat Association recognized the Bengal as an official breed in 1991.

Breed Characteristics of the Bengal

The most striking characteristic of the Bengal is its coat—a bold mix of leopard spots (on the back, sides, and flanks) and tabby stripes (on the head, chest, legs, and tail). This distinctive mixed pattern is unique to the Bengal and gives it a leopard-like appearance.

Typical Bengals weigh between 8 and 15 pounds and have a lifespan that averages between 14 and 16 years. Bengals are a short-haired breed and are light shedders—so a regular brushing is all that’s needed to prevent your home from being overwhelmed by tumbleweeds of cat fur.

Bengal’s Personality

Bengals are intelligent problem-solvers who enjoy human company. They are active and talkative, and some can be taught to play games like fetch. Their clever nature can get them into trouble too. Some Bengals have even learned how to operate light switches, pull drain plugs, and even remove DVDs from their players.

Bengals are also active climbers who enjoy watching over their kingdoms from a high perch. If you’re considering a Bengal as a pet, you might want to include a cat tree in your budget. Unlike many cats, the Bengal enjoys playing in water, whether it’s a trickle from your kitchen spigot or a kiddie pool in the back yard. Bengals are gregarious and adventurous, but like most cats they enjoy some cuddle time too.

Care & Grooming for Your Bengal

As cat breeds go, Bengals are fairly low-maintenance and require about the same amount of care as a domestic shorthair. Regular brushing, wiping of the eyes and ears with a damp cloth, and nail trimming are all recommended. Bengals can be fairly picky about the cleanliness of their litter pans, so regular (twice weekly) litter changes can reduce the risk that your Bengal will seek other toileting options.

Bengal Socialization

The Bengal is a social cat breed that enjoys human company. They are known to get along well with children and with other household pets (yes, even dogs). Bengals do have a strong hunting instinct, so any small pets (rodents, birds, lizards, etc.) should be kept where your Bengal can’t reach them.

Health Problems in Bengals

Although Bengals are generally healthy, they, like many purebreds, are vulnerable to certain health conditions. A nerve condition called distal neuropathy results in weakness and decreased mobility has been seen in Bengals as young as one year old, though many recover spontaneously on their own. Bengals are also at risk for flat-chested kitten syndrome. This deformity, characterized by partial compression of the chest, is visible at birth, but those that survive to adulthood usually bear no sign of the deformity.

Bengals are also prone to hip dysplasia, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a form of heart failure), patellar luxation (a deformity of the knee), and progressive retinal atrophy (an eye disease characterized by degradation of the retina).


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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