Meet the Breed – Bengals

With the recent Calgary Cat Association Cat Show, we thought it would be fun to spotlight some of the purebred cats we have the pleasure of seeing here at Killarney Cat Hospital.  Picking the first one is always difficult, but in conjunction with our behaviour focus and Dr. Lennox’s blog on cat wheels, the Bengal Cat seemed to be a perfect choice!

Bengal Cats were created by crossing Asian Leopard cats with domestic house cats until after 4 generations a more docile temperament was achieved.  Though those who own them, and us vets who work with them, know they can be much more ‘wild’ at the vet than your typical tabby!  The earliest mention of a cross between the Asian Leopard cat and a domestic cat seems to come from 1889, but the start of the breed is generally recognized as being around the 1970’s.

While Bengals now come in many colours, the breed standard still calls for them to have a spotted appearance on their body with strips on their face and legs.  The belly is often a lighter colour, and their eyes should be outlined in ‘mascara’.  Males will weigh in between 10 and 15 pounds while females are lighter at 8 to 12 pounds.  They are always shorthaired and shed very little.

Most ‘pet’ Bengals will be the fourth generation away from the original wildcat origin and are called F4.  Some breeders still use earlier generations to maintain the general appearance of the breed, but these cats as a general rule are not well suited for the typical house – they are truly more ‘wild’.

While they are described as making good pets, we do always counsel clients who want one or have just obtained a Bengal, that they require a lot more stimulation than your typical house cat.  Bengals are extremely high energy and highly intelligent.  If you do not keep your Bengal exercised and stimulated they will develop habits that are destructive to themselves or the house.  Bengals are a great breed to leash train, and Dr Kean has seen one hiking with their family up Ptarmigan Cirque.  They can also be trained to run on a wheel for those long cold winters, and if you can make your backyard secure, they love to spend time outside (though they are accomplished escape artists as well).

Very rarely will we see an overweight Bengal!  Health wise they are somewhat more prone to heart disease and certain lines seem to have more dental and intestinal issues than some other cats.  Though one that is not kept mentally engaged will display stress behaviours such as inappropriate elimination or pica.  Some Bengals are accepting of other cats in a house, but many maintain the wild cat tendency to prefer to be your “one and only”.

If you have any further questions about the Bengal Breed, we are always here!  What are some other breeds you would like us to feature?

Written by Dr Tasha Kean