The bengal

The history of the Bengal breed begins in 1961 with a happy coincidence

The Bengal’s history

The first Bengal came about as a stroke of luck in 1961. Jean Mill, a young geneticist living in Arizona, who was passionate about cats imported a female leopard cat from Asia which she called Malaysia. So that she didn’t get bored alone in her cage, Jean got a male American Shorthair to keep her company. Against all odds, the unlikely couple gave birth to two hybrid kittens: one male, which was killed by its mother and a young female called Kin-Kin. Amazed by the beauty of the latter, Jean decided to continue the experiment by mating her with her father, the only male available at the time. Two kittens were born out of this union. Then, a series of unfortunate accidents wiped out the whole small family, destroying Jean’s hopes and expectations.

Jean’s dream was put on hold for a few years… And then resurfaced at the start of the 70s.  At the time, she met Doctor William Centerwall, who was studying the Asian leopard cat for its immunity to FeLV (feline leukemia). This work got him to mixing this small feline with domestic cats in order to determine whether the immunity could be passed on genetically. It was established that this wasn’t possible. These studies were abandoned with the emergence of a vaccine against FeLV and 8 female hybrids from this programme were given to Jean in 1980.

Jean also received 5 other hybrid cats from David Centerwall’s studies, which were kept in another breeding establishment in which they were coupled with a domestic male cat which gave the Bengal race their “glitter” (gold tint and glistening coat). These hybrids were then gradually crossed with other races of domestic cats, like the Egyptian Mau, Burmese, American Shorthair, Abyssinian, Siamese, etc… Which all led to the Bengal race.
The race became known to the world in 1986, with the female hybrid F2 Penny Ante. She took part in more than 30 exhibitions and so the public became fascinated by her beauty and her wild little leopard looks.

The TICA classified the race under the section “new race and colour” under the name Bengal, inspired by the scientific name for the Asian leopard cat (Felis Bangalensis).

The Bengal race was born!

It continued to evolve until 1991, when it was officially recognised by the TICA which determines its standards. Therefore, the race was authorised access to championships under the category “established race”. The Bengal made its first appearance in France in 1989, imported from the United States by the Petit Poucet cattery. It was the female Millwood Lady Benji, who gave birth to the first litter of French Bengals in 1993: 3 kittens called Iaka, Indira and Ibernatus. If at first, the breeders first task was to make sure the coat had a “wild” pattern on their domestic cats, they now focus their efforts on rediscovering the looks of the Felis Bengalensis and especially the typical head type of the original small feline.

Wild but gentle

The Bengal is an active cat and full of life, we could even say restless, in any case, they are very active. They need space to get rid of their excess energy and show off their sporty nature, they will enjoy running across rooms, climbing furniture, exploring all corners of the room every day or they will follow your every single move. In order to satisfy their overflowing liveliness, a reasonably sized cat tree is a good idea and will prolong your furniture’s life, it will not only give them something to sharpen their claws on, it will also help them practice the art of climbing, which is helped by their agility.

Another characteristic of Bengals is their keen intelligence, without a doubt inherited from the Asian Leopard Cat which is apparent from their ability to adapt to a hostile environment, this kind of adaptation helps the species survive formidable natural selection.  This intelligence is visible in numerous ways, but primarily through the strong bond which unites them with their human owner, which is comparable to the bond between a dog and their master. The Bengal often uses their front paws as hands to catch an object or food and put it in their mouths.

Bengals, even the shy ones, are incredibly curious, therefore their owners should be extra careful, because their intrepid companion could get into dangerous situations: fall from a windowsill, burns, intoxications, injuries with sharp objects or edges…

Another characteristic they inherited from their wild ancestors is their extreme attraction to water, as a result, it is highly likely that your companion will join you in the bath or under the shower or by watching you they will learn how to turn the kitchen tap on themselves to have a drink and simply drink the water. You should also protect around their water bowl, because Bengals like to run their front paws through the water, and once they have quenched their thirst, it’s quite common they will splash it all around the bowl.

A lot of owners also say that their Bengals do their business in the toilets. Do we need to mention quality or the lack of? In any case, the Bengal is a greedy cat, you could even say voracious! They are practically omnivores, so you need to be very careful that they don’t swallow certain foods that could lead to digestive issues, but also to obesity which could spoil your speckled friend. They will soon be able to find where you store the food, and discretely go there and clean up the stock for you! The Bengal, during periods of rest, demonstrates a great sense of calm and an infinite serenity, getting into incredibly relaxing postures.

When a Bengal is finished playing, they often move slowly and with the sway of a big cat, with a disconcerting look of self-confidence in their eyes and they utter their unique miaow that has a hoarse and warm sound.