Development and characteristics of the Bengal cat

The origins of the Bengal

The Bengal cat is issued from a wild feline, the Asian leopard cat.

Asian Leopard

Prionailurus bengalensis

The Leopard cat is as large as a domestic cat on average to slightly bigger (7 kilos). It can be found in forest areas throughout Indonesia, Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, China and Taiwan. The Leopard Cat also can be found in Korea, India, Pakistan and Soviet Far East.
It is difficult to tame.

The offpring cats remain foundation cats for three generations after been bred to domestic cats.

The Bengal we know today has kept the outstanding patterns and look of the leopard but the feroucious behaviour of the wild animal has been bred out their blood lines. This has been enforced by severe judging for bengals in shows against any slight sign of agressive behaviour. So the Bengal nowdays is actually a very gentle conpanion.

The development of the breed

Jean Mill from California bred the first Foundation cats in the sixties. There are no surviving cats from these early efforts. Instead, the modern Bengal originates from Jean’s breeding programme of 1975. The breed is relativly new and has been improved considerably in the last 15 years thanks to dedicated breeders.


To my experience, they are playful and get along usualy well with other pets and children. They are very social and not as independant/solitary as an average cat, making them ideal pet in busy households. They wouldn't be suitable in a house with no other pets where the owners are absent most of the day. They need a bit of place to play, run and jump. Be aware of precious items on open shelves....

Like the wild felines, the Bengal kittens go through a phase called fuzzies where the coat loses its clarity and contrast, only to come back after a few weeks.

Glitter is a unique Bengal feature among cats. It’s a subtle “gold dust” effect. Some of the hair is tipped with a very shiny colour that gives under a certain light at a certain angle an amazing mystical impression.

They like water. Depending on the individuals, some are just mesmerised by the kitchen tap and would try to sleep in a comfortable empty sink while others would frankly join you in your bath ! Bengals daydream about a pond with a cascade and a fish !

They are energetic cats, they need a lot of excercising. Toys and cat trees are recommended to stimulate them. Here is a toy that Bengals seem to be particularly fond of : the wheel.

Bengals can be spotted, rosetted or marbled.
The three official colours are silver, brown and snow.

TICA Bengal breed standard


Shape : Broad modified wedge with rounded contours. Longer than it is wide. Slightly small in proportion to body, but not to be taken to extreme. The skull behind the ears makes a gentle curve and flows into the neck. Allowance to be made for jowls in adult males. Overall look of the head should be as distinct from the domestic cat as possible.
Ears : Medium to small, relatively short, with wide base and rounded tops. Set as much on side as top of head, following the contour of the face in the frontal view, and pointing forward in the profile view. Light horizontal furnishings acceptable; but lynx tipping undesirable.
Eyes : Oval, almost round. Large, but not bugged. Set wide apart, back into face, and on slight bias toward base of ear. Eye color independent of coat color except in the lynx points. The more richness and depth of color the better.
Chin : Strong chin, aligns with tip of nose in profile.
Muzzle : Full and broad, with large, prominent whisker pads and high, pronounced cheekbones. Slight muzzle break at the whisker pads.
Nose : Large and wide; slightly puffed nose leather.
Profile : Curve of the forehead should flow into the bridge of the nose with no break. Bridge of nose extends above the eyes; the line of the bridge extends to the nose tip, making a very slight, to nearly straight, concave curve.
Neck : Long, substantial, muscular; in proportion to the head and body.
Torso : Long and substantial, not oriental or foreign. Medium to large (but not quite as large as the largest domestic breed).
Legs : Medium length, slightly longer in the back than in the front. Feet : Large, round, with prominent knuckles.
Tail : Medium length, thick, tapered at end with rounded tip.
Boning : Sturdy, firm; never delicate.
Musculature : Very muscular, especially in the males, one of the most distinguishing features.
Length : Short to medium. Allowance for slightly longer coat in kittens.
Texture : Dense and luxurious, close- lying, unusually soft and silky to the touch.
Patterns : Spotted or marbled. Spotted : Spots shall be random, or aligned horizontally. Rosettes showing two distinct colors or shades, such as paw print shaped, arrowhead shaped, doughnut or half-doughnut shaped or clustered are preferred to single spotting but not required. Contrast with ground color must be extreme, giving distinct pattern and sharp edges. Strong, bold chin strap and mascara markings desirable. Virtually white undersides and belly desirable. Blotchy horizontal shoulder streaks, spotted legs and spotted or rosetted tail are desirable. Belly must be spotted.
Colors : Brown Tabby : All variations of brown are allowed. Markings various shades of brown to black. Light spectacles encircling the eyes and a virtually white ground color on the whisker pads, chin, chest, belly and inner legs is desirable. Seal Sepia Tabby, Seal Mink Tabby, and Seal Lynx Point Tabby : Pattern can be various shades of brown. There should be very little or no difference between the color of the body (pattern) markings and point color.
The goal of the Bengal breeding program is to create a domestic cat which has physical features distinctive to the small forest-dwelling wildcats, and with the loving, dependable temperament of the domestic cat. Keeping this goal in mind, judges shall give special merit to those characteristics in the appearance of the Bengal which are distinct from those found in other domestic cat breeds. A Bengal cat is an athletic animal, alert to its surroundings; a friendly, curious, confident cat with strength, agility, balance and grace. It is a medium to large cat which exhibits a very muscular and solid build. Its wide nose with prominent whisker pads and large oval, almost round eyes in a slightly small head enhance the wild appearance and expressive nocturnal look. Its very slight, to nearly straight, concave profile and relatively short ears with wide base and rounded tips add to the Bengal’s distinctive and unique appearance. The short, dense coat has a uniquely soft and silky feel. The coat may be glittered or not glittered, with neither type to be given preference. A thick, low-set, medium-length tail adds balance to the cat.
Smaller size, in balanced proportion, of females. Slightly longer coat in kittens. Jowls in adult males. Eyes slightly almond shaped. Mousy undercoat. Paw pads not consistent with color group description.
The Bengal should be alert, friendly and affectionate and in excellent physical condition with a dependable temperament. The Bengal’s wild appearance is enhanced by its distinctive spotted or marbled tabby coat which should be thick and luxurious. The Bengal is a large to medium cat, sleek and muscular with a thick tail which is carried low. The female may be smaller than the males.