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The Bengal Cat Club is affiliated to The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy and promotes the welfare and well-being of Bengal Cats in the U.K.

The Bengal is a relatively new breed of cat which was first bred in the U.S.A and was originally created by crossing an Asian Leopard Cat with a domestic cat. The domestic Bengal derives its name from the Latin name of its wild ancestor, Felis Bengalensis (Asian Leopard Cat).

Whilst the domestic Bengal is similar in appearance to the Asian Leopard cat and its genetic makeup contains a contribution from that wild cat species, its temperament is however purely domestic. The goal in developing the domestic Bengal cat breed was to preserve a strong physical resemblance to its beautiful wild ancestor and, at the same time, the new domestic breed was designed to be a pleasant and trustworthy family companion. Therefore, the conformation of the Bengal is definitely reminiscent of its ancestors.

The general build of an Asian Leopard Cat (Felis Bengalensis) is similar to a normal domestic cat but with somewhat longer legs and a longer back. They have a relatively small head with a short narrow muzzle, large eyes (because of their nocturnal habits and a thick tail of about 11 to 14 inches length. Body length varies between 25 to 32 inches and they weigh between 7 to 15 pounds. Size and weight vary between sub-species in different geographical regions but the males are generally heavier than the females.

There are around ten sub-species, showing distinct variations in body colour. For example, cats in the Northern regions tend towards reddish brown spotting on a yellowish-grey background and leopard cats from more humid regions tending to be more ochre-yellow to brownish. The cats’ beautiful markings, which have in many ways been their downfall by attracting the attention of the fur trade, are striking and show some variation between individuals. All sub-species have a spotted or ringed tail, with a black tail tip, four black bands running from the forehead to the back of the neck, breaking up into elongated spots on the neck and shoulders, often forming a "broken necklace". The round black ears have a white spot on the back called ocelli, and all cats have a white underside, throat and cheek-flashes. The underparts are spotted on the white background. The body markings can be solid or rosetted and sometimes show marbling.

Bengal cats are the descendants of a cross between an Asian Leopard Cat and a domestic cat, originally Egyptian Maus, Abyssians or Ocicats amongst others. A first generation cross is called an F1. An F2 is the progeny of one F1 parent and one domestic parent (usually a Bengal these days) and an F3 has one F2 parent and one domestic parent. F1 males are usually sterile and F2 and F3 males also often have fertility problems. The early stages of breeding programmes are therefore usually carried by crossing female Asian Leopard Cat hybrids with male domestic cats. The fourth generation removed from the wild and beyond can be considered a domestic animal and is officially a Bengal rather than a Leopard Cat hybrid.

Given that the breeding programme will have been explicitly aimed at producing good pets, the resulting Bengals should display the beautiful markings and unusual behaviour of the wild cats, whilst inheriting the domestic cat’s social nature and adaptability to human lifestyles. There is some debate as to whether the ‘F1’ hybrid cats are suitable for pets but, as they move a couple of generations away from the wild, certain individual hybrid cats with social natures and good ‘upbringings’ certainly make good, if highly specialised pets. Even those which are ‘pet-worthy’ however, are really only suitable for experienced pet keepers, able to understand and cater for their needs, and are by no means appropriate pets for the average family! Do not think from this that the early generations are "dangerous". Far from it, they are usually shy nocturnal animals that find it difficult to cope with a busy household.

However, from the fourth generation onwards, they are well socialised and ready and willing to join in the hustle and bustle of the average family homes. Although this is often not usual with cats, they are particularly good with dogs who they seem to view as "just someone else to play with"

Bengals are intelligent and athletic and seem to look on everything around them as "can this be played with?". Their playful natures makes them ideal companions for the younger members of the family, who usually can do anything with them. The young humans can act out their fantasies and have the companion they want. So many times we have seen a young human walking around with an adoring Bengal marching alongside sharing the moment.

The goal in developing the domestic Bengal cat breed was to preserve a strong physical resemblance to its beautiful wild ancestor and at the same time the new domestic breed was designed to be a pleasant and trustworthy family companion. Therefore, the conformation of the Bengal is definitely reminiscent of its ancestors.

The Bengal’s head is broad and rounded and is slightly longer than it is wide. The nose is broad with a puffed nose leather. The muzzle is full and broad with a very light coloured, strong rounded chin and pronounced whisker pads created by the wide set canine teeth. The ears should preferably be medium to small with a wide base and rounded tips, pointing forward in profile. The eyes are oval, almost round. They are large but not bold and set on a slight slant toward the base of the ear. Nocturnal is a very appropriate description of the look. The Bengal is a large, sleek and very muscular cat with its hind-quarters slightly higher than its shoulders with a thick tail that is carried low.

The Bengal should be alert and affectionate and its wild appearance is enhanced by its distinctive spotted or marbled coat which should be thick and luxurious. There can be both Black or Brown Spotted and Black or Brown Marbled Bengals, as well as Snow Spotted and Snow Marbled Bengals. The Spotted Bengals should display a sharper contrast of colour than other spotted breeds and they have larger spots. The spotting pattern on the Bengals tends to flow horizontally and rosettes often occur. There are also the wide, dark distinctive necklet(s) on the throat of the Bengals together with a strong, bold chin strap which may go from jaw to jaw which other breeds do not have. The light coloured spectacles should preferably extend into vertical streaks which may be outlined by an "M" marking on the forehead. Broken streaks or spots extend over the head either side of a complex scarab mark.

Marbled Bengals have a unique pattern of random horizontally aligned swirls which is not found in other breeds of cat. It is thought to have its origins in the combination of the wild genes of the Asian Leopard Cat and the domestic tabby genes. There is no other breed of cat which displays the gold or pearl dusting effect (glitter) of the Bengal. The texture of the coat is unique. It has the feel of satin or silk and it has been said that one should be able to identify a Bengal blindfolded.

In recent years, as the breed has moved further away from its origins, breeders have been able to develop more distinctive rosetted patterns. This rosetting has enhanced the uniqueness of the breed, as has also the recent appearance of Bengals with almost white undersides. Even the voice of a Bengal is different from that of other domestic cats. It has been described as a cooing or chirping or as a strange gravelly sound. They are a very vocal breed and have a wide vocabulary that may on occasion be quite strident especially in unfamiliar situations. This should not be confused with aggression; it is an individual means of expression.

They also love to play with water! Bengals seem to have preserved the self-assurance and confidence essential to their wild ancestors whilst acquiring an affectionate disposition and an extremely energetic, playful nature. The overall impression is of a miniature leopard with a loving dependable temperament. They are extremely sociable and interact well with other household pets.

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