Spotlight On: Bengals

For cat lovers that want a feline companion that’s a bit more exotic, one of the most recognizable and unique cat breeds is the Bengal. Obviously, none of us can just bring home one of the well-known big cats, but for those who just can’t resist such a stunning appearance, the Bengal is a fantastic option for those who need the attitude and size of a typical housecat with the beauty of those in the wild.

Basic Characteristics of Bengals

Bengals became a recognized breed in the 1970s, but they’ve actually been around for much longer. Gaining their unique pattern and appearance from the Asian leopard cats from which they descended, this breed is simply a hybrid of this wild Asian breed and regular domesticated felines. However, as the years have gone by, Bengals are now only bred from other Bengal cats and retain some rather specific traits.

Bengal cats typically have medium to large builds, standing about 13 to 16 inches tall and weighing about 8 to 15 pounds. Of course, as with any breed, the specifics may vary from cat to cat, and the females tend to be smaller in build by comparison to the males. They often have a lifespan that falls within the range of 10 to 16 years, too. Their longevity is dependent upon their environment and lifestyle: whether they are mostly indoors or outdoors, their overall health, maintaining a proper diet, and more.

These sleek, muscular cats are well-known for their leopard-like markings and their bright eyes. Although there may be some slight pattern variations among individual Bengal cats, they are highly recognizable compared to most other breeds of cats. Even the Bengals with variations in their coat colors—such as silver, charcoal, blue, sepia, and others—retain that same leopard-like pattern.

Some melanistic Bengals may appear nearly solid black or have the same dark patterns as panthers. This breed most commonly has green or gold eyes, but some color variations have also resulted in Bengals with aqua-colored, blue-green, and solid blue eyes.

Temperament of Bengals

Although they may look like wild cats, this is thankfully only in appearance. Bengal cats may have gotten their appearance from wild Asian leopard cats, but they got their wonderful personalities from the portion of their genes that came from the domesticated cats that we all know and love.

These cats can be very loving and friendly and prone to getting quite attached to their family members within the home. Their high energy levels don’t really let them lounge around for petting and snuggles too often, but they thoroughly enjoy regular bouts of playtime and training. Thanks to their high level of intelligence, you can easily train a Bengal to do a number of different tricks and tasks, and you’ll probably want to do so since they get bored so easily and tend to get into trouble just for the sake of some stimulation.

The unique genetic history that ties them to wild cats means that their reflexes are unbelievably quick and sharp, and they also learn to adapt to a human home in a way that means they’ll see the whole home as their play area. This adaptation allows them to modify the family home to suit their needs—whatever those may be—so you may find yourself having quite a few light switch battles with a Bengal or catch them turning on faucets to play in the water even after you’ve turned everything off!

They are incredibly playful and smart, but pet parents wanting to bring a Bengal into their home should be certain that they can cat-proof the home sufficiently and provide as much play and mental stimulation for these fun, mischievous smarty-cats on a regular basis.

Exercise for Bengals

Being both highly intelligent and loaded with energy, Bengals require a lot of stimulation. These cats are avid climbers, so having a lot of cat towers and other cat-friendly installments in your home to allow them to get up high is a huge plus.

Any type of playtime with toys is also a blast with this breed, as well as something that is very much mandatory if you want to keep their mischievous streak from causing a ruckus in your home. If you can get them chasing around nearly anything attached to a string wand that you can easily move around very quickly, they will be running around and pouncing far more than what you’ll see coming from the average house cat. Those energy levels are no joke, and a Bengal will love to spend as much time as possible both playing and chasing a fun feather toy as well as spending time with their favorite family member on the other end of the stick.

If you’re short on space or find yourself with a Bengal who loves to speed around, it may be worth it to invest in a cat wheel to let them run some of that energy out, too. Although these can be quite large and take up some space, an adventurous and high-energy breed like a Bengal provides a much-needed outlet when they are otherwise living in a smaller environment.

If you’re willing to put in the time to help them adjust to a harness, taking them out for walks is also a great option, as Bengals will love both the excitement of going outdoors for a stroll as well as getting some additional sensory stimulation compared to just staying inside of your house or apartment all day.

Grooming Your Bengal

Thankfully, Bengals are not known for being a cat breed that sheds very much, and most of their self-grooming is perfectly adequate. However, you’ll still want to brush your Bengal companion regularly to keep their coat healthy. Although it isn’t a constant requirement due to their low-maintenance coats, the propensity that a Bengal has to get into things out of curiosity may result in them getting quite messy at times. When they’ve managed to get themselves covered in something unsavory, these water-loving cats will be more than ready to take a bath to get clean.

As with any other breed of cat, you’ll also want to be sure that you stay on top of keeping their teeth clean and their nails trimmed regularly, too. Starting these healthy hygiene practices young will help make your cleaning tasks significantly easier as your Bengal buddy grows older and much larger.

Vet/Medical Care for Bengals

Bengals don’t often have any health issues that require oddly specific dietary changes or needs, so feeding your feline companion a grain-free and specially formulated food should be perfectly sufficient. Some pet parents of this exotic breed also feed their Bengals a raw diet, but plenty simply eat regular, high-quality cat food without any issues.

There are, however, some common health conditions that frequently occur in the Bengal breed that current and potential pet parents should be aware of. Many of the potential health concerns associated with Bengals stem from their genetics. These include the following:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA-b)
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Dermatitis
  • Digestive dysfunction
  • Ear infections
  • Entropion
  • Epilepsy
  • Feline bacterial peritonitis
  • Hyperesthesia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Lymphoma
  • Melanoma
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Pica
  • PK Deficiency (erythrocyte pyruvate kinase deficiency)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Urinary tract issues (FIC, bladder stones, etc.)

Due to most of these issues being genetic factors that increase the susceptibility of your Bengal experiencing one of the above concerns, acquiring your feline companion from a reputable breeder that engages in genetic testing and regular health checks should reduce your cat’s likelihood of dealing with such troubles.

Just the same as with any other cat you may want to bring home, always be sure to regularly take your furry friend for vet checks and stay on top of their required vaccinations.

Bringing a Bengal Kitty Home

Bengals are a beautiful, exotic, and rewarding breed of cat, but they are also a breed that comes with challenges. Potential pet parents of these miniature house leopards should be well-prepared to meet their play and stimulation needs. You’ll want to make sure you have the space and time to provide them with plenty of toys, climbing opportunities, and exercise to keep them happy and out of trouble.

Unlike most cats, Bengals are prone to being wildly in love with water and all things involving it. Tubs, toilets, and fish tanks are all fair game for this breed, so you may need to consider how to best Bengal-proof your faucets or any aquatic housemates you may have that are living under the same roof.

When adopting a Bengal kitten from a breeder, you can expect to be paying about $1,500 to $3,000 on average. When choosing a breeder, you’ll also want to be sure that you find someone who is experienced and reputable. They should be able to guarantee the health of your new family member’s health and provide any additional information on the lineage of your new kitten if you have any questions or concerns arise.

For those who want to open their home up to a Bengal in need, there are also some rescues out there along with resources to track down Bengal-breed cats in other shelters across the country that need a home. One of the main Bengal rescues currently active is the Great Lakes Bengal Rescue, and you may also search for Bengal cats in Brevard County or other Florida areas via Adopt a Pet, Petfinder, and Rescue Me.

As always, for any pet care needs you may have when bringing home a new furry family member, please feel free to contact us here at Space Coast Pet Services to make your new Bengal’s adjustment to a new home as easy and as comfortable as possible.

 

Melanie Haynes

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