It looks like a little forest wildcat, and it’s related to them too! The Bengal cat’s unique markings have made it an international favourite among cat-lovers and celebrities alike, with celebs like Kourtney Kardashian, Kristen Stewart and Jerry Seinfeld all taking their spot among the increasing number of Bengal pet parents.
But this cute kitty is more than a cuddly companion. It originated as a hybrid of a domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus) and a leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), meaning their needs are very different to your average house cat.
Are you up for the challenge of owning this unique breed?
The beginnings of the Bengal
The process of breeding Bengals started in the early 1960s, was temporarily suspended, then was restarted in 1981 by Jean Mill and Dr. Willard Centerwall in the USA.
According to Pet Finder, the first kitten hybrid breeds often grew up to be nervous, shy cats similar to their wild relatives but after a few generations the sweet characteristics of the domestic cat came through.
A major factor that slowed the breed’s progress was that, for several generations, the breed could only develop via the female kittens born. This is because its male kittens are born sterile – something quite common among many hybrids.
By 1985, the Bengal cat was official. With its exotic looks and playful demeanour, it quickly started climbing the ranks to becoming one of the world’s most desirable breeds.
Taming the tiger
Despite their name, Bengal cats are, of course, not tigers – but they do have some wild instincts that can make them a challenging pet for unprepared parents.
Bengals are famous for their sky-high energy and need for stimulation. If you’re looking for a calm companion who spends most of their time on your lap, this is the wrong breed for you – no matter how cute you think they are.
Hill’s Pet advises that the Bengal must have the ability to run and exercise freely, so be honest about your own activity level and space. Will you commit to harness training your Bengal? Does your garden have enough space to keep them safe, while giving them free reign? Can you build indoor obstacle courses or fun furniture if the outside isn’t an option?
The Bengal began as a controversial breed and to some degree, remains one today. Some concerns are that more wild cats will be used in domestic breeding, and that the feral part of the Bengal cannot ever truly be bred out of the domestic cat.
Instagram’s top Bengals
Because of their beauty, Bengals are some of the most popular petfluencers on Instagram. Although they’re undoubtedly the supermodels of the cat world, your decision to get a pet should never be based on what looks good for the ‘gram.
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