Bengal Cat
A female Bengal cat with tricolored rosettes and a clear coat.
OriginUnited States
Foundation bloodstockEgyptian Mau, Abyssinian, and others (domestic); Asian leopard cat (wild)
Breed standards
Feline hybrid (Felis catus × Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis)

The Bengal cat is a breed of hybrid cat created from crossing of an Asian leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), with domestic cats, especially the spotted Egyptian Mau. It is then usually bred with a breed that demonstrates a friendlier personality, because after breeding a domesticated cat with a wildcat, its friendly personality may not manifest in the kitten. The breed's name derives from the leopard cat's taxonomic name.

Bengals have a wild appearance; their golden shimmer comes from their leopard cat ancestry, and their coats may show spots, rosettes, arrowhead markings, or marbling. They are an energetic breed that needs much exercise and play.


Early history

The earliest mention of an Asian leopard cat × domestic cross was in 1889, when Harrison Weir wrote of them in Our Cats and All About Them.[1]

Bengals as a breed

Jean Mill of California is given credit for the modern Bengal breed. She made the first known deliberate cross of an Asian leopard cat with a domestic cat (a black California tomcat).[2] Bengals as a breed did not really begin in earnest until much later.[3]

Cat registries

In 1986, the breed was accepted as a "new breed" by The International Cat Association; Bengals gained TICA championship status in 1991.[4] The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) accepted Bengal cats in 1997.[5] Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe) in 1999 accepted the breed into their registry.[6] Also in 1999, Bengals were accepted into the Australian Cat Federation (ACF).[7] The Cat Fanciers' Association accepted the Bengal in CFA's "Miscellaneous" in 2016, under the restrictions that "it must be F6 or later (6 generations removed from the Asian leopard cat or non-Bengal domestic cat ancestors)".[8]

A charcoal Bengal kitten, with white "goggle" markings, and black rosettes.

Early generations

Bengal cats from the first three generations of breeding (F1, G2, and G3) are considered "foundation" or "early-generation" Bengals. The early-generation males are frequently infertile. Therefore, female early-generation Bengals are bred to fertile domestic Bengal males of later generations.[2][9][10] Nevertheless, as the term was used incorrectly for many years, many people and breeders still refer to the cats as F2, F3, and F4, even though the term is considered incorrect.[11][clarification needed]


The Bengal breed was more fully developed by the 1980s. "In 1992 The International Cat Association had 125 registered Bengal Breeders."[2] By the 2000s, Bengals had become a very popular breed. In 2019, there were nearly 2,500 Bengal breeders registered in TICA worldwide.[12]

The Growth of Bengal Breeding
Year TICA registered Bengal Breeders

     * The 2019 number only represents the breeders who use the word "Bengal" in their cattery name.



A brown Bengal cat stalking. This cat displays rosettes and spotting typical of the breed. Bengals have longer rear legs and carry their tails low.


Bengals come in a variety of coat colors.[13][14] The International Cat Association (TICA) recognizes several Bengal colors: brown spotted, seal lynx point (snow), sepia, silver, and mink spotted tabby.[15]

Spotted rosetted

The Bengal cat is the only domestic breed of cat that has rosette markings.[citation needed]

People most often associate the Bengal with the most popular color: the brown spotted/rosetted Bengal. Nonetheless, Bengals have a wide variety of markings and colors. Even within the Brown spotted/rosetted category a Bengal can be: red, brown, black, ticked, grey, spotted, rosetted, clouded. Many people are stunned by the Bengal Cat's resemblance to a leopard. Among domestic cats, the Bengal markings are perhaps the most varied and unique.


A brown marble Bengal being judged at a TICA show (2013)

Domestic cats have four distinct and heritable coat patterns – ticked, mackerel, blotched, and spotted – these are collectively referred to as tabby markings.[16]

Christopher Kaelin, a Stanford University geneticist, has conducted research that has been used to identify the spotted gene and the marble gene in domestic Bengal cats. Kaelin studied the color and pattern variations of feral cats in Northern California, and was able to identify the gene responsible for the marble pattern in Bengal cats.[17]

A snow Bengal, with "mascara" markings (horizontal striping alongside the eyes)
A UC Davis Bengal DNA test showing a cat carrying three recessive colors

Legal restrictions

In Australia, G5 (fifth-generation) Bengals are not restricted, but their import is complex.[18]

Bengals were regulated in the United Kingdom. In 2007, however, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs removed the previous licensing requirements.[19]

In the United States, legal restrictions and even bans sometimes exist at the state and municipal level. In Hawaii, Bengal cats are prohibited by law (as are all wild cat species, and all other hybrids of domestic and wild animals).[20] In Connecticut, it is also illegal to own any generation of Bengal cat.[21] In Alaska, Bengal cats must be four generations removed from the Asian leopard cat. A permit and registered pedigree that indicates the previous four generations are required.[22] In California, the code of regulations Title 14, section K, Asian leopards are not specifically listed as a restricted species. In Delaware, a permit is required to own Bengal cats.[23] Bengals of the F1-G4 generations are also regulated in New York state, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Indiana. Various cities have imposed restrictions; in New York City, Bengals are prohibited,[24][25] and there are limits on Bengal ownership in Seattle, Washington, and in Denver, Colorado.[26] Except where noted above, Bengal cats with a generation of G5 and beyond are considered domestic, and are generally legal in the US.


Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Example of a completed HCM report

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a major concern in the Bengal cat breed. This is a disease in which the heart muscle (myocardium) becomes abnormally thick (hypertrophied). A thick heart muscle can make it harder for the cat's heart to pump blood.[27] The only way to determine the suitability of Bengal cats meant for breeding is to have the cat's heart scanned by a cardiologist.

HCM is a common genetic disease in Bengal cats and there is no genetic testing available as of 2018. In the United States, the current practice of screening for HCM involves bringing Bengal cats to a board certified veterinary cardiologist where an echocardiogram is completed. Bengal cats that are used for breeding should be screened annually to ensure that no hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is present. Currently North Carolina State University is attempting to identify genetic markers for HCM in the Bengal Cat.[28]

One study published in the Journal of Internal Veterinary Medicine has claimed the prevalence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in Bengal cats is 16.7% (95% CI = 13.2–46.5%).[29]

Bengal progressive retinal atrophy (PRA-b)

Bengal cats are known to be affected by several genetic diseases, one of which is Bengal progressive retinal atrophy, also known as Bengal PRA or PRA-b. Anyone breeding Bengal cats should carry out this test, since it is inexpensive, noninvasive, and easy to perform. A breeder stating their cats are "veterinarian tested" should not be taken to mean that this test has been performed by a vet: it is carried out by the breeder, outside of a vet office (rarely, if ever, by a vet). The test is then sent directly to the laboratory.

Erythrocyte pyruvate kinase deficiency (PK-deficiency or PK-def)

PK deficiency is a common genetic diseases found in Bengal Cats. PK deficiency is another test that is administered by the breeder. Breeding Bengal Cats should be tested before breeding to ensure two PK deficiency carriers are not mated. This is a test that a breeder must do on their own. A breeder uses a cotton swab to rub the inside of the cat's mouth and then mails the swab to the laboratory.

Ulcerative nasal dermatitis

A unique form of ulcerative dermatitis affecting the nasal planum (rhinarium or nose leather) of Bengal cats was first reported in 2004.[30] The condition first presents between the ages of 4-12 months, beginning as a dry scale and progressing to crusts and fissures typical of hyperkeratosis.[31] The exact cause remains unclear; it is considered hereditary and incurable, but can respond favorably to topical steroid treatments such as prednisolone and tacrolimus ointment.[30]

Bengal blood type

The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory has studied domestic cat blood types. They conclude that most domestic cats fall within the AB system. The common blood types are A and B and some cats have the rare AB blood type. There is a lack of sufficient samples from Bengals, so the genetics of the AB blood group in Bengal cats is not well understood.[32]

One Bengal blood type study that took place in the U.K. tested 100 Bengal cats. They concluded that all 100 of the Bengal cats tested had type A blood.[33]

Shedding and grooming

Bengals are often claimed by breeders[34] and pet adoption agencies[35] to be a hypoallergenic breed – one less likely to cause an allergic reaction. The Bengal cat is said to produce lower than average levels of allergens,[35][better source needed] though this has not been scientifically proven as of 2020.

Cat geneticist Leslie Lyons, who runs the University of Missouri's Feline and Comparative Genetics Laboratory, discounts such claims, observing that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat. Alleged hypoallergenic breeds thus may still produce a reaction among those who have severe allergies.[36]

Bengal Longhair (Cashmere Bengal)

Bengal longhair kitten

Some long-haired Bengals (more properly, semi-long-haired) have always occurred in Bengal breeding. Many different domestic cats were used to create the Bengal breed, and it is theorized that the gene for long hair came from one of these backcrossings. UC Davis has developed a genetic test for long hair so that Bengal breeders could select Bengal cats with a recessive long-hair gene for their breeding programs.[37]

Some Bengal cats used in breeding can carry a recessive gene for long-haired. When a male and female Bengal each carry a copy of the recessive long hair gene, and those two Bengals are mated with each other, they can produce long-haired Bengals. (See Cat coat genetics#Genes involved in fur length and texture.) In the past, long-haired offspring of Bengal matings were spayed or neutered until some breeders chose to develop the long-haired Bengal (which are sometimes called a Cashmere Bengal).

Long-haired Bengals are starting to gain more recognition in some cat breed registries but are not widely accepted. Since 2013, they have "preliminary" breed status in the New Zealand Cat Fancy (NZCF) registry, under the breed name Cashmere Bengal.[38] Since 2017 The International Cat Association (TICA) has accepted the Bengal Longhair[39] in competitions.

See also


  1. ^ Weir, Harrison William (1889). Our Cats and All About Them: Their Varieties, Habits, and Management. Houghton, Mifflin & Co. p. 55.
  2. ^ a b c d Jones, Joyce (September 20, 1992). "The Pet Cat That Evokes the Leopard". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 21, 2019. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  3. ^ Hamilton, Denise (March 10, 1994). "A Little Cat Feat: A Covina woman's efforts at cross-breeding wild and domestic felines are paying off handsomely". Los Angeles Times. p. 2. Archived from the original on April 17, 2022. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
  4. ^ "Bengal Breed". The International Cat Association. August 13, 2018. Archived from the original on July 26, 2020. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  5. ^ "Bengal". Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. Archived from the original on April 11, 2019. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  6. ^ "Breed standards". FIFe. Archived from the original on December 20, 2015. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  7. ^ "Moments in History of ACF". Australian Cat Federation. Archived from the original on February 24, 2018. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  8. ^ "Bengals Take Their First Step in CFA". Archived from the original on August 7, 2020. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  9. ^ Davis, Brian W.; Seabury, Christopher M.; Brashear, Wesley A.; Li, Gang; Roelke-Parker, Melody; Murphy, William J. (2015). "Creation of Interspecies Domestic Cat Hybrids". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 32 (10): 2534–2546. doi:10.1093/molbev/msv124. PMC 4592343. PMID 26006188.
  10. ^ "From F to G for Better Understanding". Bengal Cats. March 29, 2019. Archived from the original on February 7, 2021. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  11. ^ "Asian Leopard Cat Cross to Bengal, Prionailurus Bengalensis". June 4, 2018. Archived from the original on April 30, 2020. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  12. ^ a b "TICA Registered Cattery Names". The International Cat Association. Archived from the original on February 2, 2019. Retrieved February 1, 2019.
  13. ^ "Bengal Breed". The International Cat Association. Archived from the original on September 27, 2017. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  14. ^ "So, Do You Think My Cat Is a Bengal?". Sandstone, Minnesota: Wildcat Sanctuary. 2019. Archived from the original on January 24, 2019. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  15. ^ Brown, Alan. "Bengal Cats & Kittens". The International Bengal Cat Society. Archived from the original on September 22, 2013. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  16. ^ Barsh, Greg; Kaelin, Christopher (2010). "Tabby pattern genetics – a whole new breed of cat". Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research. 23 (4). John Wiley & Sons: 514–516. doi:10.1111/j.1755-148X.2010.00723.x. PMID 20518859. S2CID 7082692.
  17. ^ Conger, Krista (October 30, 2007). "How the cheetah got its stripes: A genetic tale by Stanford researchers". Stanford University. Archived from the original on January 10, 2019. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  18. ^ "Guidance on the import of live hybrid animals". Department of Environment. Commonwealth of Australia. Archived from the original on February 20, 2020. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
  19. ^ "The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (modification) Order 2007". November 4, 2014. Archived from the original on May 31, 2016. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
  20. ^ "Non-domestic Animal and Microorganism Lists". State of Hawaii Plant Industry Division. Archived from the original on January 30, 2019. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  21. ^ McCarthy, Kevin E. (2000). Bengal cat laws. (Report). State of Connecticut. Archived from the original on June 9, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  22. ^ "AK – Exotic pets: Possession of wolf and wild-cats hybrids prohibited". Animal Legal & Historical Center / Administrative. College of Law, Michigan State University. July 20, 1998. Archived from the original on April 17, 2022. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  23. ^ "Title 3 900–903". Administrative Code. State of Delaware. Retrieved March 15, 2022.[dead link]
  24. ^ Saulny, Susan (May 12, 2005). "What's up, pussycat? Whoa!". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 13, 2016. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  25. ^ "Title IV Environmental Sanitation, Article 161 Animals". Health Code of the City of New York. Department of Health, City of New York. 2000. Archived from the original on February 28, 2019. Retrieved February 28, 2019 – via
  26. ^ Alessio, Kristine C. "Legislation and your cat" (PDF). The International Bengal Cat Society. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 23, 2019. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  27. ^ "Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy". Mayo Clinic. Archived from the original on September 15, 2018. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  28. ^ Meurs, Kate. "Genetics: Bengal Cat Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Study". College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University . Archived from the original on January 24, 2019. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  29. ^ Longeri, M.; Ferrari, P.; Knafelz, P.; Mezzelani, A.; Marabotti, A.; Milanesi, L.; Pertica, G.; Polli, M.; Brambilla, P. G.; Kittleson, M.; Lyons, L. A.; Porciello, F. (January 17, 2013). "Myosin-Binding Protein C DNA Variants in Domestic Cats (A31P, A74T, R820W) and their Association with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy". Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 27 (2): 275–285. doi:10.1111/jvim.12031. PMC 3602388. PMID 23323744.
  30. ^ a b Bergvall, K. (2004). "A novel ulcerative nasal dermatitis of Bengal cats". Veterinary Dermatology. 15: 28. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3164.2004.411_25.x.
  31. ^ Newton, H. (2019). Coyner, Kimberly S. (ed.). Clinical Atlas of Canine and Feline Dermatology. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 363-373. doi:10.1002/9781119226338. ISBN 9781119226338. S2CID 243624855. Retrieved March 26, 2023.
  32. ^ "AB blood group in felines". Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, University of California, Davis. Archived from the original on January 24, 2019. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  33. ^ Gunn-Moore, Danièlle A. (January 1, 2011). "Feline blood transfusions: A pinker shade of pale". Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. Sage Publishing. Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  34. ^ See, e.g., this breeder-operated Bengals portal: "Bengal Cats—Are They Hypoallergenic?". Award Winning Publications / The International Bengal Cat Connection. 2012. Archived from the original on July 11, 2017. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  35. ^ a b Dhir, Rajeev. "Suffering From Allergies? You Can Still Adopt a Cat". New England Cable News (NBCUniversal Media). Archived from the original on July 20, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  36. ^ Schmitt, Kristen A. "There's No Such Thing as a Hypoallergenic Cat". Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on January 30, 2019. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
  37. ^ "Long-Hair Test for Felines". Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, University of California, Davis. Archived from the original on January 24, 2019. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  38. ^ "Minutes of Executive Council Meeting, August 2013". New Zealand Cat Fancy. Archived from the original (Microsoft Word) on January 13, 2015. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  39. ^ "TICA cat breeds". The International Cat Association. July 31, 2018. Archived from the original on July 17, 2021. Retrieved May 27, 2021.