Bengal cat on a wood railing.

Bengal Cat Breed

This cat has a strikingly beautiful spotted coat and a vibrant personality and is curious, playful, and very energetic.

In the 1970s, scientists crossed the small, wild Asian leopard cat with shorthaired domestic cats in an attempt to introduce the wildcat’s natural immunity to feline leukemia into the pet population. The project failed, but the resulting hybrid caught the interest of several American fanciers.

In a series of selective breeding programs, crosses were achieved between these hybrids and various pedigree domestic cats, including the Abyssinian, Bombay, British Shorthair, and Egyptian Mau. The outcome was the Bengal, originally called the Leopardette, which was officially accepted as a new breed in the 1980s.

With its magnificently patterned coat and large, muscular frame, this cat brings more than a hint of the jungle into the living room. Despite its wild ancestry, there is nothing unsafe about the Bengal—it is delightfully affectionate—but it does have a lot of energy and is best suited to an experienced cat owner.

Friendly by nature, a Bengal always wants to be at the heart of its family. It needs company and both physical activity and mental stimulation. A bored Bengal will be unhappy and possibly destructive.

Wild Relative

The Asian Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), which was used to create the Bengal, occurs throughout India, China, and much of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia. Its spotted coat has several regional color variations, some of which have been introduced into Bengal breeding programs.

The species’ striking appearance has made it vulnerable to both commercial fur traders and the wild pet trade. As a result, its total population is declining, and some subspecies of Leopard Cat are considered to be endangered.

Origin: US, 1970s

Breed registries: FIFe, GCCF, TICA

Weight range: 12–22 lb (5.5–10 kg)

Grooming: Weekly

Colors and patterns: Brown, blue, silver, and snow colors in spotted and marble classic tabby patterns.