There was a time I regularly told people that if everything they knew about the Bengal was learned from the internet, they might not know the breed at all.
It was common for breeders to exaggerate various aspects of the breed. Many of them told outright lies to attempt to increase sales or prices while others were simply ignorant. Even today you see many misrepresentations. I still see claims that Leopard Cats mate for life, that Bengals commonly reach the size of a medium dog or weights of 13+ kilo’s or some negative things like a Bengal is a wild animal waiting to kill you in your sleep.
Well lets see if we can keep it to the basics.
What has the Bengal retained from its wild brethren? Many of us would suggest it has kept the best parts.
For over 40 years breeders have worked hard to preserve some traits while improving others. A well bred Bengal can be many generations removed from the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) and clearly display most of the best traits of the ALC. Today, all of the best Bengals come from Bengal to Bengal breeding programs.
So what does the ALC Heritage give us?
Physically they have a longer body than a domesticated cat with muscular hind legs that contribute to the pear shaped body. This is much more evident in the females as the males larger rib cage and shoulders mask it to a degree. Those large hind legs do not make a Bengal perceptually faster, but do give it the ability to accelerate very quickly…and of course, they also seem to be able to jump higher, and with less effort, than most breeds.
They have a longer tail which they use like a rudder giving them the ability to turn very quickly. This combined with their bursts of speed makes them seem effortlessly athletic at times.
The texture and feel of their fur definitely comes from the ALC and is like nothing most people have ever encountered. It is the softest, silkiest fur of any breed of domestic cat. A conventional cat feels coarse in comparison.
One of the more talked about traits is something called glitter and although it is very difficult to get a picture of that gold color you see in the picture is glitter. When the light hits it just right it looks like the fur has been dusted with gold glitter. The down side is that it clouds the the cats markings by defusing the light reflected off of the fur. Cats with no glitter typically have sharper clearer markings but cats with glitter have bragging rights 🙂 Glitter is only found in this one breed.
They are very strong and that strength goes all the way to the tips of their claws. We had owned a number of cats previous to Bengals and I grew up in a cat house. Even the smallest Bengal we have owned was stronger then any domestic I’ve ever seen.
They have a spooky agility that catches you off guard even after you have been surrounded by them for years. They are very
fast, not that most cats are not fast, but the combination of strength and agility is in this case a little more then most of us have experienced.
Bengals cats take 18 months or more to reach their full size and weight.
They are intelligent to the degree that problem solving skills are evident and this is something that the ALC is very well known for.
All in all the Bengal is just a cat and any specific differences are for the most part relatively subtle. When you add up the total of the differences though you have a pretty remarkable animal and much of that is directly attributable to the Bengal’s ALC heritage. Breeders deserve some credit for working to keep the best of the ALC while shedding the shy timid personality.