Helping Guide Bengal Cat Owners

How to Tell If Your Cat Is a Bengal: A Comprehensive Guide

Are you wondering if your cat is a Bengal cat or at least a Bengal cat mix? Does your cat have spots? Is your cat super active?  Does your cat like water? These are all things that lead a pet owner, especially one who has adopted a stray or recuse cat, to question whether they might have a Bengal instead of a tabby cat.

There is one sure, quick way to tell if your cat is a purebred Bengal – check both sides of his fur pattern.  Bengals are asymmetrical, meaning the fur pattern is completely different on opposite sides of their body. The patterns will not match.  Tabby cats have symmetrical markings although not always is every strand of fur completely identical. That’s not to say your cat is not a purebred marble or spotted cat.  Ocicats, Egyptian Maus, Marbled British Short hairs, Marbled Tabby Manx, Marbled Oriental tabby, Marbled Oriental Spotted cats all have symmetrical markings of their fur patterns.

Rescuers and breeders often receive requests for assistance on breed identification of such cats. You need to accept the fact that without registration papers, a pedigree or some determining information at hand it is difficult even for an expert to establish breed identity.  And while as a Bengal myself I am partial to the breed, some of my best friends are rescues. All cats are important and worth loving no matter the breed.


The History of The Development of the Bengal’s Spots

For Bengal breeding programs two subspecies of Asian Leopard Cat- Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis and Prionailurus bengalensis euptailura were used. KinKin, a female Bengal cat was the very first offspring produced by cross breeding between an Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) and a Domestic Shorthair (DSH) cat by Jean Sugden (Mill) in 1963. Jean was motivated by the goal of discouraging fur trade and owning of exotic cats as a status symbol. To develop the toy leopards to achieve this goal she contacted Dr. Willard Centerwall who was also involved in cross breeding of ALCs. His purpose was to study the mechanism behind resistance of ALC’s to leukemia to benefit leukemia condition in humans. With crossbreeding he was trying to produce breeds that can be handled easily in laboratory.

Jean was able to obtain a few female F1 (50% domestic, 50% ALC) cats from Dr. Centerwall to develop her toy leopards.

Many other breeders were also cross breeding and soon recessive genes help create different colors of pelt. Bengals can have ticking, rosettes, spots, marbles. These cats can be blue, brown, red, fawn, charcoal, snow (seal mink, seal lynx, seal sepia and silver snows), silver, torbie, cinnamon and melanistic (black). Of all the types the Marble Bengal and Snow Bengal are highly prized and recognized for championship show status. Blue, long haired Bengals (Cashmeres) and melanistics are also promoted by some breeders to be accepted for championship status but are not currently recognized by TICA.


Bengal Characteristics You Might Use To Determine If Your Cat Is A Bengal:

  • Spotted Belly:  Bengals, even marbled Bengals  must have spotted bellies. However, if a cat has spotted belly it is not a decisive enough feature to determine your cat is a Bengal.  My family had an orange tabby named Stanley that had a spotted tummy. as a Bengal or a Bengal mix.

  • Pelt versus fur: Bengals have high quality fur known as a pelt which feels silky soft and plush like a rabbit’s pelt. It is softest fur you have ever felt. If your cat’s fur doesn’t feel like a rabbits pelt, chances are you don’t have a Bengal.

  • Vocal sounds: Bengal cats can make many other sounds apart from standard meow. They have a wide vocal range and can be loud.  You can hear Bengals making sounds of buzzes, chirps, growls, and mews.  These cats use unique tones when conversing depending on listener is any other cat, another Bengal, a bird or a human being. They can be talkative and extremely vocal companions. Bengal owners agree that their cat makes differentiated sounds for different calls. For instance sound for a “Feed me” calls differs from a “You called me” meow. When calling to a bird they have a raspy half chirp. When they call to each other it is a purr-meow in one. If your cat only meows and never chirps, it’s definitely a sign that you do not have a Bengal.


A Bengal Or A Mix?

Identifying a Bengal as a purebred or a mix is not easy, as you need to consider many variables.  Color, symmetry, pattern, body type, coat type and many other factors. The only possible way to identify a Bengal or a Bengal mix for sure, is to know if one of the parents was Bengal.  In the meantime if your cat likes to sit at the top of a door, open cupboards and  make strange meows, you might have at least a mix!


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