The Bengal:Beautiful & Facinating

37

Abdul Mannan
A ‘house tiger’ in the truest sense, the Bengal is truly a unique cat breed. Breeders of this breed go for a bit of wild cat blood, with wildcat hybrids like Bengals or Savannahs proving the latest craze in the world of breeding! Just what is a hybrid cat and what needs to be taken into account when giving a home to a wild cat cross? This breed provides all answers.
 
The pairing of wild cat breeds with domesticated indoor cats, most well-known example is the Bengal, which resulted from crossing a tame black domestic cat with a wild Asian leopard cat.
 
A fascinating breed
The Bengal cat is a truly modern breed. This wild cat hybrid breed originates in the USA, where in 1963 the geneticist Jean Mill carried out the first crossing experiments with a domestic cat and the leopard cat Prionailurus Bengalensis native to South Asia. Her aim was to create a tame domestic cat who would stand out thanks to the wild primordial looks of her wild cat ancestors.However, the idea wasn’t entirely new. In 1889, the British artist and journalist Harrison William Weir had already mentioned an Asian leopard and domestic cat cross-breed. In 1934 and 1941, similar crossings were spoken of in Belgian and Japanese publications. Nevertheless, the main influence on the Bengal and the official breed founder is Jean Mill, then still known as Jean Sudgen.
 
A striking appearance
Now, just what does a hybrid cat look like? As a hybrid breed, Bengal cats are often larger than domestic cats. These supple but athletic cats weigh up to 7kg and can reach up to 70cm in height. The Bengal’s strong bodies are supported by long, muscular legs, whilst the head proves relatively small and is dominated by high cheekbones and large almond-shaped eyes, which are usually green or blue. The ears are small with rounded tips but have a wide base.The Bengal’s ‘wild’ markings prove most striking of all. With large spots, rosettes, a lighter stomach and striped front legs, they look very similar to their wild ancestors. The Bengal’s looks have won it many fans! Bengals exist in the basic colours-orange, gold, dark yellow and sand, often with ‘glitter’ too. The markings marbled and spotted are acknowledged.
 
A lot of fun
Bengal cats are considered ‘tame’ from the third generation, but are still active, temperamental animals due to their wild heritage. As a result, Bengal cats should only be kept as pets from the fourth generation onwards! Even breeding cats can only be shown at exhibitions from this generation. According to the breed standard, Bengals are “trustful, attentive, curious and friendly cats!”Bengal cats are certainly lots of fun! They are clever and docile, therefore need lots of attention to point their urge for activity in the right direction. Lovers of Bengal cats often claim that mere cuddles and play aren’t enough to keep a hybrid cat entertained. Target-training and work with the clicker also form part of a cat-appropriate environment with no risk of boredom.
 
A healthy feline fellow
The Bengal is exceptionally healthy as a young, primordial cat breed. Nevertheless, a genetic disease was identified in 2011 that can lead to blindness during the first year of life through degeneration of the retina. The best healthcare provision for Bengal cats is a species-appropriate food and annual vet check-ups. Many hybrid pet parents give raw food, since numerous Savannahs and Bengals appear to be sensitive to industrial cat food and bacteria in the diet. In principle, high-quality prepared food in cans or trays provides your Bengal cat with everything she needs for a long,healthy life!
 
A global recognition
The Bengal has found many fans by now, with over 60,000 pure-breed animals registered with TICA. Despite this, not all breeding associations are fans of hybrid breeds. The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), for instance, does not accept any cat breeds descending from wild cat types.
(Abdul Mannan is President of Hyderabad Cat Fanciers Club. He has been a cat hobbyist since childhood and a breeder over the past one decade, keeping almost 30 plus cats by providing a 1500 sq ft space with all necessary requirements for cats. His current breeds include Persians, Traditional Long Hair, Exotic Short Hair and Bengal).