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Bengal Beginnings – Exotic Cat Breeds

SookieIn 1984 a new breed of cat became recognized into the International Cat Association, and since then it has become one of, if not the most popular cat breed in the United States today. I am of course talking about the sleek and stylish Bengal, which is in my opinion the Maserati of cat breeds. Originally crossed from the wild Asian Leopard cat, this cute, adventurous, and sometimes trouble making feline has worked its way into the hearts and homes of cat enthusiasts everywhere, including mine. Detracting from my usual blogs on small animals, I’d like to share with you a little bit about this cat and why I ended up with one.

The genetic make-up of the original Bengal went further than just an average house cat and a wild animal. They share traits with many other breeds including Egyptian Mau, Burmese, Abyssinian, and the American Shorthair. The producer of the Bengal breed was an American named Jean Sudgen, who crossed a black tom cat with a female Asian Leopard cat in the 1960s. From then on, further crossing experiments eventually gave way to the breed we know and love today. The Bengal combines the beautiful patterns of wild cats with the affectionate, adaptable personality of the domesticated cat, giving cat lovers a little taste of the wild with the convenience of being able to keep their pets just like any other house cat.

In order to be considered a true Bengal, the cat must be at least four generations bred away from the wild – that is the animal’s parents, grandparents, and great grandparents all had to be Bengals and not an original crossing of cat and Leopard cat. The average female Bengal is between 6-8 lbs while the males are larger, weighing up to 15 lbs. They have sleek athletic bodies and short soft coats that glitter in the sunlight. Their coats can be any variation of dark brown, red, or even snow, and can be spotted, marbled, or have rosettes. In rare cases, solid black or white Bengals have been reported, but are not recognized for showing. They have one of the most sought after personalities of any cat due to their gentle but fun-loving nature and their tenancy to get into trouble and be mischievous. Bengals have been compared to dogs, as they are very trainable and can learn to walk on leashes and fetch!

I acquired my own female marble tabby colored Bengal, Sookie strictly out of luck. Having lost my old male cat of 16 years, Dino just a year prior, I was very particular about bringing another cat into the household, as I have a tendency to lean towards large cats (Dino was 21 lbs!) and I did not want to settle for just any kitten that caught my eye. A friend of mine overheard me musing over cat breeds and told me he had recently bred a litter of Bengals and was thinking of getting out of the hobby. He offered to sell me one of his kittens for a low price being that I was a friend. Jumping at this, I soon had Sookie, who proved to be worth 100 times more than I paid for her.

Sookie is an extremely tenacious cat, always trying to find new ways to get into trouble. Her favorite activity is bending back the blinds and snapping them. We have gone through 3 sets of blinds in the two years we’ve had her, but we can never stay mad once she gives us the “I didn’t do it” eyes. Well aware that her beauty and charm can get her out of trouble, Sookie can melt your heart when she flops onto her back and yowls for attention. She greets every one who comes in the door by rolling down the stairs one at a time and waiting for a belly rub, and she will tear through the house with the fur on her tail fluffed straight, racing through the network of tubes we’ve laid out for her before she becomes tuckered out. She’ll then be content to plop down on your lap for a 2 hour snooze if you let her. As her breed is known to do, Sookie loves to fetch toys and bring them back just like a dog, and she fears absolutely nothing, including my 3 foot lizard, a bad tempered tegu named Taj. At 8 lbs even, Sookie is almost more cat than I can handle, but I would never part with her, as she is the most wonderful pet I could hope for.

When considering cats, I can’t help but look towards the Bengal as my new guideline for what I want in a pet. I hope this profile has been helpful to anyone looking to acquiring this uniquely wild and wonderfully loving breed.


  1. avatar

    Great article! I have been considering a bengal of my own 🙂

  2. avatar

    I had never heard of bengals before, as they are exotic I wondered how much they might cost and are they difficult to find?

  3. avatar

    There are many breeders of these cats nationwide, you just have to do some searching for reputable breeders and or rescues. Prices can range from adoption fees of $100-200 to over $1000 for cats with top quality bloodlines and quality markings.

  4. avatar

    The Bengal cats are fun too have, Someone dumped out a cat and, I wasn’t sure what kind she was so I started looking here. She looks just like the cat you call Sookie. She was pregant and had 4 beauty’s. All came out to be females, they are just what you discribed. Glad to find your writing on them. Thanks so very much.

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Jess has been an employee at That Fish Place/That Pet Place since 2005, stationed in both the Reptile and Small Animal rooms. She specializes in small animal care, and focuses particularly on rats, giving her the nickname of “The Rat Girl” by her customers and fellow employees. She has an Associate degree in Liberal Arts from Penn State York and is currently attending English courses online at University of Maryland University College. Her passion has always been animals and she has owned just about every variety of them, including cats, birds, reptiles, rodents, and even millipedes! She also loves writing and is working on publishing a series of young adult fantasy novels.
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