A frequent question among our team at Divinus Pride Bengals is whether Bengal cats truly come from the wild. In short, yes, they are descendants of the Prionailurus Bengalensis, also known as the Asian Leopard Cat. The modern domestic Bengal cat results from crossing an Asian Leopard Cat with a domestic tabby. Literature supporting the origins of the Bengal breed dates as far back as the 1800s. However, it wasn't until the 1970s that the breed gained popularity, thanks largely to Jean Mill, often regarded as the Godmother of Bengals.
Does this mean a Bengal kitten you bring home today would be wild? Not at all. The majority of Bengal breeders only breed Bengals that are four or more generations removed from the wild. A Bengal kitten four or more generations removed would have lost most of the wild traits, making them more tame, like a domesticated tabby. I know this might disappoint those dreaming of posting wild cat selfies on Instagram and Facebook for internet stardom, but rest assured, Bengals carry over many astonishing traits.
How Bengals Get Their Wild Genes
Some breeders are producing Bengals directly descended from the Asian Leopard Cat, known as foundation Bengals or Bengals within the first three generations from the wild. To track Bengal generations, the F-Scale system is used, where the number following the F indicates the generation. For example, F9 would be the 9th generation. Now, before you entertain the idea of owning a foundation Bengal, be aware that Bengals F1-F3 still have a high percentage of wild genes in their DNA and should only be handled by an experienced cat handler. At F4, Bengal cats have less than 10% of wild genes in their DNA, making them much more tame. According to TICA (www.tica.org), the F4 generation is the first generation considered 'stud book tradition' (SBT) and is deemed 'purebred.' By the time Bengals reach F7, they have less than 1% of wild genes. This is why many breeders do not track past F6.
There's a common misconception that the farther you are from the wild in terms of generations, the lower the quality of the Bengal's coat. However, this is not true. Coat quality is based on genetics and can be developed. To enhance patterns, breeders use a tactic called culling, creating bloodlines within their catteries with specific characteristics. This takes time and shows that coat quality is a combination of generation, genetics, nutrition, and the culling used in their breeding program.
Getting To Know Bengal Cats
Having shared my life with Bengal cats, I've learned they're a lot like dogs, in a good way, I promise! Their energy levels are off the charts, remaining high into adulthood and making them one of the most fun cat breeds. Forget the image of the old house cat floating around; Bengal cats have only two gears: sleep and ZOOOM! They'll keep you busy.
Returning to the traits we discussed, strength and intelligence are two distinguishable qualities. Likely due to the wild genes in their makeup, they are stronger and more cunning than your typical tabby cat.
Bengals thrive on stimulation and daily engagement to fulfill their social needs. They revel in routine and happily become a part of your day as long as you interact with them. However, a bored Bengal, given their high intelligence, can become mischievous if left to their own devices. Bengals are known for turning on lights, faucets, opening doors and cabinets, and the list goes on. With proper training, you can easily teach your Bengal as they welcome routine in their lives. Bengals can be trained to use the toilet like humans, walk on a leash, and even play fetch! As I mentioned, they're truly like dogs!
So, while Bengals do carry wild genes in their blood, there's nothing to worry about! They are gentle loving souls!