Are Bengal Cats really wild?
Updated: Apr 26
A frequent question, among many, received by the team members at Divinus Pride Bengals. So are they? Do Bengal Cats truly come from the wild? Well in short, yes they are a descendant of the Prionailurus Bengalensis also known as the Asian Leopard Cat. The modern day domestic Bengal cat is the result of crossing an Asian Leopard Cat with a domestic tabby. Literature supporting the origins of the Bengal breed date as far back as the 1800's! However it wasn't until the 1970's when the breed became popular in mainstream trends thanks largely in part to Jean Mill who many regard as the Godmother of Bengals.
Does this mean a Bengal kitten you bring home today would be wild? Not at all, a majority of Bengal breeders only breed Bengals who are four or more generations removed from the wild. A Bengal kitten 4 or more generations removed from the wild would have lost most of the wild traits that make them hard to handle leaving them more tame like a domesticated tabby. I know, I'm sorry to disappoint you in shattering your dreams of one day posting your wild cat selfies on Instagram and Facebook on your plan to internet stardom, but don't worry they do carry over many traits that will astonish you.
Of course there are some breeders out there who are breeding Bengals directly descendant from the Asian Leopard Cat, and they produce what are referred to as foundation Bengals, or Bengals within the first 3 generations from the wild. To track Bengal generations, the F-Scale system is used where the number following the F is the generation. F9 would be 9th generation for example. Now, before you go and get a crazy idea like 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 the Bengal cat has less than 10% of the wild genes in their DNA and are much more tame. According to TICA (www.tica.org) the F4 generation is the first generation that may be considered "stud book tradition" (SBT), and is considered "purebred". Once the Bengal generation reaches F7 they have less than 1% of the wild genes and is the reason many breeders do not track past F6.
There is a common misconception that the farther in generation you are distant from the wild, that the lower in quality of the Bengals coat and that is not true. Coat quality is somewhat based on genetics surely but it also can be developed. In order to develop better patterns, breeders use a tactic called culling that allow them to create bloodlines within their own catteries to carry certain characteristics. Of course it takes time, but this just goes to show that its not the generation that makes up the coat quality, but rather a combination of generation, genetics, nutrition, and the culling used in their breeding program.
From sharing my life with Bengal cats, I have learned they are a lot like dogs, in a good way I promise! First of all the energy level are off the charts, and that energy level remains far into adulthood making them one of the funnest cat breeds of all time. You know your old house cat you grew up with that just seems to float around the house and periodically rest on various furniture, clean folded clothes, and that clean blanket you put on your couch for reading time? Yea well don't plan on that from your Bengal, because Bengal Cats only have two gears, sleep and ZOOOM! They will keep you busy.
Going back to the traits we talked about, strength and intelligence are two other traits that are very distinguishable right away. Likely due to the wild still in their genes they are just stronger and more cunning than your typical tabby cat.
Bengals need stimulation and daily engagement to fill their social needs. They love routine and are happy to be apart of your day so long as you engage with them throughout. Alternatively, a bored Bengal with their high level of intelligence can be mischievous if left to their own devices. Bengals Cats are known to turn on lights, faucets, open doors & cabinets, and that's just the beginning of the list. With proper training you can easily train your Bengal as they welcome routine in their life. Bengals can be trained to use the toilet like humans, walk on a leash, even play fetch! I told you like are like a dog!
So yes Bengals have wild genes in their blood, but there is nothing to worry about!