Bengal Cats: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on June 06, 2024
6 min read

You may look at a Bengal cat and think it's a domesticated leopard. Well, you wouldn't be far wrong.

The Bengal cat is a popular domestic cat bred from the Asian leopard cat. It's a charismatic, playful, and beautiful breed with leopard-like spots. 

Bengal cat size and shape. Females typically weigh between 6 and 12 pounds, but males can weigh between 9 and 15 pounds. 

By the time a Bengal cat is 2 years old, it'll be its full adult size. Enjoy the kitten years while you can!

Fur characteristics. One of the most notable features of a Bengal cat is its coat. Whether you love the pattern or its softness, a Bengal's coat is hard to beat. 

The Bengal cat is the only domestic breed with markings like a leopard or jaguar. This unique pattern can be spotted with large rosettes or marbled.

Along with a striking pattern, the Bengal's coat is surprisingly soft. It's dense like a wildcat's coat with the softness of a domestic cat.

There are some long-haired varieties of Bengal cats. They're sometimes called cashmere Bengals, but they aren't recognized as a breed worldwide.

Bengal cat lifespan. The lifespan of a Bengal cat depends on their environment, nutrition, and genetics. Generally, you can expect your Bengal cat to live 12 to 16 years.

Bengal cat personality traits. Bengals have a lot of personality. They're a confident and social member of any family and do well with someone to play with.

Bengal cat temperament. Bengal cats tend to be more energetic and athletic than other breeds. You can expect them to be social, playful, and engaging. They like games, challenges, and being stimulated—but still enjoy cuddling, too.

Coat care. A Bengal cat's coat is the moneymaker, so you'd think grooming would be necessary, but like most cat breeds, Bengal cats don't need much coat care.

Short-haired Bengal cats don't shed much. They mainly need brushing in the spring when they shed their winter coat.  

Long-haired Bengal cats need more care. Comb and brush their coat daily to remove dead hair and prevent matting.

Tooth and nail care. Dental diseases in cats are a huge problem, so taking care of their teeth is vital. Brushing their teeth daily with a specialty toothbrush and toothpaste is the ideal way to clean their teeth, but you can use:

  • Dental chews
  • Dental treats/food
  • Oral rinses

Many cats need their nails trimmed monthly. Your vet or groomer can trim them, or you can bravely trim them yourself.

Feeding and nutrition. Cats can be picky eaters but still need specific nutrients to stay healthy. Excluding special dietary needs, your Bengal can get their necessary nutrients from high-quality commercial cat food. 

The amount of food your cat should eat depends on their size and activity. All cats need constant access to clean and fresh water.

For many cats, eating portioned meals twice a day is enough. Other cats do better with free feeding, and having access to food all the time. Only free-feed with dry food, though. Letting wet food sit out can attract unwanted pests and bacteria.

Dry food is an affordable and long-lasting option, but it has a lower moisture content and can be harder to digest.

Wet food tends to be more expensive but more desirable for cats. It has a high moisture content and comes in many flavors.

Your Bengal's dietary needs will change as they age. Always consult your vet and read your cat food's nutrition labels to make sure they're getting the nutrients they need.

Cats love treats, but remember that treats are like junk food. They aren't nutritionally complete and shouldn't account for more than 10% of their daily calories.

Activity needs. Bengal cats are highly active. They love to chase, climb, play, train, and investigate.

Many cats entertain themselves, but Bengal cats are social. They enjoy activities that involve you or another animal, like learning tricks or playing fetch.

Parasite prevention. Most people think that fleas, ticks, and heartworms are only a problem for outdoor animals, but house cats need protection from those common parasites, too. 

Your Bengal cat can get fleas and ticks. There are many commercially available prevention options to keep your cat safe, though, so consult your vet to figure out which is right for your kitty.

Heartworms are transmitted through infected mosquito bites. They're more commonly recognized in dogs, but heartworms are nonetheless more common in cats than most people realize and can be deadly.

Identifying and treating heartworms in cats is still difficult. There's no approved drug treatment for heartworms in cats, so talk to your vet about heartworm transmission rates in your area, what preventative options are available, and tests for heartworms at your Bengal's regular vet visits.

Outdoor restrictions. Bengal cats look and act like their wildcat ancestors, but that doesn't mean they should be outdoor cats. 

Outdoor cats can hunt rodents or birds, damaging the local ecosystem and exposing them to diseases. Being outdoors can also introduce your cat to diseases and parasites.

However, you can engage your Bengal cat's predatory and investigative nature through games, puzzle feeders, and plenty of places to explore. You can also treat them to supervised outdoor time with appropriate collars, leashes, and cat fences.  

Vet visits. Your Bengal kitten will need several vet visits during their first few months to monitor their development, provide vaccinations, and get them spayed or neutered. Your vet will establish the amount and frequency of the vet visits.

Once your Bengal is an adult, they still need a vet visit at least once a year. These visits will focus on renewing vaccines, preventing diseases, monitoring size, and more.

Senior cats need at least two vet visits a year. Your vet will monitor signs of aging, conduct routine exams, and detect diseases early.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM is the most common cardiac disease in cats. It's a condition where the heart walls thicken and the heart doesn't work as well.

There's no known preventable cause of HCM. In most cases, it's a genetic condition, so it can happen anytime at any age. 

Severe symptoms of HCM include lethargy, difficulty breathing, and mouth breathing.

There's no cure for HCM. Treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms, controlling heart rate and reducing congestion through medications

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). PRA is the deterioration of your cat's retinas. PRA typically happens later in life and starts by affecting your cat's night vision.

When PRA affects your Bengal's night vision, they may be clumsy in dim light, nervous at night, or avoid darkness. PRA causes their eyes to reflect light and their pupils to dilate more. 

Cats with PRA tend to go blind after 1 to 2 years. There's currently no prevention or treatment for PRA. 

Erythrocyte pyruvate kinase deficiency (PK deficiency). PK deficiency is a genetic condition that causes anemia.

PK deficiency can show up at different ages and in different ways. Symptoms of a PK deficiency and anemia include:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal enlargement

There's no treatment or cure for PK deficiency, but there is genetic testing available, so responsible breeders should test.

Feline dental disease. At least 50% of cats older than 4 years have some degree of dental disease. Most dental diseases, though, are preventable and treatable.

The most common symptom of dental diseases is that your cat stops eating. Other symptoms of worsening dental problems include bad breath, drooling, or hesitance while eating. 

The most common dental diseases are:

You can help prevent dental diseases by brushing and caring for your cat's teeth. Professional cleanings can treat gingivitis and periodontitis, but severe cases and tooth resorption may necessitate tooth extractions.

Good with other animals? Once appropriately introduced, your Bengal cat will get along well with other animals. 

Good with kids? Bengal cats are family pets. They'll get along with children and become active playmates.

Are they allergenic? Cat saliva and dander cause allergies in people. Since Bengal cats are infrequent groomers, they're less likely to cause problems for people with allergies. 

Bengal cats are a hybrid between a domestic cat and an Asian leopard cat. The Asian leopard cat is a small feline that passed on many traits to the Bengal cat.

Stories of Bengal cats have been popping up since the late 1800s, but significant efforts to breed Bengals didn't start until the 1960s with Jean Mill.

Bengals are now being crossbred with other breeds to create hybrids like the Serengeti cat, the Toyger, and the Cheetoh.