Bengal Cat Breeder
Find out more about the Bengal breed from a Bengal cat breeder.
Interview with a Bengal Cat Breeder
Could you tell us about Bengal breed and it's history?
The Bengal cat is a hybrid named after its beautiful wild ancestor, the Felis Bengalensis or "Asian Leopard Cat."
Harrison Weir first mentioned an ALC/domestic crossbreed in "Our Cats and All About Them" back in 1889. Jean Mill produced a second generation foundation (F2) in the 1960s. In the 1970's researchers at Loyola University produced some foundation cats during their investigation of the ALCs natural immunity to feline leukemia. However, it wasn't until the 1970s that a deliberate attempt was made to create the Bengal breed, by Jean Mill. Elizabeth and Greg Kent followed with an ALC/Egyptian Mau line.
By 1986, the first Bengal Breed Standard was adopted by TICA. Bengal breeders have modified and worked diligently on perfecting the Bengal breed ever since then to make the Bengal what it is today. Read more about the history of the Bengal cat.
Today's Bengals have long legs, striking patterns and elegant stride remind us of a much larger wild cat, but they are a fully domesticated breed with the most amiable of personalities.
They have been called Living Room Leopards for the exotic beauty and movement they bring to a home environment. They are smart, social, energetic and playful.
How are Bengals different than an average cat?
Your average house cat may be willing to give you a kitty kiss or two, run after a ball or jump up to catch a toy, but Bengals are the movie star house cats. They give kitty kisses in excess amounts, play fetch, and jump up even 6 feet in the air to catch a toy. Our house record is 6 feet 8 inches!
Bengals aren't much bigger than the typical house cat, ranging from 12-15 pounds for females and 15-18 pounds for a male, but they are sometimes much longer. They can endure hours of stimulation without needing a kitty nap.
I have heard them called the dog loverís cat. You know the way a dog comes to you with their favorite toy to say, ďHey, letís go playĒ? Bengals do the same thing. Whatever you train them to do becomes a part of their personality.
When my alarm clock goes off at 7:00 a.m., I can expect kitty kisses and at least one toy to be brought to me to start the day. If you take a walk at 3:00 p.m. they are ready to go with you. Playing fetch in the pool? Itís a real possibility that they will join you. Taking a shower? You can be guaranteed a visitor, if you didnít remember to lock the door; shutting it won't suffice, because they are excellent locksmiths.
Since Bengals are hybrid cats, do they have a wild temperament?
No. Sometimes people will exclaim to new Bengal owners, "You are buying a wild cat!" This just isn't the case! Bengal lines are carefully selected to insure the most loving, loyal, energetic and enthusiastic kitty to ever prowl the living room rug.
When visitors come over there is no "Oh, the cat is somewhere in the back". A Bengal is the first to greet you at the door, instantly sociable. While they are loyal to their owners, they are very hospitable to their visitors.
They also make excellent therapy cats. For someone who is having a difficult time starting their day, a kiss on the nose might be just what they need! Our BelRouge Bengals have a fairly regular schedule. When the alarm sounds they are instantly by your bedside attempting to wake you up.
Bengal cats make sure to spread all the love they have around the entire family. If we ask where one of the cats spent the night, we can all be guaranteed to exclaim that the cat slept with us. At some point in the night he/she was with one of us, making sure we each got our own bit of Bengal love.
What has it been like to breed Bengal cats?
My favorite part of being a Bengal cat breeder is watching the queens as their motherly instincts take over. They clean their new babies, love on them and teach them to play. We have a drawer where we keep all of our kitty toys. All of the moms know where it is; it is easy to smell the waft of the catnip.
When their babies are about a week old, the moms go and get toys for their babies from the drawer. All twelve toy mice, the glow in the dark balls, the catnip stuffed carrots and hearts, foil teasers, feather teasers, tail chasers and even the laser chaser all are delivered by mom to the kitten birthing area. My daughters and I laugh at how much each mom is ready to play while the babies are just opening their eyes.
I also love meeting new owners and talking about Bengals with them. A lot of people have never had the opportunity to see a Bengal in person, and we get to introduce them to the breed. They are always surprised by something. We hear comments like:
"Look at the way they walk just like a leopard."
"Oh, it looks just like a wild cat, but itís so sweet."
"It is so soft, itís like a mink."
"I canít believe they come right to me."
People are surprised by the way these cats will let us hold them on their backs like babies and rub their spotted tummies. A couple weeks ago I was showing a new owner how to trim her kittenís nails and he fell asleep in my hands. It is so much fun to introduce our cats to people.
Of course, there are challenges; a breeder needs to know quite a bit about birthing to assist the mom, if she has difficulty. We often adjust our plans to accommodate a birthing. I just hate to leave them alone during that.
We screen our clients to try to make sure that they will be a good match for one of our Bengals, but letting the kittens go to their new homes can be hard. There is usually at least a few from each litter that steal our hearts. Fortunately, we get to see most of them again either at shows, in pictures or around town.
We want to enjoy breeding and we want all of our kittens to find new homes before they are adolescents, so we donít breed litter after litter. In fact, we subscribe to a code of ethics that emphasizes discriminate breeding based on strong evidence for finding suitable homes for our kittens, as well as ensuring good health, stable temperament, intelligence and desirable appearance. That means that we really do have to use a waiting list to plan future litters.
Why has the breed become so popular?
The Bengal is represented at practically every TICA cat show, and it is likely to be the most represented breed. First spectators hear their calls and see how beautiful they are. Then they fall in love with their playful personalities. Check out the Wild Boys for some Bengal antics.
A lot of really famous people own them and carry them around town in pet bags, on leashes and on their shoulders. It's been reported that Paris Hilton, Leila Ali, Lord Archer, Jonathan Ross, Kevin Bacon and Hugh Grantís girlfriend Jemima Kahan are all Bengal cat owners.
I try to keep up with the Bengal news on my Bengal Cat Blog. Jemima and her cats are the subject of one of the entries. Bengals are found on the front of cat food bags, on cat litter commercials, in movies and in print. I have new clients who tell me they saw a Bengal walking around on a leash or spent some time at a home with a Bengal and now they must have one. Bengals are definitely stars.
What is a Snow Bengal?
Most people refer to the white spotted and marbled Bengals as snows, because they are reminiscent of the big Snow Leopards. So while we will call them Snows, Seal might be a more accurate genetic description. The three main types are:
Seal Lynx Point Snow Bengals
Seal Mink Snow Bengals
Seal Sepia Snow Bengals
Seal Lynx Point Snows were the first snows that breeders started to develop. The Lynx Point carries the recessive color point gene that comes from the Siamese cat. They are born with striking blue eyes that they keep even as adults. This is the only type of Bengal that keeps it's blue eyes even after it is a kitten.
In the late eighties, the Burmese cat was introduced into some of the Bengal cat lines. This produced darkest most contrasted Snows, the Seal Sepia.
The Seal Mink is the middle color of snows. It was produced with the combination of the gene required to produce the Seal Lynx Point and the Seal Sepia.
The Snows are very beautiful, but they are only one of the colors of Bengals. Here is an article that goes into greater detail about Snow genetics and how to tell them apart. One of the newer things available through UC Davis is DNA testing, which is a good way to verify type and lineage.
All of our Bengal cats, including our Snows, come from Supreme Grand Championship lines. We do a lot of screening to weed out traits that we donít think should be passed on, and to really enhance the good qualities that we see emerging. We are very happy with the long athletic build, puffy whisker pads and prominent chin that our cats have.
What is the average price of a Bengal kitten?
Prices can be all over the board for this rapidly developing breed. In 1998, a foundation Bengal was sold in England for over $40,000.00. That was the worldís record for the most expensive cat ever sold. Time has made prices more reasonable but it varies greatly depending on the type and quality of kitten you want.
A nice show quality cat will probably run $2,500.00 - $5,000.00 or even more. Pet prices run $650.00 at the low end to about $1,250.00 for a very nice pet. The thing to remember is that you usually get what you pay for. For a pet that is healthy, well bred and well socialized, $1,000.00 should do the trick.
What would you say to someone considering a Bengal cat?
Be sure this is the kind of cat that you want. Donít buy on impulse. Bengals are beautiful, but they are not accessories.
Visit the cattery and meet your cat in person, if at all possible. This will be a new member of your family.
Choose a good breeder. Here are some tips about how to do that.
Make time and take the time to introduce your cat into your home the right way. Welcome them like a new baby, with love, attention and toys.
Follow the breederís guidelines for feeding, health and training, so that your kitten will be healthy and have good habits. Whatever you train them to do they will want to do, because they want to be a part of your life.