Everything you need to know before you buy a bengal cat

To cat lovers, every breed is special, and all have their individual characteristics, but the Bengal is one of the more distinctive breeds in New Zealand

After a passing glance, you could be forgiven for mistaking a Bengal with a more traditional tabby, both have similar markings and have a more playful demeanour but there are several things that set the Bengal apart from its feline friends.


The Bengal cat we’re used to today was the result of cross-breeding the Asian Leopard cat with the traditional domestic cat in American in the 1960s and 1970s. By 1983 the International Cat Association had officially accepted the breed, but it wasn’t until 2005 that it received full championship status.


The average lifespan of a well-cared-for Bengal cat is similar to traditional domestic cats of 12 – 16 years.

What sort of personality does a Bengal cat have?

Bengal cats can be closer in personality to dogs than traditional domestic pet cats. They’re inquisitive, playful and prefer company so if you’re after a cat that spends more time mimicking your sofa cushions, this might not be the breed for you.

Due to their playful and loyal natures, they do make excellent family pets and get along great with (respectful) children. They love to be out and about, and their confident nature means they love being outside and they’re smart enough to learn basic tricks and commands.

Bengals are especially keen on heights, they love being high up and being able to survey their domain. Their Asian Leopard Cat ancestors are forest dwellers and used to climbing trees but in a pinch, your Bengal will be quite happy perched above a doorway or somewhere high enough to see the whole room.

Bengal cats are often more communicative than the average domestic cat. Whilst most cats will tell you when they’re hungry or can get vocal when out on the prowl, many Bengal owners report their cat just likes to ‘chat’ and they’ll often hear their cat chirping and meowing throughout the day.

One of the biggest differences between a Bengal and a traditional domestic cat is water. Most cats hate water but Bengal’s love it. Their Asian Leopard ancestors are also water lovers, so this is probably where they get it from. The Asian Leopard cat often runs their paws through any water before they drink it to make sure it’s clear of debris and they’re also known to be keen swimmers. Younger Bengals tend to be more playful around water but it’s advisable you keep any fish tanks well covered and bathroom doors closed when you’re taking a soak.

How can you tell the difference between a Bengal and a Tabby?

Due to generations of interbreeding, the only sure way to know if you’ve got a Tabby, Bengal or some combination of the two is with parentage proof and certification from the breeder.

However, if you’ve rescued your cat from an animal sanctuary and are curious, a Bengal will have a glossier coat with many saying they have a glittery sheen to them. Bengals will typically have a

longer body and tail and back legs which are slightly longer than the front. However, as every cat is different, a traditional tabby could also have a longer body and tail.

If you find yourself with a slightly larger than average tabby who loves water, conversation and high resting places, you could well have a Bengal.

Can Bengals be more prone to health conditions?

Because they’ve been so well cross-bred with domestic cats, Bengals can be prone to the same sort of illnesses. Kidney disease, lymphosarcoma and pancreatitis are all common health problems for all cats.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) can be more common in Bengals who have a hereditary predisposition as it’s caused by a recessive gene. Although there is no cure for this, any responsible breeder will be able to show what steps they’ve taken to identify this potential in their kittens.

Joint problems

As Bengals can be more active than some other cat breeds, this can lead to more joint problems later in life. Just like dogs and humans, too much wear on high impact joints like knees and hips can lead to dysplasia which can be treated with physiotherapy but could also result in the need for surgery.

Luxating patella’s

Similar to joint problems and dysplasia, Bengals can also be prone to Luxating Patella’s (out of place kneecap). This problem can be hereditary or environmental but any cat that has been identified as having Luxating Patella should never be bred from. The severity, and therefore the treatment, is graded between one and four depending on the severity with Grade One being when the kneecap can be dislocated from the grove under pressure but then pops back into place to Grade Four where the kneecap is permanently dislocated. Grade one can often be treated with rest and medication, to begin with but a more severe diagnosis will often require surgery.

Cats will almost always land on their feet but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong. If you ever notice your cat limping or any change in its behaviour you should always consult your vet.

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