The Felis Bengalensis aka Asian Leopard Cat was the perfect candidate to give birth to this exotic breed of wild-looking house pet known as the Bengal cat. Whilst the domestic Bengal is similar in appearance to the Asian Leopard cat and its genetic makeup contains a contribution from that wild cat species, its temperament is however purely domestic. The goal in developing the domestic Bengal cat breed was to preserve a strong physical resemblance to its beautiful wild ancestor and, at the same time, the new domestic breed was designed to be a pleasant and trustworthy family companion. Therefore, the conformation of the Bengal is definitely reminiscent of its ancestors.
There are around ten sub-species, showing distinct variations in body colour. For example, cats in the Northern regions tend towards reddish brown spotting on a yellowish-grey background and leopard cats from more humid regions tending to be more ochre-yellow to brownish. The cats’ beautiful markings, which have in many ways been their downfall by attracting the attention of the fur trade, are striking and show some variation between individuals. All sub-species have a spotted or ringed tail, with a black tail tip, four black bands running from the forehead to the back of the neck, breaking up into elongated spots on the neck and shoulders, often forming a "broken necklace". The underparts are spotted on the white background. The body markings can be solid or rosetted and sometimes show marbling.
Given that the breeding programme will have been explicitly aimed at producing good pets, the resulting Bengals should display the beautiful markings and unusual behaviour of the wild cats, whilst inheriting the domestic cat’s social nature and adaptability to human lifestyles. There is some debate as to whether the ‘F1’ hybrid cats are suitable for pets but, as they move a couple of generations away from the wild, certain individual hybrid cats with social natures and good ‘upbringings’ certainly make good, if highly specialised pets. Even those which are ‘pet-worthy’ however, are really only suitable for experienced pet keepers, able to understand and cater for their needs. Do not think from this that the early generations are "dangerous". Far from it, they are usually shy nocturnal animals that find it difficult to cope with a busy household.
However, from the fourth generation onwards, they are well socialised and ready and willing to join in the hustle and bustle of the average family homes. Although this is often not usual with cats, they are particularly good with dogs who they seem to view as "just someone else to play with"
Bengals are intelligent and athletic and seem to look on everything around them as "can this be played with?". Their playful natures makes them ideal companions for the younger members of the family, who usually can do anything with them. The young humans can act out their fantasies and have the companion they want.
Marbled Bengals have a unique pattern of random horizontally aligned swirls which is not found in other breeds of cat. It is thought to have its origins in the combination of the wild genes of the Asian Leopard Cat and the domestic tabby genes. There is no other breed of cat which displays the gold or pearl dusting effect (glitter) of the Bengal. The texture of the coat is unique. It has the feel of satin or silk and it has been said that one should be able to identify a Bengal blindfolded.