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Marble Bengal Cat

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ, Veterinarian

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Bengal cats are just about every cat lover’s dream pet. At one time, these gorgeous hybrid kitties actually had wild ancestry in their near past. Bengal cats were created by mixing an Asian leopard cat with a domestic shorthair cat and then breeding the offspring of that initial mating with domestic cats. But now, most Bengal cats are pretty far removed from their wild roots. They look like little leopards, but they’re loyal, super smart, and happy to be part of a human family. Marble Bengal cats have coats with gorgeous patterns of swirls instead of rosettes.

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The Earliest Records of Marble Bengal Cats in History

While these beautiful cats have become increasingly popular over the last few decades, they have an odd two-part history. They appear to have been around as early as the late 19th century when Harrison Weir, essentially the father of modern cat fancying, wrote about the Asian leopard cat and domestic cat hybrids in his foundational work, Our Cats and All About Them. Interest was limited to cats only one or two generations separated from a wild ancestor, and the breed never became popular.

For all practical purposes, the history of Bengal cats begins in the 1970s when Jean Mill began breeding hybrids she obtained from a university researcher in California with domestic cats. Around the same time, Greg and Elizabeth Kent began experimenting with other mixes, including an Asian leopard cat and Egyptian Mau hybrid. Asian leopard cats can be found throughout Asia, including in China, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Bengal cat
Image: Pixabay

How Marble Bengal Cats Gained Popularity

Bengal cats started to become popular in the 1980s and 1990s: a trend that initially started in the United States. Jean Mill, the woman credited with increasing the popularity of the breed, was concerned with the rising number of pet owners adopting small wild cats like Ocelots and Asian leopard cats. A major factor driving her work to create the Bengal breed was to limit the hunting and poaching of wild Asian leopard cats. Adult female cats in their natural habitats were often killed and their kittens were taken away to be sold to pet owners. After creating the breed, Mill tirelessly advocated for it to be accepted and acknowledged by cat organizations to reduce the number of wild cats purchased.

Formal Recognition of Marble Bengal Cats

Bengal cats, including marbled ones, were first recognized formally in 1983, when The International Cat Association (TICA), the largest and most prestigious international cat breed registry, began accepting the breed for registration. These wild-looking but loveable cats obtained full recognition by the organization in 1991 when TICA first designated Bengal cats as eligible for championship status. The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) was slower to recognize these kitties, only listing Bengal Cats on their registry starting in 2016. Bengals cats are also recognized by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe), and the Australian Cat Federation (ACF).

bengal cat
Image Credit: NASTIA KHITIAEVA, Shutterstock

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Top 3 Unique Facts About Marble Bengal Cats

1. Bengal Cats Love Water

Bengals absolutely love water, and they won’t think twice about taking a dip. They have been known not only to dip a paw into the water where their human is bathing but to actually jump in and start paddling around. Their wild ancestors, Asian leopard cats, have webbed feet, making it possible for them to maneuver skillfully through rivers and streams, even if they prefer to stay on dry land. You can find similar webbing between the toes of some Bengal cats.

bengal cat playing water in the bowl
Image Credit: kalyanby, Shutterstock
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2. Jean Mill Didn’t Create Her First Bengal Intentionally

Researchers and cat lovers used to think that Asian leopard cats and domestic cats couldn’t mate. In the past, it was possible to purchase Asian leopard cats from regular pet stores. Jean Mill bought her first Asian leopard cat from just such a place. Thinking the female cat would be lonely, she allowed her Asian leopard cat to hang out with her domestic cat. The Asian leopard cat ended up pregnant and gave birth to KinKin. Mill mated KinKin with a domestic cat, and the rest is history!

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3. It’s Illegal To Own a Bengal Cat in Some States and Cities

Some states and cities, such as Hawaii and Connecticut, have laws prohibiting ownership of these hybrid kitties. They’re also subject to strict regulations or banned in places like New York and Seattle. There aren’t restrictions on Bengals at least four or five generations removed from their last wild ancestor in most other places. They’re currently legal to own in Australia,  but you’ll need to purchase the cat from a domestic breeder, since Canberra has outlawed the importation of most hybrid cats in an effort to limit the environmental impact of foreign species on native wildlife.

Image Credit: Linn Currie, Shutterstock
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Do Marble Bengal Cats Make Good Pets?

Bengal cats tend to make wonderful pets! They’re loyal, athletic, and smart. Because they’re so intelligent, they are incredibly easy to train. In fact, they’re known as one of the most trainable cat breeds out there. Many owners report having success getting their Bengal cats to walk on leashes and do tricks. Training a Bengal cat provides mental stimulation and can actively increase the animal-human bond, and the cats seem to love it.

They tend to get along well with dogs and other cats, although they have a strong hunting instinct and can sometimes fixate on smaller creatures like birds and even fish. Because Bengal cats enjoy the water, fish in tanks and aquariums are often targeted. Due to their instinctual need to stalk and hunt, Bengals aren’t always the best choice for households with mice, gerbils, and Guinea pigs. Because they are intelligent, keeping them away from smaller pets can be close to impossible.

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Bengal cats are extraordinary felines with a unique history. They’ve been around for quite some time but have only recently become a staple of the cat universe. There’s scattered evidence of the Asian leopard cat’s origin, and domestic cat mixes from as early as the late 1800s, but interest in breeding these cats didn’t get off the ground until much later. But now, it’s possible to adopt a gorgeous Bengal cat that is guaranteed to turn heads.

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Featured Image Credit: AshleighRichards123, Shutterstock

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